Life is moving at 274km/h and my foot is only pushing harder through the floor.
I was meant to be on holiday.
Get some Rest and Recreation. Relax and Recuperate. Recharge and Restore.
Instead, the timing of the holiday could not be worse.
There is a reason why I don’t normally take holidays. When life comes at you with the speed of a bullet, you’ve got nanoseconds to react.
Which means I have to hone my edge all the time. There’s no opportunity to really put my sword down and sheath it. I have to keep it at the ready all the time.
Holidays fool me into thinking I can. That maybe I do deserve some rest from my unyielding ready stance. That I can actually learn to put the sword away and life won’t shoot me with an arrow on the spot.
Well, in this recent holiday, I was pierced with not just one arrow, but four.
Two of them were in the form of friends going through a rocky time in their lives. The first arrow slammed into me just before the holiday. It was as sudden for me to hear the news, as it was for my friend to be unceremoniously dumped out of nowhere. He had no warning it was coming.
The second bolt arrived shortly after, when I had just settled into Brisbane and was about to commence my leave properly. Another unexpected break-up. The girl was incredibly shocked too. She thought she had more time, but the partner didn’t want to give her any. So he ended it, with even more bad timing. Days before her birthday, hours out of quarantine and with an equally cold, selfish attitude.
I’ve always prided myself on being a mental first responder for a lot of my friends. It’s just one of those things that comes with being me. I like to believe I am reliable, sensitive and caring for the people I really like.
Situations like these though, where I feel powerless to help, only serve to reinforce the idea that I can’t have days off. That I need to keep myself on-duty, no matter the time or place. It’s daunting to know that, at any time, life can just reach out and make you feel like shit for not being there for your friends.
And beyond the humbling feeling I got, at being struck twice so soon, these pair of arrows definitely did not help my paranoia at all. So for the rest of the holiday, my sword was now up. I was ready, tensed and prepared for more incoming projectiles.
The third arrow was a flechette shot. There was no way to block them all. It was my work life, coming in like a shotgun blast to the face, messages, emails and calls from multiple sources streaming towards me, thick and fast.
Paperwork needed to be filled in, a muppet forgot that I had rostered him on for work and thus the shop was closed for 4 hours of trade, people wanting to schedule in a meeting with me, so that they can get their festival underway … the work demands were endless, and I did everything in power to address then and there, so that I could get back to the R&R.
The final arrow, was the worst of them all though. It was too fast, to powerful to avoid or block. So it hit me with all the force of a missile.
My long term relationship with my partner.
In what can only be described as the worst way to celebrate an anniversary, I went up to Brisbane to see her with the intention of finding out how we wanted to define our relationship going forwards.
Needless to say, I’ve returned from my holiday, a much bigger emotional mess than I expected to be going there.
Our relationship is still there, but it is getting difficult to maintain.
Because I had to complicate things with an existential crisis.
Perhaps my biggest takeaway from this entire … “experience” is that I don’t know who my first responder is.
Who will guard the guards?
Quis custodiet ipsos custodes
Who will watch over me, whilst I watch others?
I’ve always prided myself on my self-reliance, my higher capabilities and my self-awareness. But even then, I can’t always spot all the changes that have occurred within me.
When life moves at the pace of a bullet, it’s hard to slow down and really assess where you are.
And in my heartfelt discussion and confession to my partner, I learned that I’ve truly become a different person since we’ve first met.
Perhaps most disconcertingly, she almost didn’t recognise me. That is how much of a changed man I’ve become in her absence.
I had shifted the dynamic of our relationship with all the rapid changes I’ve made in the past year. I’m fitter than ever, dressier than ever, more vain and conscious of how people perceive me. I’m more confident, and highly aware of the effect I have on people.
I’m moved beyond accepting who I am, to showing off to the world that this is who I am.
This arrogance, has now seeped into everything I do and it’s legitimately concerning.
Worse of all, I’ve never realised how much this change has taken over me. It took my partner to set me straight, in the midst of her tears, to see what sort of monster I’ve created within myself and how I’ve been feeding it far too much.
And because the pace of this monstrous evolution was so rapid, intoxicating and exciting, I actually never realised what parts of me I had left behind and were now actively scorning.
I went into our conversation expecting something final. I came out of it, lost and insecure.
Because right in the middle of our talk, I realised something about myself that I hadn’t previously. It was so well hidden in plain sight, that I had fooled myself for years that I wanted to be happy with someone else.
When in reality, there is a tiny broken part of me, that will never really be satisfied with company and will always crave solitude.
It’s why the island analogy I read in Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale was so impactful to me.
People are like islands. You can drift closer to another island, but you’ll never truly touch. Eventually you’ll float away, or truly be comfortable being proximity.
On the flight to and from Brisbane, I felt all alone and that broken part of me was reveling in it. It was like I could breathe again and just revel in some twisted form of freedom.
I say this has always been hidden in plain sight, because I’ve never realised just how lonely so many of my favourite characters are. They’re all drifters, men without attachment, moving from place to place, without any baggage.
Then there are the dark jokes about my retirement somewhere where it feels like the end of the world. A quiet, lonely man, on the edge of a stormy cliff, looking out at the ocean, pondering his existence. His death anonymous and swift, with no-one the wiser to his disappearance.
Perhaps it is truly telling then, that the best parts of any of my holidays are when I am completely alone in a city, without anyone I know around.
It feels like the world has slowed down, that life isn’t so fast anymore, because I can just be my honest self, broken or not, with no-one to rely on me, no-one to rescue, no-one to bother me.
It was this realisation, this epiphany about myself that made me question everything.
All this time, I have been performing wabi-sabi on myself, without truly understanding the imperfection that afflicted me.
So, the cross-road was on me then. What decision I was going to make?
Will I chose the life of a loner or be committed to forever performing wabi-sabi on my broken side?
We ended up compromising. We would give ourselves a bit more time to work ourselves out, especially me.
We owned it to our history together and all the happy memories we’ve created. We would try one more test, of moving in together and seeing how our dynamic would change.
I’m not going to be that guy that wants the entire thing to fail, before it even gets off the ground. I’ve got too much respect for my partner to allow that to happen and just as importantly, I’ve got to go through this test, to see exactly what sort of person I am.
The words holiday have never sounded so foreign to me, after this trip.
Perhaps I’m not built to enjoy them, or I’ve been going on the wrong type of holiday. Perhaps the best and truest way for me to enjoy a holiday is go completely alone somewhere.
After all, I’ve always gone with other people and the one time I went alone, has had a marked effect on me ever since.
Another question to add to the pile, after a journey of re-discovery and existentialism.
Have I been enjoying holidays wrong this whole time?
The timing of this holiday and the damage it has wrought on me could not have been worse. I’m on the verge of starting a new chapter in my life, changes to my personality has already been made permanent and now I’m questioning it all.
I suppose there is no more apt time to have doubts, just before the free-fall. After all, if you are going to sky-dive, you should check everything works before leaping out of a perfectly good aeroplane.
Who I will choose to be at the end of the year, will be a very intriguing answer and a part of me is afraid of what path I will pick.
Because they both have their challenges and if I still don’t have an answer to quis custodiet ipsos custodes by then, I will know that there is truly no-one to turn to for comfort except myself.
But such is life.
As a further self reflection to add atop of all this existentialism, I find it highly amusing how philosophical I become when dealing with heavy emotional loads. It’s indisputably pretentious and far too intellectual for what is a distressful moment for me.
Yet it is undeniably me, because around this time last year, I was also dealing with a similar emotional overload and my first instinct was to dampen all my emotions, examine them critically one by one and then debate to myself about the nuances of it all.
I suppose it’s comforting knowing that, no mater what life throws at me, it can never truly break me spiritually, as long as this coping mechanism is in place.
This trip truly had the worst timing for a holiday. But it was timed perfectly to check who I really am and what sort of man and lifestyle I want for myself moving forwards.
Just like any good racer, I need to make sure everything is right with the car first, before I send it flying off at 274km/h.
But the clock is ticking down to the start and whilst I don’t have everything squared away; the engine is running a little too hot, the brakes are a bit worn and there is wear and tear on the chassis, I got to full send anyway.
Because time waits for no-one and I’ve got no choice but to meet life head-on.
No matter how much of a wreck I may look outside.
God, what a mess I must look like, right now.
But I’m going to keep clawing my way out of this. If anything, now is the time to work even harder.
Personally and professionally.
After all, this is what first-responders do. They get back up, and get back at it, no matter how much shit is thrown at them.
And I am a first responder.
No matter how small or big the problem, I will always be the first to respond with all my heart, capabilities and skill.
That is who I am, at my very core.