It’s been eight weeks and three days since I left California. It’s been a weird two months.
Two days after I touched down in Sydney, I started full-time work in a position I’ve been working towards since that half-realised and half-baked thought of “hey, being a journalist would be cool” when it working out my university preferences at the end of high school.
I’ve gradually been getting back into being home – catching up with old friends, going out to the bars and restaurants and shops of my home town, readjusting to the fact teenage mothers and junkie alcoholics and burnt out stolen cars and the ever-present danger of being randomly assaulted on public transport are just a way of life in my area.
And I’ve just realised that this week marks one entire year since I left for America.
I haven’t really written about my time there. I’ve wanted to for a while, compiling random thoughts in my phone notes, scratching out some words in airports and on trains and in the middle of late nights alone, but it’s hard. Looking back, it’s been – without a single shred of doubt – the most incredible, amazing… I can’t even think of many more words to describe it… time of my life. The experiences I had have forever changed me as a person. The things I learnt will stick with me for the rest of my life. The ways I’ve grown and the things I discovered about myself have made me a better human. And the people I met, I will never forget.
And that’s the problem, I think. Because for all the good things that are happening in my life right now, I’m just unsatisfied. With a minimum of effort, through a set of bizarre circumstances and luck that even now I look back on with incredulity and disbelief, I’ve gained what is probably my dream job. I’ve a job in an industry shedding jobs every day, in a workplace that just this week shoved almost two dozen people out the door in a further round of redundancies and cost-cutting. I’m young, healthy, and for the first time in my life I’ve actually got a nice pay check coming in every week. But – first world problems alert – despite having a job I know most of my university classmates would give their eye teeth for, I’m not quite sure what I want to be doing or where I want to be going.
My best friends live as far away from me as is physically possible on this rock we call Earth. I’m in Australia while they’re in England and Spain and Sweden, in Denmark and Scotland and Germany. Someone once told me that Spain was on the exact opposite side of the planet to Australia. While I haven’t bothered to fact-check that claim, it sounds pretty legit so let’s just run with it. My best friends now only exist to me as pixels on a computer screen, as a grainy Skype video connection, as text messages and emoticons in Whatsapp, as flashing chat icons in a Facebook window in simple conversations that stretch over days because of time differences.
I’m 22 years old. Scratch that. I’m a 22 year old boy with a career. At an age when most of my friends are stressing over uni assignments or what they’re going to do once they finish uni or have finished uni and are stressing that they’ll never find a job, I’ve got a bit already worked out – and that is what scares me. I’m scared that I’ve locked myself into something that I’m unsure about. That I’ve locked myself into something I should really stay with. That I’ve locked myself into something where I could realistically – and, logically, should – stay for the rest of my life. And that is what scares me. Because a 22 year old boy should’t have this worked out yet. I don’t want to have it worked out yet.
I’m having this recurring dream. I’m at Beverly Plaza in Long Beach with my friends, and suddenly I’m running, but I don’t know where I’m going. Sometimes I’m running in a race but don’t know where I’m supposed to be running to. Other times I’m running away from something that’s chasing me. I’m running from the place I want to be, but I don’t know why or where. It’s not much of a brain-buster to work out what that dream is about.
I want to get out of this crummy town and see the world. I want to make mistakes and fuck up, I want to get in a fight, I want to dive into something stupid and come out of it with bloody knees and a cut lip and laugh about it later. I want to see my friends, and not through a computer screen. This last year has given me the privilege of meeting some of the smartest, strongest, funniest, bravest and most incredible people on the face of the planet, and this last year has shown me that the little pocket of the world that I occupy is too small.
My job would be perfect for 28-year-old Josh; Josh with a sensible haircut that’s probably artfully concealing the first signs of a receding thinning hairline, Josh with a sensible apartment and a sensible girlfriend and a sensible long-term savings plan to purchase a sensible house in a sensible suburb. Josh with a sensible plan of what he wants in life, and where he wants to be and how to get there. But that’s not me right now, because I don’t really know what I want. Actually, that’s a bit of a misnomer, because I think I know what I want to do. I want to wander foreign streets and write stories about the people I meet. I want to talk to the busker on the street and the human statue and the odd man in the park who feeds the pigeons and find out why they do what they do. I want to see the midnight sun. I want to find a little wonder in the everyday.
But I do know what I don’t want to do. I don’t want to be where I am right now. I’m drowning in the familiarity of this place. I want to jump off into the abyss and see where I land. I want to see what the splash is like, to churn up the waters a bit. Because I’m lying flat on my back in this inch-deep pancake-flat lake right now, and I don’t really know what direction I want to swim in.