Grey mizzle across the country, a hanging mist, traffic fluidly moving through
the capital’s centre, commuters buying coffee, picking up the free paper,
listening to their ipods. Schoolchildren on a train, the first day of term after
the summer, a little apprehensive, a little excited, grey and red uniforms.
I feel a great warmth for the working, participating, world this morning. Policemen
in their fluorescent yellow jackets, taxi drivers waiting to take passengers
to offices. People transforming from lovers to parents to passengers to workers.
Cycle gear being replaced by suits. The world is moving, the day is starting
and it’s not even 9am yet.
I’ve been thinking about this ‘growing up’ thing since Felix’s
last post. I’ve been
to a wedding and watched two friends do the thing they really want to do: get
married, make a commitment to each other, live together… and by that I mean
really live, lebensgefährter, travel through life together. Other friends
have had kids lately, something that has made them so happy, has been absolutely
rewarding. Something they really wanted to do. It’s quite something to
feel capable, ready, grown-up enough, to not only want these things but to carry
them out. To opt in.
I fear I may have been wrongly represented. Or rather, people may have assumed
my stand-point by virtue of the last year in a strange place, ‘a wonderfully
simple bubble’ as commented
by Span. A number of people wondered if going to Antarctica was running away
from something, escaping reality, and I used to vehemently defend it as an alternative
way to ‘opt in’ to life rather than opt out. (Similarly, I think
‘gap-year’ is a terrible expression, suggesting an acceptable one
year ‘out’ of the real world.)
What you may not know is that I have been thoroughly enjoying being a part
of the working world since coming back. Making my contribution to the 9-5 world
that I know so little about. I love flexi-time and take great satisfaction in
swiping-in and out every day. I like my dull job. It’s exciting in the bigger
picture, perhaps, but the daily process of number-crunching is a far cry from
laughing with the midday stars. I like coming home at a reasonable time and
having an evening to take whatever class I fancy, cook dinner or meet folk in
the pub. I love the house that I share with one friend. Today, I even like the
rain. And sure, I can see that ten years of this might become monotonous and
dull – but so could ten years on the ice.
I have never lived such a routined life as at Halley. So today, for the record,
I’m all about opting-in. Choosing the life you want. Having babies, buying
houses, going to work and contributing to the flow of whichever city you live
in. In Cambridge, it’s biking along the river and shopping in the market.
In London, it’s watching people on the tube and magicking myself from
one side of town to the other on the buses using my swish new oyster
card. In Edinburgh this weekend I enjoyed being a tourist, admiring the great
old buildings and being swung around the dancefloor, clueless, at a ceilidh.
Yes, cities have grown this way because enough people have actively chosen this
life. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all.