Discover more from detachment manifest
A personal essay on intuition, risks and uncertainty.
Maybe it’s the seasonal depression leaving my body, but I’ve been realising something lately. A few days ago, I was back in London for an appointment and to do some admin. That meant: emptying my closet, going through old things and generally regressing into my teenage years in my teenage bedroom in the appropriate capacity. I found my old iPad, saw photographs of my now dead grandmother’s apartment I had taken ten years ago as if I knew it would be the last time, photos of twelve-year-old me after wisdom tooth extraction, screenshots of Tumblr pages. Often, coming back to our little house in the suburbs of the sprawling and polluted city I grew up in kind of fills me with anxiety – and just before my outbound flight, I did feel that chemical knot in my stomach. The contrast between living on my own and being under my parents’ roof again, the stifling copy-paste of the houses and the confrontation with memories and fundamental questions about future plans make a heady cocktail. But! This time there was something beneath it – something I’ve felt a few times in my life but more frequently in the last year than in maybe all the years since childhood. To describe it may be to reduce it, but I’ll try.
What I felt was alignment. A fusion of two places: where I am and where I am supposed to be, future and present becoming just present. I’m not saying I have my shit figured out. I’m still feverishly looking for a job. I’m still looking for a place to live that isn’t filled with old roller skates and jeans I’ve outgrown, despite the love that fills it. I’m figuring out my art, my space, or lack thereof. The point is that right now, I feel alignment despite all of those things.
In the five days we were there, I walked, I wrote. I showed boyfriend around the gateway drug for London’s modern art world, the site of my wannabe ‘indie’ teenage years, the Tate. I was 15, 16, 17 again. On the Southbank he noted that when the sun is out in London, everything smells of weed, so different from the winter. I’d never really thought about that but recognised it as an oddly comforting truth. And, god, I missed the human tapestry of the city. No two people looked the same, and when they did it wasn’t in a sleek, fashionable way. Even the pile of fresh chun on the steaming pavement felt like a quirky and natural feature of a vibrant city. Sickening optimism, right? Six months ago, you would barely have been able to force me into zone 1. So, what changed?
I went away. I took a break, a real break. Don’t be mistaken – this was not a holiday. The first month in Copenhagen was one of the top three most stressful periods of my life, the worst being my skin cancer diagnosis a couple of years ago and the distant second being my IB exams. We were in completely new territory. Dealing with incredibly rigorous immigration and financial bureaucracy, choosing between paying rent and buying food and going door to door everyday asking for a job, all in the dark depths of a Danish winter, was fucking hard. There were points where I really asked myself if I had made some terrible mistake, because many of the friends I had graduated alongside seemed to be living more stable, less precarious lives. I thought about the leads on job opportunities I had sacrificed to be able to explore, the time I could be losing, the friends I missed. The strange thing was, however, that none of these thoughts ever lasted longer than an hour. Although my mind was racing, my gut feeling was very, very good. That antithesis, which is really harmony, is something I’ve only come close to really understanding now that our time in Denmark is ending.
Despite the literally existential angst I was feeling and the constant uncertainty of whether we would be able to make it through the next month, I had taken a risk. I had said yes to a person I love, yes when he asked me a couple of months into knowing each other whether I wanted to go and travel with him, seriously travel, after we left university, instead of going our separate ways or rashly choosing somewhere to settle down. I changed my direction at a significant junction, and it felt right. Most significantly, my attitude changed. All of a sudden, I could see the path I had been moving towards, the character I had been acting whilst believing it really me, the person I had been and who I had inadvertently buried far below the surface to be able to function in the places I’d drifted into. The people that really knew me stayed, the people that didn’t understand went their own way. I rediscovered writing, seriously. I found a focus and a sense of direction I’ve never felt before, and the drive I needed to really make things happen. Over the last six months I’ve assisted on serious film sets, worked on projects with talented artisans, met new people, learned to share a space with another person in harmony and respect.
Although everything is up in the air again, I’m excited for the next journey, just as excited as when the last one began. Most of all, I feel calm. I feel calm and clear, although my circumstances are not. That’s all I could ever ask for. At some point, we’ll all be blindsided by things beyond our control; hurt, confused or numbed. What I’ve learned and what I hope to keep in my body going forward is my intuition. I don’t mean to sound excessively New Agey and I hope my optimism isn’t too nauseating. What our intuition tells us is not always practical, actionable, logical. I’m just grateful for the rediscovery. It made me clearly recognise the people I love and care for, the things that bring me real, un-performative joy, and the beauty in safety and uncertainty alike.