Berlin, Germany
October 21st, 2010

Today is my 22nd birthday, a fairly unremarkable age, and although I’m not generally one to get excited about birthdays, this iteration is particularly bleak. I’m not going to pretend that I’m not depressed about Chris’ departure, and not daunted by the prospect of moving to a new city completely alone.

Everything that we’d been dreaming about – having our own apartment, working on our respective creative ventures, riding motorcycles to Glastonbury, going skiing in Switzerland, and just generally going back to living our lives, something we mistakenly thought backpacking was – all that has been swept away by the pen of a government bureaucrat in Dusseldorf. I’ve said it before: fuck Worldbridge.

I was torn between following him back, or pushing on to London alone. Every bone in my body was screaming at me that I should go back, that it’s sheer lunacy to try to start a new life from scratch in a city fifteen thousand kilometres away from everyone I know and love without a friend to support me. But going back isn’t really an option. In fact, although I was and am tempted, I knew I’d never really do it. If I don’t try London I’ll regret it.

It scares the shit out of me, to be honest. I found going to Korea much easier, though perhaps that was because I didn’t have anything calling me back to Australia. Now Chris is there and Mike’s there and Kristie’s there. Since Chris is going to Melbourne to live with our friend Jamie, and Kristie will also be heading to Melbourne next year, that’s undoubtedly where I’ll head if London doesn’t work out.

The thing about all this is that it brings up something I’ve been avoiding looking in the eye for a long time, which is that I have no idea what I want to do with my life, and that I have a strong suspicion that the “just go out there and have wild adventures” solution offered up by so many inspirational quotes is not quite as fulfilling as you might think. I strongly suspect, in fact, that the meaning of life lies in cultivating your relationships with others. Every meaningful relationship I have is currently in Australia. Which, as I have also learned this year, is a much finer nation than I previously gave it credit for.

I’m going to write more about travel reflections later on, probably for the final post. This one here is about me and Chris and what we’re going to do with our topsy-turvy lives in this big confusing world. What I was getting at is that I can feel my life moving on its fulcrum; the early twenties are a critical age. The counterpoint to RELATIONSHIPS is CAREER/ACCOMPLISHMENT. I’m going to London to seek a job in the writing industry but there are so many different things I want to do. I could end up working for magazines, or publishing houses, or newspapers, or – more likely than any of those – be forced to settle for something that I don’t enjoy doing at all, like copywriting or sales and marketing. (Jesus Christ, but I swear I could type in any combination of letters and get 1000 results for “sales and marketing.”) I was reviewing my resume today and realised how much of my professional life I’ve wasted away. I spent far too long working in a supermarket. I may as well have subtracted a certain number of hours from my life in exchange for money for all the good it did me and all the enjoyment and experience I got out of it. I would have liked to work in a bookstore, but that time has passed. If I do that now it will also be a waste, because I sure as hell don’t want to build a career in retail. Five years from now, will I be looking back on my London jobs with the same regret?

I don’t want to fuck this up. I have a terrible vision of myself living in a studio apartment throughout a drizzly England winter with a job that I find as deadening and pointless as I did my internship at the City of South Perth. And even if I give up on it and go back to Australia those problems aren’t solved. I’m frightened of not having any marketable skills. I’m frightened of being someone who’s talented but too lazy or unconnected to ever accomplish anything of worth. I’m frightened of just aimlessly drifting through my twenties, and my life.

That’s what this trip was, like Korea and university were before it: a way of postponing life. There may be some third way I’m not thinking of, some way of finding myself a career and a life that I find worthwhile and fulfilling without having to slog through eight years of existential crises, but if I could think of how to do that I’d be doing it already.

Maybe I overthink things.

Summary: Upper-middle class 22-year old white kid with European and Australian citizenship, a university degree, $14,000 in savings and the freedom to do whatever he wants bemoans his miserable plight.