For Lisa, who doesn’t want to grow up either.
In the summer of 1990, when I was just 16, I got the opportunity to travel to the USA sans parents. A group of us, all on the brink of adulthood, were meant to be studying and, to be fair, when we were staying with host families in Connecticut and DC we were. But New York City was a different matter. We were left to our own devices perhaps a bit more than your average teenager should have done and we were rarely awake enough to get much study done during daylight hours. In those few days I shopped in Macys and Bloomingdales (you can probably trace my shoe addiction right back to this time), watched the sun rise in Battery Park, drank Manhattans in Manhattan (apparently being under 21 doesn’t matter if you have a cute English accent), and met Ric Ocasek‘s son in a bar in Greenwich Village.
And I remember thinking that this is what being a grown up was all about. Staying up late, drinking cocktails, chatting to strangers, living on a mixture of canapes and sandwiches.
Ten years later I was living in north London. I was all grown up. I had the flat, the boyfriend, the City job, the social life. I even had a relatively healthy bank balance (perhaps for the first and last time in my life).
But I felt heavy inside.
The weight of the world was dragging me down. The hours at work were long and tedious. The daily squeeze onto the Northern Line was draining every ounce of energy I had (and I didn’t have much). The social life was only surface deep, I didn’t really give a damn about any of these people. The boyfriend, eventually, didn’t work out.
This wasn’t how it was meant to be. Being a grown up wasn’t meant to feel this draining. And I was sick of people telling me it was.
So I quit.
I left it all behind to go back to university, to surround myself in books and write an MA Thesis on journalism and Jack the Ripper. I worked part-time, travelled around Europe, did a lot of yoga and wrote and wrote and wrote.
And somewhere amongst all that I rediscovered my joy. And I let go of the heaviness because at the time I thought it was just a sign that I was doing something I wasn’t meant to be doing.
After the MA I went back to work in law. I wasn’t ready to take the academic route and rent still needed to be paid. This time I was determined to do things differently and alongside my day job threw myself into yoga teacher training, teaching yoga and the kernels of setting up what would become my first business. But the heaviness came back. That feeling of overwhelm, of eternal responsibility, of what everyone kept telling me was just life.
So I quit.
Are you noticing a pattern?
I quit law and concentrated on my business. The heaviness remained. Despite the fact I was doing what I wanted, what I thought I was meant to be doing I still felt weighed down by life.
It took me a long time to realise that the heaviness isn’t about where we are right now, but far more about where we are going. The heaviness signifies great change and if you let yourself roll with that change lightness will follow.
If you resist the changes though, like I did when I first quit my job but expected everything else (including my bank balance) to remain exactly the same, then the heaviness will weigh you down.
These days I try to let things happen.
Opening the clinic made me feel heavy and grown up and sad and overwhelmed all over again, but I kept telling myself it was because things were about to change (this does not mean to say I didn’t have daily meltdowns about carpets but still…), and once it was opened I stood in the middle of it, eyes wide with childlike surprise. Had I really done this?
I spent last week getting excited over rock stars and small dogs, eating rubbish food (including canapes) and staying up too late. I even rickrolled on the Jubilee Line. I refuse to stop getting stupidly excited over tiny things. I refuse to let the joy go away. I refuse to be a grown up, even though I’m all grown up now.
We are all changing all the time, whether we want to or not. That is just the way of things. When life feels heavy, don’t let it drag you down, because if you keep your eyes wide open you just might see that it’s just drawing you along to the next big change.