Stuck in the Middle: Caught in Pre-Travel Purgatory

Somewhere between Buenos Aires, Argentina and Auckland, New ZealandMerry-Go-Round

There is a reason why I don’t make plans in advance: I can’t stand waiting for them to happen. There’s too much time for thinking, for raising expectations, and for talking myself out of it. There is too much time for daydreaming (or day-nightmaring).  And since things never work out the way you imagined, if you fantasize away all of the best outcomes, what are you left with?  Disappointment. Most people call this anticipation.  I call it purgatory.

Being noncommittal in my daily life is easy (especially when you have patient friends and family who love you, even if you RSVP or cancel at the last minute).  But there is a fine line between being relaxed and being flaky, and you can miss out on opportunities if you don’t move fast enough.  Sometimes, the circumstances require advanced planning.  Like when other people are involved, or you’re moving abroad.

The idea to move to New Zealand was inspired by a friend from high school.  She is marrying a Kiwi in March on an island outside of Auckland (the island’s name, which I can never remember, is Waiheke).  In a stroke of genius, I decided to go to the wedding and stay indefinitely.  (Or maybe it was a stroke of déjà vu considering that I ended up in Argentina for exactly the same reason.)

Even though the date was set and I was set on going, I dragged my feet on purchasing a ticket.  Because no matter how committed you are, until you spend $1,250USD on a nonrefundable plane ticket, you can always change you mind.  Trust me, I’ve done it before.  Like the time I told everyone that I was moving back to the States and then called my mother two weeks before to tell her, “Hey, remember when I said I was coming home?  Just kidding.  That was a terrible idea.” But prices were going up and availability was going down and I had to act early.  I booked my flight to New Zealand an impressive three months in advance.

With my ticket purchased, I had a new question to face: What the hell am I going to do with myself until I leave?  I quit my job a few months ago and decided not to look for work immediately.  I had been fairly miserable, and I wanted to give myself time to reclaim my soul, relax, and most importantly, think seriously about what I wanted to do with my life.  By the time I decided to move to New Zealand, there was no sense in looking for work in Argentina. Jobs, especially temporary, well-paying ones for foreigners, are hard to come by.

At first, I loved my stint as a desperate housewife.  I took meditation classes and breathing seminars.  I spent days running in the park, reading on the balcony, cooking, cleaning, and sunbathing. I took my time: no rushing, no obligations.  I became my own boss (and, it must be said, I am a phenomenal boss).  I discovered what kind of lifestyle suits me best.  I discovered my passion for writing.  And most importantly, I learned to enjoy life. (I highly recommend voluntary unemployment to everyone who is willing, able, and in the throes of an existential crisis.) And then the boredom set in.

One of the great ironies about being unemployed is that you finally have the time to do all of the things you were unable to do while working.   You just don’t have any money. And finding cheap, meaningful ways of entertaining yourself can be something of a challenge.  I feel like Bill Murray in Groundhog’s Day, or worse, like Pinky and the Brain. Every morning, I wake up and ask myself: “Gee Self, what do you want to do today?”
“Same thing we do every day, Self.”
“Try to take over the world?”
“No, go for a run, do a little writing, kill time stalking people on Facebook and checking my blog stats, prepare lunch, meditate, write a little more, cook dinner, watch America’s Next Top Model, and go to sleep.”
“Oh, right.  That.”

Yesterday afternoon, I went to a playground near my house.  I love to swing and was starting to take off when the most amazing thing appeared: a government worker who takes her job seriously.  Wearing a hall monitor’s vest with “Department of Open Spaces” stamped on the back, she informed me that the swings were not for adults.  She was like those teenagers who worked at the movie theater when I was growing up who actually kicked unaccompanied minors out of R-rated movies.  I think that one of the kids at the park had tattled on me.  That’s when it became clear that I am starting to overstay my welcome.

Now that I know what I want to do and where I want to do it, I am eager to move forward.  But I am trapped in the present.  The reality is that the next six weeks will fly by, even if every day feels like an eternity. And before I know it, I will have to admit that for all my talk about wanting to move on I am not ready to go.  Saying goodbye is going to be painful and getting settled in New Zealand is going to be stressful, and I just want to get it over with already.  It feels like waiting to get test results back from the doctor.  You are scared and anxious, and despite your best efforts, your fear and anxiety taint everything you do.  There is no point in fighting or resisting. I simply have to accept the fact that I will not be at ease until I leave.

In the meantime, I am in limbo, trying to take care of unfinished business so that I can cross over in peace.  I spend my days writing, working on my tan, and waiting for my friends to get off work so that we can spend time together.  Unfortunately, there isn’t a savings account for quality time. No reserve that you can draw on in the future when you feel lonely.  You just have to enjoy your friends while you’re all still around. And that kind of makes it worth being stuck here a little longer.

1 Response to “Stuck in the Middle: Caught in Pre-Travel Purgatory”

  1. 1 multifacetico January 13, 2009 at 11:36 am

    great blog..I also someone who is into voluntary unemployment and the journey so far has been a mixed one.

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