Skydiving scares my pants off. Just thinking about it makes my palms clammy and my heart start beating like the wings of an enthusiastic hummingbird. I’ve always thought that the reason for my fear is rooted in my fear of heights. Because, well, I am scared of heights. But just yesterday it occurred to me that my reluctance to plunge myself out of a plane several thousand metres above the ground could also have something to do with my need to be in control. After all, in order to skydive I would have to entrust my life into the hands of some other person, along with their flimsy looking equipment and the forces of gravity.
I have this need to grip tightly at the helm of my life and have precise control over its direction. And like some divine jester wearing red and yellow velvet and annoyingly liberal quantities of jangling bells, life sticks its tongue out at me every time I try to point and shoot in one direction for five goddamn minutes!
The following are a few of the innumerable ways that I’ve tried to gain control over my life (before the ship gets slammed by a south westerly wind and sends me off course):
My university degree- I chose to study law, a degree that I thought would look good on my CV and lead to the ‘right’ kind of career. Turns out that I have no desire whatsoever to be a practising lawyer. And whilst much of the subject matter has been interesting, the assessment has been hard going, the law school culture can be unforgiving and I’m taking much, much longer to finish than I planned.
My love life- After a messy end to my first major relationship I spent 18 months floating and having a few casual flings, slowly getting used to the idea that I didn’t need a lover to make me feel complete. I had finally found a sense of peace and security in my singledom when I met my man. That was a little more than three years ago.
Activism- One of my burning passions is environmental change making and until recently, I thought the only way I could contribute to real change was through activism. I have participated in and led campaigns, I have organised events, summits, lobbying meetings and rallies, spoken in front of crowds of up to 5000 people and directed the state branch of a youth environment NGO. However every time I commit myself to these kinds of activities, it takes somewhere between three months and a year before I burn out. Clearly this type of activism isn’t working for me at this stage of my life.
Moving house- The last three times I’ve moved, I’ve made a commitment to myself to settle down for a decent length of time. Yet somehow I have spent decreasing periods of time in each of my last three houses. I’m 23 and I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve moved house. I think it’s 27.
Cleaning- This one continues to frustrate me to tears. How is it that I can clean the house and within an hour it springs back to looking pretty much like it did pre-cleaning spree? Or how is it that so many dishes can accumulate even though I thought we had a ‘clean them as you go’ system and we didn’t even cook this evening?!
The thing is though, there is no use griping about all this stuff. Except the dishes (seriously, how do they accumulate so fast? Maybe we should start eating off banana leaves?!). But really, most of life’s course detours actually work out better than the plan we had set in place. Sure, I was enjoying being single, all Sex and the City like (although without all the sex, amazing clothes and the city I was living in is more of a hearty country town), but ya know what? Being with a gorgeous guy is pretty alright as well!
And yep, I’m a failed environmental activist (I even ripped out my nose stud after only six weeks) but now I’ve found a way to connect with people on the issues I care about through my writing. As for my Uni degree, I am grateful to have the opportunity to go to University and learn about the law. I’m sure my studies will provide grounding for any work that I do and through University more broadly I have met some truly remarkable people, many of whom I am lucky enough to call my friends.
Sometimes we just need to loosen our grip on life. To stop trying to get enough done or to make the right choices. Instead we need to relax. To lean into the moment. After all, life has this beautifully melodic way of delivering what we need, exactly when we need it.
Whatever you do, don’t wait for someone else to give you permission to take time out and have fun. Trust me, they won’t.
And, um, breathe through any guilt that ensues. It will pass.
p.s. I’m still not going sky diving!