This is probably the post I should have written first, but I suppose it doesn't really matter, I'm getting to it now! I want to take a bit of time and space to talk about The Nomadic Nester, where this identity came from, what it means for me and what I do, and to see if you resonate with some or all of it too.
At the beginning of this year I decided - made a resolution, set an intention, whatever you want to call it - that this would be the year I really focused on myself, on listening to my heart and my intuition, on doing things for myself that make me happy, and starting to break free of living (existing, really) by other people's expectations. There were several elements to this plan, some bigger and more important-feeling than others.
I started with some easy stuff. Well, I say easy, but even some of these things, that wouldn't faze a lot of people, felt like big steps for me because I was trying to escape a mindset and a fear of stepping out on my own. In January I went to the Fashion and Textile Museum in London to see an exhibition. In February I did a sewing workshop day at Sew Over It. I booked myself onto the Pottery Course that started after Easter. Nothing ground-breaking about these you'd think, but to me they felt like real expressions of independence because I was doing them because I wanted to, because I wanted to go somewhere different, to learn new skills, to be creative. This theme has continued throughout this year so far with other day out and bookings for things in the coming months.
Hang on, I think we need a bit more back-story here. I live with my parents. I'm 31 and have been back at home after university for 10 years. At first it was fine, I'd come home because I'd got a job and the plan was that it would lead to other promotions and better salaries and eventually I'd be able to move out. Well, sadly, I live in the South East of England and rent prices around here are extortionate, and I discovered pretty quickly that I didn't like the job I was doing. There followed several years of changing jobs fairly frequently, leaving a couple because I hated them so much, and short periods of unemployment. Every time I was in this situation I would promise myself that I'd really figure out what I wanted to do with my life and not just settle for the next best thing that came along. Well, easier said than done when you are living under your parents roof and feel beholden to them for all their support, and you end up pressured to find a job, any job, just so that you've got a regular income. It's really hard not to listen to the voices and opinions of people you love when you're trying to assert yourself as an independent adult.
I ended up going through a couple of cycles of depression as a result of a combination of far too many big factors to deal with all at once, and eventually persuaded my parents that I didn't want to work for a while and instead took a year to go back to uni and get my Masters. Here was a chance to learn about a new subject, and I loved it, I was interested in learning, and had more free time to myself in between lectures, seminars and writing essays. That year ended, and then the nagging about getting a job started again. It took eight months, but I was finally accepted to a graduate position in a company that my parents deemed as 'good' and with 'prospects'. This job turned into a struggle, but I stuck at it, until the beginning of 2016 when I had decided enough was enough. Even then, it took until recently for things to really come to a head and for me to make the decision to leave.
I did some work with a coach in the first few months of this year which really helped me get back in touch with myself, to identify what is important to me in terms of personal values, a way of life, and my hopes for the future. And they look very different to what a lot of people, my parents included, see as 'normal', or sensible, or practical. I've spent a lot of time pondering on all this, over-thinking, getting frustrated at myself, and slowly, little by little, beginning to accept that what I want for myself, and the way I want to do it, is just as valid and important. When you've spent so long ignoring your own internal voice because you've been listening to what everyone else thinks you should do it can take a while before the inner you trusts that you're really paying attention.
All this thinking lead to one ordinary morning on the train to work as I day-dreamed the journey away, trying to stay awake and dreading another day in the office. Now, bear with me on this... As my mind wandered I was suddenly struck by the image of a woman, and I knew that it was a vision of my future self. The future Me I wanted to become. She was happy, smiling, radiating light and energy, passion for life, but also a sense of calm, serenity, of being completely at home with herself. This almost brought me to tears, and then in my head the words appeared: you're a Nomadic Nester.
Part of the work I'd being doing for myself was around coming to terms with all the apparently contradictory things that I want to do, that I like, that I want my future to look like, and it had taken a long time to get to a point of beginning to accept that these are all parts of who I am and that I don't have to suppress elements of my soul in order to fit in. A very good friend encouraged me to think about balance instead of contradiction - that I need all these different facets in order to be whole.
And that is where this future vision helped me to get to - to put a label, a descriptor at least, on who I am.
I love travelling. Near and far, close to home or hours away. I love exploring new places, seeing things I've never seen before, or seeing things in real life that I've only ever seen in films or on TV. I want to experience different towns, cities, countries, to meet new people and understand their culture. I want to see the wonders of the world and soak in the atmosphere, to sit and be part of those places. I want to learn new skills, to learn about history and the present, to taste different foods (even if I'm nervous about doing it). I love wandering around somewhere I've never been before, just looking around, noticing little details, walking with no destination in mind and not feeling worried if I get lost - after all, if you don't know where you're headed you can't be lost! I want to travel more, to get in the car and drive somewhere, to book a flight when the whim takes me, and then to take my time immersing myself in that new place. As an introvert I sometimes struggle in busy, crowded places, but I know that it's OK to keep myself a little apart and just observe what's happening without becoming directly involved - I'm definitely a watch-the-world-go-by sort of person. There are places I've already been that I want to go back to so I can see all the things I missed the first time. Every time I see somewhere on TV my first thought is, I want to go there. I read travel magazines, blogs, follow people on Instagram, and feel envious of the people who take these stunning photos. In my family history there is a branch who ran a travelling fair in the early 20th century, so perhaps I get my gypsy spirit from them. Friends have suggested that I just throw a dart at a map of the world and go wherever it lands and I can't tell you how much that appeals to me, how exciting that feels, how much I want to have the courage to do it.
But, for all this wanderlust and sense of adventure, I also love home. Having somewhere comfortable and safe to return to, space of my own to relax and rest in, is so important to who I am too. But this is also an area of struggle in my current circumstances and something I've been trying to work out a solution to. Yes, of course I have my own room, but I am still in my parents house and to an extent have to live by their rules, to share space and compromise on some areas where I'd like more independence. For all that, I'm extremely grateful that I have a roof over my head and that my parents support me in this way, and it does give me a place I can retreat to when I want to be alone - even though sometimes shutting my bedroom door doesn't guarantee one of them won't come knocking on it after a while and ask me what I want for dinner. I would love to move out and have a place to call my own, somewhere I can do what I want when I want, can cook what I want to eat when I fancy it, can put my things where I like, can listen to music or be in silence, can have a small garden to grow flowers and be outside. Even more than that, home is a place I can be on my return from time out in the world exploring, a sanctuary to process everything I've seen and experienced, and a space where I can be creative with all the inspiration I've gathered.
The nomad in me revels in the colours, sounds, smells, textures of the world and wants to see, hear, and touch everything. While the nester wants to be able to take those sensory inputs and turn them into something to put in my home to remind me of those experiences - literally feathering my nest I suppose!
Today I am in a place where I am embracing this balanced identity, this cycle of experiences, processing, creativity and recovery, and trying to bring elements of it to what I do more often - trying out a new recipe, visiting a different part of London, reading a new book, walking round my neighbourhood with my camera. But ultimately, I want this to be my life most of the time, and I don't think the way to make it happen is to follow the 'traditional' path of a 'proper' job, good salary, get on the property ladder, etc, etc. I'm working on ideas for ways to fund the lifestyle I'd like - because, let's face it, money does help quite a lot - and hope to be able to share some of them very soon. I'm excited about what has been bubbling up, and feeling more content in myself now that I'm really listening to myself, to my head, heart and soul, and doing the things I want to do, and know are truly right for me. Yes, it got to the point of having to do the drastic thing of leaving my job, but I know that if I had just carried on as I was I would have been very ill very quickly. I feel like I managed to save my self just in time, and now is my opportunity to move forward with my real path, my true purpose, and to embrace my own life.
I know this was a long read but thank you for sticking with it. Perhaps some of my story has struck a chord with you if you're struggling to figure out who you really are. I have felt extremely lost, stuck, and frustrated in the past being caught up in the waves of expectation, but now I feel like I am in flow again, and I so want that for you too.
If what I've written resonates for you, if you think you're a nomadic nester too, or at least see elements of yourself in this, then I'd love to hear from you. You can comment on this post or drop me a message through my Contact page. I also hang out on Instagram a lot too and would love to see you there, and if you want to share your nomad/nester journey please use the hashtag #nomadicnester and I'll find you.