Tuesday, May 31, 2011

On Becoming Boring

It's a thought that crosses my mind frequently these days: I'm becoming boring. More accurately, perhaps, I already have.

For so much of my life I lived abroad, traveled at every opportunity to places far, far off the beaten track, attended house parties frequented by an achingly cool international crowd, befriended people on planes and long-haul bus trips, changed plans in whatever way suited my fancy, and generally threw caution to the wind. I had many adventures, that's for sure, and a lot of my identity became defined by that exciting expat-traveler lifestyle.

Not that I wasn't aware of the downsides of the path I'd chosen. The frequent loneliness and depression, the culture shock and reverse culture shock, the isolation from family, the inevitable distancing from friends. Still, despite the negative aspects, it was a hell of an exciting way to live.

For the last couple of years, I've been shifting out of that mode. There were signs of it in Mozambique, as I increasingly craved time at home, with Rico and the cats, doing nothing and going nowhere. I thought it was a natural reaction to the crazy work habits we'd been keeping, taking on every freelance job that came across our plates. I figured I was burned out, in need of a break.

Then we moved to Casa Cali and the introverted, homebody tendencies continued strong. I rationalized that it was because we'd just moved, that in time I'd want to venture out and explore, that we'd make friends, that my old adventure-seeking self would bounce back.

Nearly two years in, and that hasn't exactly happened. I still feel like I'm plain, stay-home Jane. I have very little desire to go out, even to the city. My days are spent in the studio, gardening, hanging out at home. Social events sort of exhaust me. I can't remember the last time I set foot in a dance club or went to a fantastic late-night party, much less take a spontaneous weekend trip. We have a mortgage. We're in bed by midnight. Signs abound pointing to my very adult life.

Part of me loves this slower, home-oriented pace. I spent lots of quality time with Rico and my mom. I hang out with the cats. I cook and decorate and get my hands dirty in the garden. I make lots of art. It's relaxing, comforting work. More than anything I like the stability, the idea that Rico and I are building our home at Casa Cali and we will never, ever have to pack boxes and move ourselves halfway across the world again.

Another part of me, however, feels like I've let the train pass me by. I turn 30 in the fall, and I can't quite believe I'm this settled, this quiet, this grown-up. If I'm like this at nearly-30, the panicky part of me wonders, what will I be like at 40, or 50? When will I ever be adventurous and spontaneous again? When will I visit Lençóis Maranhenses, hike Monte Roraima, attend the Festival au Desert in Timbuktu? When will I do any of the other things that have been on my dreams list for years if all I want to do at this point is stay home? Because after art school comes kids, or so the plan goes, and if I find it hard to lead an "exciting" life now, I can only imagine how distant that concept will be with a child or two on scene.

I guess this is part of the grand cycle of getting older, making choices, becoming more conscious about what path you follow and how you spend your time. What a strange, bittersweet feeling to mourn and long for the person you once were, while at the same time not regretting for one instant the person you've become.


Jo Ann said...

I don't think you'rewasting your life at all. There are phases. The "let's go" and the "let's rest". At 29, you did with your life so much more than half the world population already. After being a nomad, I believe it's normal the urge to feel settled, somewhere, sometime. We need roots and yours just now found their ground. :-)

B.G. Burr said...

The French mountain climber Mitch Micheaux was once asked what it was like to lead a life of "adventure". He replied that he had spent his entire life avoiding adventure. He said that if you were having an adventure then something had gone dreadfully wrong.

Brandie said...

my dear - you should give me a heads up when you are writing about my life!! This was soo fantastic and summarized so much of what I'm feeling now (minus the scary mortgage part).

Thanks for this!

NOLA said...

Oh, I so understand this!! I'm having such a fabulous trip in Morocco but all I can think is how I'd rather just go back home to Liberia than head on to Paris tomorrow.

You may cycle back to a more adventurous spirit, or you may not. But once you have kids, it's ALL an adventure.

aimee said...

I can so relate, Ali. You said it perfectly. I am in the process of looking for my rooted place. I've never lived anywhere (aside from where I grew up in the midwest) for more than a couple years at a time. I am longing for a home base. A permanent place to call home. But where is it?

Wei Lah POH said...

A friend once told me, "You may not be happy with who you are right now, but it may not be who you are five years, 10 years or 20 years from now." And I agree with her. I say enjoy it. It sure feels like the grass is always greener on the other side though, eh? And as a cultural salad like myself, it's hard but it's such an endearing feeling to feel like you belong and being content. :)xo!

stacie said...

Love this post! I am turning 44 this year, and have lived a nomadic life on and off for the last 22 years. You may think you won't ever move again...I thought the same thing when I was your age...but life has a funny way of changing quite quickly! I like to think of the quieter times of our lives as needed maintenance...you are exploring all sides of your personality and the new life you are living with Rico...you will find that your roots are where ever you happen to be with Rico...my urge to feel settled comes and goes...and I live accordingly. I struggled a long time with feeling like I 'have to' live my life a certain way because I am married, ect. The cool thing about being an adult is you get to make your own rules....

--jenna said...

As usual, our lives seem to follow parallel paths. We are definitely homebody-ing and setting down roots, and it feels a bit weird, but good. In any case, it makes me tired just thinking about the life I used to lead!
Enjoy the resting...there will come a time (menopause, if not earlier!) when the antsy, energeticness will come back with a vengeance! :)

Marcia (123 blog) said...

Um no, you're not boring. You're just enjoying settling down and "feathering your nest" :)

on another note (please email me), I'm seeing lots of recipes I want to try calling for a graham cracker crust. Which biscuits can I use that are similar? :)

Marcia (123 blog) said...

PS it's this one in case you want to whip some up too :)


Jody said...

But art and gardening and cooking is not boring!! Loved the little garden of succulents in your last post (I just made one last week too!)

You are also in school, which takes up a lot of time and requires you to stand still a bit.

I relate to you and the others who have posted comments. I love that I read your blog this morning. It was like I talked about my feelings without having to say a word. I feel like a heavy object has been lifted off my chest.

Now I am going to ride my bike to the Fortaleza for Feira Junina Artesansanato!

Hannah said...

I should have been reading your blog a LONG time ago Ali! SOOOO true, so much of what you say. Now I've signed up, so I am officially a stalker.

This has happened to me too. I haven't gone out dancing in AGES. I garden and have been planting trees for the past week. I just don't feel like meeting new people - I like my old people, thank you very much -and want to spend every second of my free time with them. I got two cats, and LOVE taking care of them. I have been asking everyone what the HECK has gotten into me, and why I don't feel like striking up conversations with strangers anymore. In fact I went to Cuba a couple months ago and was so excited about going alone (as I always am), but didn't even go out when I was there! I chilled in the casa particular where I had stayed 5 years ago and caught up with the family (i.e. stayed in and went to bed early), instead of going dancing! I am actually a little embarrassed that I have NO excuse whatsoever for not going Salsa dancing in Cuba - "I just didn't feel like it" doesn't really cut it, right? I don't think most people have the perspective of being a 10-year traveler and now becoming a little TOO obsessed with the familiar (it is so new and SO great, right?!?), which might be why I haven't gotten many insightful answers to that question. I thought it was medical school that was making me crazy (and boring!!), but I think you are right. It is about learning to accept that we can have a (perhaps quite enjoyable) identity away from the "always fun, up for anthing, loves dancing traveling-hippie-chick". In fact this is GREAT (unfortunatly possibly boring to those around us). Again, thanks for your insight. We need to talk more. Third year of med school is over on Aug 28th, then I have a bunch of time. Maybe I can even squeze in a visit! Another kiss, lets talk soon.