I turned thirty years old today. A brand new decade opens up before me, and I am excited about the changes I’m making in my life. So far, I have kept my nomadic plans mostly to myself, but it is now time to ‘come out’. What could be a better day for such an announcement than my birthday?
Early in the morning, my family got together in a big room, called me and sung ”Ja må han leva”. It was a wonderful start of my big day and a perfect opportunity to begin spreading the news. I had previously told them that I was thinking about becoming a nomad, but now I told them that I had made up my mind.
I rode into work on my family’s goodwill, bold as brass. I was far too excited to get any work done. In fact, apart from the customary buying of birthday treats, I don’t remember much from the working day other than telling my boss that I was leaving.
We sat in big cushy armchairs at a local Starbucks, sipping lattes, when I told him that I was leaving. He was surprised and thought that it was a loss, but he refrained from the standard what-can-we-do-to-change-your-mind bartering. If I was to leave, then he preferred that it’d be for personal reasons rather than another –better paid– job.
We drank the second half of our coffees over conversation about my nomadic plans. Later, I told more colleagues and the general reaction was that of excitement. Many confessed to harbouring similar dreams. Overall, announcing my departure from work was, almost disappointingly, un-dramatic.
Family–check. Work–check. Only friends left. Good thing that I had a thirtieth birthday party planned where they were all invited! I wanted as many friends there as possible, so I kept it simple: no expensive entrance fee, no difficult to get to location, no complicated dress code and no zany activity that would keep anyone away. I rented a room on top of a funky looking pub in Islington, and that was it. In the end, I got about thirty of my friends there.
I had a fantastic and memorable time. I was deeply moved by the best wishes, kind words, delightful presents and honest effort displayed by my friends to give me a proper celebration of thirty years of life. My dear friend Sam had collected photos of my face, made cardboard masks out of them and then secretly distributed the masks to the guests. Suddenly, he calls out, “Quick! Become Gustav!”, upon which everyone put on their masks and encircled me. When this narcissistic legion of mine sung ‘Happy Birthday’, I didn’t know if I would laugh like a maniac or cry like a baby. I thought of how intensely I would miss these friends, and that reminded me that I had something to tell them.
As the last beautifully discordant note died away, I stepped up on a nearby sofa and cleared my throat. I thanked everyone for their many years of friendship and truthfully declared that they have been the joy of my life during the past ten years that I have lived in London. However, the time has come to look for new challenges elsewhere, and so it will be with both a heavy and a light heart that I leave London in the next couple of months.
A surprised murmur erupted from the crowd. I spent much of the remaining evening explaining my motives and reasoning. Just like my family and co-workers my friends were happy and excited for me.
I am bolstered by their wholehearted support and grateful for their ongoing friendship. I may not see them as much in the future, but I have no doubt that they will still be my friends.
Why all the drama?
Part of me wants to answer, “Why not!”, but that is neither helpful nor truthful. “Because I am an incurable drama queen,” is getting warmer, but not quite adequate. The real answer is that I needed a fixed point of no return.
I may have overcome the fear mentioned in the previous post, but this change is still daunting. It is easy to push uncomfortable and daunting things to tomorrow. To help myself overcome such tendencies, I often set a strong date on which I must do the thing I want done. This works both for short and long-term target.
For example, if my boiler has broken down and I need to take a cold shower in the morning, then I can hesitate for minutes before stepping into the cold water. To circumvent this hesitation, promise yourself to do it on the count of three. Such a promise is much easier to make than actually stepping into the shower. Then you count to three. In order not to break your own promise, you force yourself to take the plunge. It is a silly mind trick, but it works.
Similarly, it was easy to promise myself that I would announce my nomadic life on my birthday. When finally my birthday arrived, I couldn’t justify breaking the promise and I made my announcements as planned.
So why am fussing so much about making big grand announcements? For one thing, it is practical and it has to happen eventually. But more importantly, I need to burn some bridges in order to feel truly committed to this goal.
I wasn’t there, but I imagine that Caesar felt the same way as he approached Rubicon. “Am I going to invade Rome or not?” Before he crossed the river, he hesitated for a long time, contemplating the option of turning around. But once decided, he crossed the river and from then on, he could focus all energies on the invasion, unburdened by thoughts of the now non-existent option of turning back.
As I leave the burning bridges of Rubicon behind me, I can no longer change my mind without a serious blow to my self-esteem, and that is good. I don’t want to change my mind. I like this new mind of mine.
Alea iacta est.