I’m a great one for liking to impress.
I mean, what’s better than being told all the often how awesome your life is, how much of a go getter you are, how the random accomplishments you’ve racked up as beads on your life bracelette are so stupendously awe inspiring and wow wondering?
Such praise and assurance is what fires me to reach for more – and of late, perhaps that teeny bit further than my mental metaphorical arm can stretch.
About a year ago someone declared that I would be a pretty fab tour guide. I mean, I yarned like no tomorrow, loved my travel and historical titbits and could down a single glass of red and cause quite the ruckus. What better personality type to lead you around countless countries relaying fun facts about bouffantly haired Dutch politicians or the Greek economy sitch for beginners? (Mate, took me a long time to translate all those copious money jargoned articles into a few pars I could even understand myself). Thus, the application.
Fast forward through flying to Sydney for an interview, trucking up the street in the pouring rain with a see through top holding a plastic cup I wanted to just throw the fuck away (bain of my life at the time)and an offer of placement on the Training Trip 2 departing London for Hofgarten on March 29 20-16.
And here we are.
As soon as the email came through telling me of my success I felt a little ripple of doubt flutter about my mind. Nerves, I told myself. Apprehension and nerves, what anyone would be feeling and what a fair few sprays of Rescue Remedy will eradicate on the quick.
This was what I wanted – wasn’t it? My dream job. Travelling the world (well, continent of Europe) showing a bus load of 18-35 year old scallywags around incredible cities seeped in centuries of history and tales, living out of my new Kathmandu hiking pack (down to $215 in the mid summer sale, Summit Club what uppppp) for months on end, being in my element as centre of attention up the front of the bus with microphone in hand. Me to a t. ……..Right?
Everyone else seemed to think so. On hearing my guiding plans every one I spoke to was quick to respond in the insanely agreeable. “My word, that’s you all over!” I was told. “Couldn’t think of a more perfect person for the job.” (Apologies if this comes across as rather to capacity with Pop – I.e., “full of myself”; just, as always, giving the go as seen from my one short-sighted and one long-sighted set of eyes).
But the questioning was there. It churned away a good portion of the day, waking me up in panic in the morning and hanging about as I tried to drift into slumber at night. Oh hello, it chirped. Haven’t agonised you for about 20 minutes! Thought best I make an appearance and render you in turmoil yet again.
Why, may you ask? Well a whole load of both internal and external factors. A whole fuckfest of everything you could think of. But this was me all over, wasn’t it? The perfectly perfect dream job? And in the name of taking every chance, feeling the fear and doing it anyway, all that FB meme worthy hoo hah; I’d be crazy to pull out – right?
I started tentatively expressing doubt (well, tentatively to some; all out tragic panic to the Deb, Henio and brother James. Apologies for the wailing, tears, occasional – ok, very often – lying on the floor questioning my existence and the meaning of life). And aside from the parentals who said to not do it if I was feeling such a way, my indecision was met with – for the most part – disbelief and “Why the hell wouldn’t you go?”‘s. Once again the whole “you-all-over”, “once in a lifetime op”, “wish I could do something like that” comments served as affirmations of my acceptance of the job and I pushed forward. Oh hail the innate desire of mine to impress, have people think me a tad fantastic and the continuing to chug along.
And the assignment. My word (pun as I was on the programme for a good 21.5 hours a day), the assignment. At the interview we were told we would be given a rather large project to complete before the training trip; mate, said assignment was like a degree in itself. Researching the ins and out of every country, acquainting oneself with the city sites, learning the histories of a good 14 nations and getting in the know on architecture, art and specialty subjects…. I was in my absolute element. The nerd in me relished the studying up and cavorting about the Dewey decimal system at the local library, and unearthing fun facts – oh, what fun facts – had me tittering to myself all the often. (Did you know that in Switzerland it’s illegal to own a single guinea pig? Must have two plus. Aaaaand in one municipality, animals have a right to representation in court, such as one fish that spent a good ten minutes dangling on the end of a hook before being landed; the man at the end of the reel had a boast in the local paper and found himself summoned to a trial on calls of animal cruelty, deseased and eaten fish as defendent).
I took great delight in exploring countries in depth and putting my own spin on things. We were told to relay info using stories and descriptions, and I took this on board with gusto. Rather than describe Turkey as rectangular, France as hectagonal and Italy as the standard boot, I sat in front of a map of Europe for an hour and keenly studied each country like the most intent of art dealers. Spain beame the Chigaco Bulls sign. Turkey was a horizontal couple in the throes of afternoon delight. Italy – to hell with the boring boot – became a decadently stuffed Christmas stocking, with frilly thigh highs poking out the top. And Austria was a KFC chicken drumstick (although this comparison has since really messed with my visualing of Europe; now the whole continent appears as a spilled over family pack). I explored political scandals, lived on bio.com as I looked into the fab and famous. And I loved it. I learnt things I never even knew could possibly be things and garnered myself up as the most ideal person to have on your team for a general knowledge quiz (though only in European geography, economics, politics, tourism, society – food, drink, sport, music, festivals, basic language, current events, sports, cultural nuances, manners, famous persons, inventions, film and so forth; poise me a Q about anywhere else in the world and I’d be flummoxed). I absolutely adored it.
That’s not to say it wasn’t without its break down moments. Bouts of “will I ever get this finished” and “for fucks sake I’m so over the agricultural sector of the Belgian economy!”. And the whole being completed in conjunction with writing my book had me behind the laptop screen from dawn to nigh on midnight every day. I felt so insanely antisocial, I ended up pretty much living with one of my best friends, Ashleigh; we’d rise at 5.45am each day for a walk and yoga, then I’d sit down to study and write until 6pm where we’d take two hours to once again walk, swim and workout, before I’d be back behind the screen. While jamming away at my keyboard (lappy one, that is; not a muso in the slightest, I’m not referring to belting out some pianic tunes. Though I must admit; I can strum a pretty all good Kung Fu Fighting in basic B and D on the old guitar when the mood – and half bottle of $9 Onecard special Three Stones – strikes) I would just want to be around people to keep me sane; poor Ash and the ever-present Poppy.
So I was going. I booked my flights, sussed my visa, hustled a cheap hostel in Paris to parade around the city with my new found chum Jess – also a Contiki trip manager to-be -before we headed off on our intensive two month training trip. But the whole time uncertainty didn’t just linger but full on abound.
Personal situations escalated and panic took full force. When staying the night at home, Deb would come out each morning to find me having slept on some patch of floor of the house with my duvet wrapped around my bod like ropes, after nightmarish dreams of whether I was doing the right thing or not. At first it was sympathy and all listening ears, but after a good two months of turmoil I definitely started to get horrendously frustrating. Especially when I chose to sleep on the carpet over the three beds I could slumber – or toss and turn in – instead.
But I was going. I was adamant of that. I mean, I’d booked my flights, sorted the required documentation, had had the most anti-social summer ever as I worked my arse off to get it done. I was more than two-thirds through the assignment, was in the know of European current affairs, and – perhaps the biggest swaying for the go – people were mighty impressed.
Que last Sunday night. I’d been furiously jamming away at Spain (as in researching it) since 7am and was in the middle of making note of the 107-year-old Spaniard who drunk two bottles of red wine a day and not a drop of H20, when Ash and I called break time to go for a trot. An hour and a half later I returned to finish making note of the long-living lush when the rainbow wheel of death popped up on my screen, rotated a couple of times then disappeared – along with all open documents. In their place, a flashing folder icon with a question mark of doom appeared.
You know that expression “my heart sunk”? Well mine didn’t just sink; it catapulted beneath Ash’s plush red rug that I was perched on, shot through to the core of the earth and plummeted out the other side.
An hour on the phone to the emergency Apple helpline proved no avail; I biked home, appropriated Henio’s laptop and stayed up to 2am plugging away at Germany. The tip tap of the keys worked in a perfect rythym with the thudding of my heart (having returned to its home of left-of-chest from its dark down vay lay a few hours earlier), and the ocassional (well, more heavily regular) sip (ok, gulp) of red wine.
The next morning saw me at the Apple store, laptop cradled in my arms, as soon as the sliding doors slid open. As I nursed my laptop I told of my distress; luckily I had been backing up as I’d gone, in terms of my assignment I would only be down two days work should data recovery not be a possibility. Then I went home and waited for Jason’s (lovely technician lad who patted my back and promised me he’d put my job to the top of the queue) phone call.
When it came through that he’d managed to salvage Spain, Turkey and a good half of Germany I was chuffed. I’d say up with the ozone sort of ecstatic. But not leaping and bounding over the moon as I had expected.
And why was that, I hear you ask? Well, I’d finally admitted to myself the whole hearted truth. At this moment in time, what with my Coronation Street storyline life and internal pressures coming every which way, embarking on an intensely stressful two month training trip and following six months of herding about hordes of fun-loving travellers is not where I should be headed. And the perhaps main aspect I had avoiding admitting the entire time; it wouldn’t just be me going to train up – Ed would be coming too.
My dream job, right? So why have I been dithering and doubting all summer? Why have I been experiencing terror and turmoil at the thought of leaving all behind as is? And the answer? Right now, it’s just not right.
Apologies, but I’m about to go a bit gushy and cliche. This whole time, I’ve been thinking with my head. What I should do, what would impress people the most, what would look pretty dam sweet on the old CV. But what about all the going with your gut? Feeling and following your heart? Doing what actually feels right, rather that what maybe seems it?
I sat in the doghouse in the back yard (sounds a lot worse than it really is; I’m talking a full on Wendy house with functioning windows and a nice blue rug, not some sort of actual kennel with a bowl of kebble and a chew toy) and made my mind go blank. Just threw out all the thoughts and agonising angst and swirling “should-do’s”. I just sat and breathed, deeper and deeper until I was completely calm, then said to myself: forget every one and anyone else and their opinions. Forget all that’s gone into going so far. In heartfelt honesty and total truth, what do you want and what is best for you in terms of wellness and where you’re at right now?
It hit me like a swing ball in the face from a way-too-into-it opponent’s serve.
Of course I slept on it for two nights; didn’t want to do anything too brash nor hasty. Yarned to the parentals, emailed the Contiki recruiter to get some info, researched a few avenues. And the next morning I woke up, not a smidgeon of dubiety in my mind, that the actions I was to undertake over the next few hours were the full on right thing.
So. I emailed Contiki informing them that I was withdrawing my place on the training trip. I collected up all of my papers, info notes and folders to do with training and filed them away. Then I went and saw my travel agenting friend Caraline and booked in for a – how ironic – Contiki tour kick starting April 2 from London, travelling to the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Poland, Switzerland, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Italy, Hungary, Vatican City and France.
A one way ticket to flit about Europe as long as my meagre funds will allow. Straight to Paris to bike about the sights, along the Champs Elysees, yoga beneath the Eiffel; Chunnel to London, a raging week cavorting about Big Ben, Buckingham Palace and copious pubs and night venues before leaping aboard the Contiki bus for a month, then back to London to hit Harry Potter world with the bestie Xtina, hopefully chuck in a weekend in Ireland and hustle around some more of the UK. Then onto old Holland to see my 79,000 cousins (great great Mr Wortman was quite the plugger – poor, poor Mrs Dub), a cavort across to Munich to see some fam friends, then hustling through Dubai on the way back to see the Uncle Adrian.
And from there, working my arse off for five months to save needed monetary means for a three month return to India and Nepal, this time with the best friend Beaver.
I feel like I can breathe. I feel totally at peace. More chilled than a Fisher&Paykel freezer. Like a hefty 250-kger has been extenuated from my upper torso. Like all my nerves and muscles that have stood rigid since November 1 have been elasticised and lengthened out like Betty Spaghetti. I have 149 per cent, not a single doubt in my mind, done the right thing.
Though the need to justify my choice to everyone else riddles through me like Tom Marvolo, I’m telling myself to chill the fuck out. Doing what I think I should and wanting people to say, “Wow!” is what got me here in the first place.
I always thought I’d be career Pop. Name authored across breaking stories, face announcing the TV news on the daily, owning a fabulous abode with a Jeep Wrangler and live-in masseuse and chef and acupuncturist and PT and hairdresser and….. You get the gist. But now I’ve realised I don’t want all that (except maybe the masseuse. And Jeep Wrangler. And fab abode. Ok, still all of it. But not if it means a trucket load of stress to get it all).
I want to be well. That means travel. Yoga. Writing. Marrying people. Being a good person. Stopping to take note of the seemingly little in the every day.
I read a really cool quote the other day that resonated with where I’m at right now. “Maybe the journey isn’t so much about becoming anything. Maybe it’s about unbecoming everything that isn’t really you, so you can be who you were meant to be in the first place.”
That’s where I’m headed. Right now I feel a good majority of the true Poppy is drowning beneath a swamp of someone she’s really not. And I want to get her the fuck out, get her head above the turbulent tides so she can be her true self.
And in receiving my withdrawal from Contiki, the recruitment manager told me of a quote to consider if I ever do pull the whole “what if”; “Don’t regret anything because at the time that was exactly what you wanted”. So the job has been postponed until twenty-seventeen, should I feel the desire then.
Bring on 2016, the year of healing, adventure, learning to cartwheel and surf and sorting myself the fuck out.
Last night at my best friend’s wedding (post to come!) her dad came up to me and clapped me on the shoulder. “To me you are the female Forest Gump,” he said. “You just have the most incredible approach to life. You are going to have an amazing life Poppy, you really are.”
I treasure that comment more than he could ever realise. He’s right; I am going to have an amazing life, because from here on out that’s my only goal.
Pop out. (Apologies for the novel).