On dropping the fear…

We were in Kaula Lumper last week, out for lunch with an ex-college of Jurek’s. Long before we met, Jurek worked 8 months for an IT firm in the ugliest building in the KLCC precinct. Passing through KL this time around called for lots of catching up with friends unseen for years.

This particular friend asked questions I hadn’t been asked for a long time, with a directness that demanded answers, and something I at first mistook for aggression. “So travelling is great, but at some point you have to stop and get a job, what are you going to do for money?” I reacted. Fell into the trap of defensiveness. Fumbled to justifying myself and voiced thoughts about potential development work, courses I may or may not take and other ideas I’m carrying round in my pocket. Answers I’d pull out for a worried grandma.

Later, it appeared the question was masking something quite different, given away by a flippant comment delivered in the same masculine tone, that almost had it slip past me unnoticed. “Yeah, I really hate this company since that happened. But I don’t want to leave until I have the next job lined up. I’m not the type of person who is okay with not having a plan. I mean, I can’t just do what you guys are doing.” A convoluted, backhanded compliment. On surface glance, I’d thought it a stab. A dig that we’re free wheeling hippies who are going to have to give up these idealistic dreams at some point and suit up to an office for a salary like the rest of the world. But this wasn’t it. I examined more closely. The bravo was a cover up. This was about his own fear.

Too sold on the collard shirt, sitting across the table in the nice restaurant in the swish new mall that commerce built, I nodded and the conversation continued without missing a beat. I kept the peace but I missed the opportunity.

Well, there’s a different response I’d like to give to this comment. A turn I’d have liked the conversation route to have taken. I USED TO BE A PERSON WHO NEEDED A PLAN. I’ve sat in that chair. In my mind, I’ve rationalised away the hopes and actions of those who are brave enough to be living out their dreams. I’ve been judgemental of those who actually seem to be genuinely happy. I’ve even been the person asking those questions that pull these people back down to earth from the higher place they’re acting from. All of this because I was scared.

Steering myself

Steering myself

I never thought I’d be someone who would be driving themselves around on a motorbike on a tropical island in Thailand. “Motorbikes are dangerous!” I used to think. I never thought I’d learn a foreign language enough to communicate with, and certainly not become friends with, a person who doesn’t speak English. “Languages are complicated, and I don’t have the brain for it”, I used to think. I never thought I’d be meeting and sometimes staying with people from Russia, Belarus, the Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Iran, Somalia, Saudi Arabia and finding so much common ground. “Those countries are far away, foreign, with politics harsh and complicated”, I used to think. I never thought I’d be someone who’d fall in love and invite that person to come travelling a week after we meet. “I’m way to sensible”, I used to think. But now, that someone is me.

I certainly don’t mean to sit here and write that I’ve got it all figured out now. (Though, the week I chucked my masters degree, I thought I was Buddha.) Of course I don’t. It doesn’t last. I’m still scared. Some days terrified. But something has changed. It’s hard to articulate. I think it’s about trust. Trusting myself enough to take the risks that might bring happiness. The intuition, that I now think all that schooling taught me to ignore. And trusting that every single person you meet is still working it out as well. We’re all on the same journey. I feel a lot lighter. I feel I “dropped” something along the way 😉

Drop the Tension is a project that I hope can be guided by spontaneity. I’ve been thinking a lot about my tendency to over intellectualise things. I’m a product of the West. A product shaped by the Australian education system. A product designed to feed the churning machine of capitalism, to keep those numbers adding up, ever upwards. I’m consciously walking away from academia at present. Of course all this organisation and systematic categorisation of everything we encounter has it’s benefits. All the blessings I’ve enjoyed, diseases I’ve been spared from, beauty in the architecturally designed buildings I’ve been sheltered in, the incredible internet that allows me to connect with people on the other side of the globe with the touch of a button. But it’s time for me to use my own senses to make sense. Time to make up my own mind. Time to learn from experience. Time to learn from others.

I think it’s leading me somewhere beautiful.

And I’m not someone any more special than you. I hope you can diverge from the plan today. I think life is made for us to do that.

About Wendy Allan

Wendy comes from Australia. She left her biomedical laboratory bench to explore other ideas of "wellness". She is drawn to projects centred around community engagement & social inclusion. Passionate about education, food and bringing people together, Wendy sees her travel as a way to study these interests further.