I have discovered this post languishing on my desktop for the past 6 months, so here we go, kicking this blog back to where it should be!
It has been so long, and I just am not sure I should be writing still as part of the Sunflower Journey. And yet there is so much I have since discovered about our journey so long after the physical journey finished, and really there is essence here that must continue.
Our return last May 2015 seems so long ago and yet I still feel emotionally connected to Malaysia, to Cambodia. I often see myself there, feel the temperature, the smells, the people. This gets more distant by the day, but it will forever be there. Once the physical journey in Asia was complete, the real emotional journey began back here in the UK. Re-discovery of somewhere I previously knew, somewhere where I had lived and grown up, but discovering it all in a new context.
First we had to find work – all that I thought I wanted – stability, a sense of permanency (is that even a word?!), a community, to belong. But really this wasn’t what I needed – this was surface level and what I had missed by being on the road. If we were to scrape peel back the onion, what I craved at the core was to feel I was home. To have a home. To have space. To feel independent and to have flexibility and control over my own decisions.
I took a job but inside I knew from the first day it wasn’t right to be there, I was selling my soul. An environment that didn’t allow me to flourish, to be me, to do my best work. As someone so rightly said, it paid the bills but to me work has to have a deeper purpose and this wasn’t it. I felt if I couldn’t find substance in my work, I had to refocus, find a new direction, to discover something new, to be more alone, to allow time and space to be my best.
I quit the job to become freelance and strangely I didn’t feel scared. Despite the financial struggles continuing from our time in Asia, I knew this day was the beginning of something new. Remembering the feeling of stepping from the comfort zone into something new to experience something different.
I believe in fate. I have to believe in it. More a spirit, a feeling that lets me make sense of things, and trust that things are happening for a reason.
By creating the space for something new, fate brought exactly that. A subtle shift into something different, using the same skills, knowledge and experience, but applying it to something new. I don’t know how this happened, how the network of fate put me in the right place at the right time. I have found my work. I feel at home, both physically and in my work. Here, in this space I feel driven and motivated.
This is where it feels different. All those elements I thought I needed, actually I didn’t. I don’t thrive from the stability of an unchanging routine and environment but I do from feeling wanted, to feel purpose, to feel worth and to be valued.
Home and space
We spent the first few months in a small apartment in the centre of Bath – fabulous location, close to everything, in amongst beautiful history and architecture. The apartment was modern, warm, cosy – but it was small. Middle-class problem I know, and I feel embarrassed to admit we didn’t cope so well. We survived in a single room in Cambodia for all those months – we coped, but actually as I reflect on that time I think we more survived more than coped, and it came with consequences.
We have since moved to a house close by to the school. The boys witnessed the unfolding of a home and I am struck by how much this process meant to them. There has been a lot of moving in a short space of time and they were nervous to move, they felt we couldn’t possibly live somewhere else that would also feel like home, despite how much I assured them I would do exactly that. As more boxes were unpacked, as the familiar returned, they began to thank me. It was the strangest thing that every night they would say thank-you, for creating a new home, for how happy they felt and excited to be here. For me this is Sunflower Journey. To have travelled so far so young, and yet to be able to acknowledge and express the strength of feeling connected to a physical home.
As always a move is stressful, but this one also was so positive, we moved belongings out of storage and I unpacked possessions which had been locked away for weeks, months, years. In fact 8/9 years – photos, books, music. I discovered a life I had forgotten about. A stack of recipe books and as the boys pointed out at least 5 books on vodka alone! Travel. An entire shelf of guide books on places I had forgotten I had visited, from the States to India, Fiji to Rome, inter-railing through Portugal. Clearly a love of travel and adventure from the moment I could identify where I was in the world.
I discovered art. I remembered ART. I remembered a life of working and visiting museums, studying art, being creative. And of course music. Books on music, physical sheets of music, music books all in time for finally having a piano back in the house. I stopped playing once Dad had gone, a lack of desire, a fear of emotional release, I locked away the talent. And here it is. I walk past it every day. A piano. It speaks to me when everyone is out, asking me to play, asking me to be brave and have a go. I’m not brave enough, yet.
Photos. Photos of Dad. Photos of nieces and nephews as babies – not the giants they are today. Photos of J and I before the children. Memories. As I said last time “The challenge of someone always looking forward, and forgetting to look back.” How can we look back without visual cues to help us? What are we without memories? And what we need is reminders to help us find those memories in amongst the hustle and bustle of everyday demands on our mind.
I had forgotten all this. That seems utterly crazy, but truly I had forgotten a life that wasn’t the now. With these visual cues, memories and a physical space I can call home, I feel more grounded than ever.
I have changed. We have changed. We have had incredible experiences, and challenging experiences, but most of all we have created memories of an adventure that pushed us all to the extreme. This has legacy.
We continue to be on our own journey. I want to call it something else, but really its heart continues to be learning, so Sunflower Journey it shall remain. Sunflower Journey is our mantra for seeking experiences and learning that continue to grow and ensure our lives feel truly purposeful, and ultimately we can do the very best for those boys.