Do More Than Just Exist
The taxi ambles along the curvy road towards home and I wind down the window, watching the greenery that cascades down the escarpment below, and the houses that flash between. I can feel the breeze in my ears that fades the voice asking how my trip was. It smells like home.
The ocean is shimmering in the sunlight and there’s not a cloud in the sky; the mountains meet the sea, that’s home to me. I can taste the fresh air swirling in my mouth, tinged with the taste of anxiety at the reality of settling back into routine. My heart pounds as we descend and the only thing I’m really looking forward to is my own bed.
Inside, I throw my backpack on the kitchen floor and notice a wedding invite sitting on the bench.
Who is it this time?
I’ll be 30 in a month. Jet-lagged and depressed that another adventure is over, I climb into bed and wrap my arms around my washed-out, old and grey decrepit cuddly teddy. His ears just hang on and there is a hole in his thigh, but he returns the favour like he has actually missed me, and I close my eyes and drift into blissful sleep.
I wake to the sound of a dog barking and pull the doona over my head, but I can’t ignore the knocking that pulls me to answer the door. It’s the familiar face of my brother.
“How was your trip? Comin’ to the pub?” he asks.
I walk into the local drinking hole with a smile on my face knowing all too well that I don’t want to be here. So many voices ask, “Are you happy to be home?”
“No, not really,” I respond. “I’d rather be swimming with pigs in the Maldives or swinging with Orangutans in Borneo”.
I don’t belong here, I think to myself.
I look around at the couples holding hands and children swinging on the railings of the wheelchair-access ramp. Stories are shared of last night’s lack of sleep due to baby diarrhoea and what type of cake is going to be at the next wedding. Anger pulsates through me.
How can a wedding cake be so damn important? My inner voice screams. Give me that $1000 for my next trip. No one eats the cake anyway.
Someone hands me a drink, and half of it is in my stomach before I can answer, “So when are you leaving again?”
“As soon as I save enough money,” I happily respond.
I leave the pub, walking home alone. Back at my one-bedroom apartment with ocean views – so often filled with dolphins gliding through the waves, seagulls diving for their supper and families striding the sand, pet dogs in toe, probably discussing the day’s events, like who stole their lunch in the office – I start to wonder. Is there something wrong with the fact that I’m not going to just settle with someone to parade a rock on my finger, have a big glorious wedding where everyone gets drunk on my account, work a 9-to-5 job and pop out children?
I’ve had my heart broken countless times. The doctors tell me there’s a chance I can’t have kids, but that doesn’t mean I don’t want to fulfil my motherly instincts and share my life experiences with someone I love. I just don’t want to do it the way society expects me to. My dreams of getting married are eloping barefooted on the beach somewhere and eating sashimi. My idea of having children never meant I was going to stop travelling, I just planned to one day strap my baby to my backpack and continue seeing the world through the eyes of the person that wants to see it just as much as me.
As I lay in bed, staring at the ceiling, the broken light bulb, I reflect on my 20s and all I achieved single-handedly: all the travel I’d done alone, sleeping on floors, using my clothes as a pillow, losing 700 euro in Spain, watching tents transform into elephants with a head full of mushrooms in Amsterdam, one-night stands in Laos and drinking red wine under the Eiffel tower.
I smile and decide this is my fucking story and I may not die the richest person in the grave but heck, I’ll die with the life I wanted flashing before me.
30 came and 30 went, and it wasn’t even as daunting as my mind had made it out to be. So I hit confirm booking on another flight out of there and away from the people I am so different from.
Two months later, the seat beside me is empty and the Wi-Fi doesn’t work. I eat the bland pasta the hostess puts in front of me and ask for another red wine. I close my eyes with a smile and dream of the adventure that lies ahead, thankful to once more to get out of the expectations I’m not willing to live up to. I’ll return home again to my washed-out, grey, decrepit teddy and sparkling ocean views, but I know damn well if I don’t have a happily ever after love story, I’ll have my own happily ever after.
Cover by Aleff Vinicius