Standing Still is Hard

I just finished watching season 2 of Orange is the New Black on Netflix (it's amazing and I will probably write something about it in the near future). I usually skip a show's intro when I am binge-watching, because, as every serious TV consumer knows, time is precious when you're trying to squeeze 13 hours of entertainment into as few days as possible. Skipping a one minute repetitive intro equals about 1/3 of an episode, and I am all about efficiency of viewing.

For the uninitiated, Orange is the New Black opens up with Regina Spektor singing about animals being trapped in a cage, and how they have all this free time without the freedom to do anything. It's an excellent metaphor for the show. But there's one line in particular that resonated even as I forwarded through the intro:
Think of all the roads
Think of all their crossings
Taking steps is easy
Standing still is hard
As I walked home from school on the afternoon I submitted the final assignment of my MA, I began to feel a little trapped. By the time I got back to my apartment, I was in full-on panic mode and immediately began searching for ways to get out of the city: trains across Canada, flights out of the country, visas for Singapore - anywhere that wasn't here.

A few days earlier, I had gone out with my brilliant and wise friend Renee to say goodbye before she moved back to her home in Saskatoon where her house and partner and cats were waiting for her. I told her I had always planned on staying in Ottawa after I finished my degree, at least for a while. "But now I feel like I should pack up and go somewhere. Explore other cities - other countries even! I have nothing tying me here. I'm young and free! I should get out of here before I get settled.
Think of all the roads
Think of all their crossings
Renee, a generous listener, waited until I had spewed all of this word vomit at her, and then graciously offered: "I think you should maybe stay, at least for the summer. You've just gone through a tremendous life experience, and now that you've finished you're MA, you're going to need some time to process and transition. Life immediately after grad school is a lot to deal with, and staying put will be one less Big Thing to deal with while you adjust."

And of course she's right. But this is the problem. Staying put is scary. My friend Zaren has a tattoo that says "Such permanence is terrifying." And that's exactly how I feel. While part of me wants things like a steady job and a car and regular coffee shop where the baristas know my order when I walk in, the fact that having all those things means staying in one place is too much. To me, settling down is a four-letter word.

My friend Emily and I were talking about this a few months ago, when the realization that we were almost finished school hadn't quite hit yet. Being a "traveller," constantly on the move and living in new places every few months, is scary in it's own right. New languages, no stability, always meeting new people: yeah, it's a lot. But in many ways, staying in one place is much more daunting. If you are constantly moving, you are in control, making choices, deciding what happens when. But staying means patience. It means committing. It means facing the everyday mundane. It means routine, it means dealing with the expected. It means facing certain boredom, and that is infinitely more terrifying.
Taking steps is easy
Standing still is hard
I have said many times that my biggest fear is both being bored AND being boring. If you are consistently moving, the new surroundings, people, and experiences are enough to keep boredom at bay. And I'm not really a "traveller" in the sense of someone who backpacks across the world, but I have lived my life in four-month semesters for 9 years, with the knowledge that everything would be different after 12 weeks. Because when your settings and characters are always the same, you are responsible for being interesting. And that is really, really difficult.

But I think I'm going to try. I suppose facing your fears is part of growing up, or just growing. So I will get a permanent job, and I will get a dog and houseplants. I will join a gym and find a doctor and make plans for the long run. I will face - and maybe, one day - embrace that life is sometimes really boring. I will try standing still.

Current book: The Remains of the Day - Kazuo Ishiguro
Current TV show: Torchwood (series 3)
Current nail colour: Essie's "absolutely shore"


heidster said…
Yup, this is a hard one for me too. Here's a book that would be really useful for helping in the scary 'standing still' moments.
Beth Hynes said…
This is an amazing post, dear Jill :) It resonates with me so much.
Sarah K. said…
I know I'm late responding to this, but I have to comment because oh my gosh, this is me.

I still kind of live my life like nothing is permanent. even now in New York, when I am planning on staying put, I'm already thinking about new apartments and places to travel. I'm really terrified of being bored/boring. it's something I really need to work on.

it's ok though, we're those "restless hearts" they sing about in rock songs!

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