Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Learning About Distance

I know I promised a top ten post and I will deliver on that promise. But for the moment let's try something completely different, a little raw Amy.
At the moment I am reading 'Bird by Bird' by Anne Lamott, Ben gifted it to me when he heard about my yen to explore my writing. One of the first chapters focuses on just starting to write, Anne's suggestion is to begin with your childhood and see where that takes you. This is followed closely by taking the chance and writing that first shitty draft. I read these chapters on the plane and so I was inspired by the condition I was in at the time. This essay reveals a little more about me and I hope you enjoy a little insight when you read it. I was hesitant about posting what is essentially a written therapy session, but there is something liberating about being able to share my writing.
Any feedback is alway appreciated.

Learning About Distance

For 21 years of my short 24 year life span I have lived in the same house; for my whole life I have lived in the same suburb. To this point I have been able to be comfortably ignorant of the discomfort of distance as most of my daily activities have been carried out within a one hour radius of this safe haven.
I went to school at the local Catholic College for 13 years (preschool to Grade 12), which is only 900 metres from my front door, I know this because my Mum measured it with the odometer on her old red Ford once.
My high school jobs were all in the same shopping centre, 15 minutes from our house (10 minutes if I was running late and Dad was driving), this shopping centre was also the site of many of my friend's and I teenage adventures; movies, shopping, and first dates, that is when we weren't hanging out at one of our houses, all conveniently located no more than about 15 minutes away from each other.

Even when I went to university I was only about an hour or so by public transport away from my front door and I rarely had to use the bus as a round trip method as one of my beloved parents would often pick me up from class in the afternoon.
My first 'grown up job' took me to the city, still only an hour (hour and a half if the traffic was really bad) away which enabled me to continue to live at home and save money for my adventures.

There has been a detached sense of distance in my life in that my mother's family is from Denmark and my father's is from Tasmania; while our little nuclear unit settled in south east Queensland and let other relatives fall where they may. As a child I grasped that these places were a long distance from where we lived and as we took family road trips when I grew older I gained an understanding of what distance means in terms of time, kilometres and effort. All through these adventures I was never distant from my immediate family, and any anticipation of separation frightened me immensely. We were the unit that travelled in unison, even as a teenager I was more likely to host sleepovers than attend other peoples, mainly because even that short separation from my parents and sister could plunge me into a blind panic.

When I took my first overseas holiday with my best friend I was afraid the same thing would happen, instead, I sensed that this distance, all though still a little frightening, could actually reveal something about me that I had yet to discover in my one hour radius world. I returned from that first trip bitten by the travel bug but alas this had to be stifled in order to attend to two remaining years of university, where I seemed locked in a prison of repetition. I was a broken woman who had sensed the buds of wings only to have to snap them off herself in order to complete the academic endeavour I had committed to.
I was angry, I was depressed and I am afraid I pulled others into that suffering with me. Instead of feeling cared for when they shared their concern I felt smothered and trapped and I resented those around me.
I dreamt of running away to new places, of the fabulous person I could be where no one knew who I had been before; distance was a thrilling and intoxicating transformative tool that changed the duckling into the swan, Cinderella into a princess.
After a much needed reality check from those who love me, and some much needed growing up on my part, distance lost much of its allure and as I embarked on my fledgling career I was grateful for the efficient commute and not having to stray too far on the weekends to find amusement. In that year I started to build even more into that one hour radius and stake out places of my own that would tie me there just as much as the places I had inherited from my parents; I had my own favourite restaurants, farmer's markets, bookshops I frequented and routes I would run on a Saturday morning. I started to think that maybe I was supposed to live down the street from my parents and not stray too far outside that one hour radius.

The universe, and the heart, doesn't much care for the human concern of proximity and so it happens that I have fallen in love with an angel of a man who lives in sunny California. Only a fourteen hour flight from my current home.  I am no longer comfortably ignorant of distance, every mile practically screams at me as the plane speeds away from where he is.  Now I think of a new distance, and having to stretch the ties that bind me to the one hour radius world of my childhood and young adulthood. I have no doubt I will feel the distance from my family just as acutely as the distance from him; they have been the heart of my world for so long, and it will be painful to leave them for another love, different but no less great.

With this homecoming, all that it is bringing me back to and all it is tearing me away from, I am learning more about distance. Someday soon distance will offer me a choice, between the love I have always known and its sheltering one hour radius world, and the love of another, new but already strong and the growth that it would mean. As I start on this new journey I know only this; my heart cannot count miles and my love has no radius.

Tomorrow I will deliver the promised post on Las Vegas.

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