Have Deep Roots Within

I had a conversation a few days ago that’s stayed on my mind ever since. It was a Tuesday afternoon and I was penniless and lost on the streets of Dublin. An old friend and I had decided the previous night, while map combing at our hostel, to go in search of some formal gardens that we’d discovered on a list of tourist attractions. We circled our location, we made highlighter trails, then went out to the bars and forgot about it.

The next morning was our last before I went back home and he moved onto his next location, so we decided to squint through the sleepiness and see our last inklings of the city. I was hazy and irritable in a sundress. Due to bank complications I had less than two euros to my name until I touched back down on English soil, and it was only just enough to cover the public bus ride to the airport. We trailed silently down the streets, yawning and stretching into the sunlight and watching what seemed like the slow decay of the city around us. Having left tourist central far behind, we found ourselves amidst rugged street vendors and broken glass. Inaudible voices leaked out of crumbling Irish pubs and the bricks, the lamp posts, the cracked windows and walls of chipping paint, they distracted us for long enough to totally forget where we were going. After a few hours of dragging our feet we came to a small bridge over a river, and leaned over the edge without saying a word, exhausted.

What followed was one of those conversations that you don’t remember with any significance until you reconsider it later. My friend, Andrew, asked me about choice. Whether I thought we as humans were really in possession of it, or whether our lives were predetermined. This had been the tone of a lot of our discussions. I stood for a while watching the way the water moved, barely keeping everything inside. Ducks glided by. Golden specks danced with the current, hiding from Mother Nature, not wanting the sun to call them home again.

Yes, of course, I told him. I think we do have a choice. Sometimes I don’t know what to believe, but this is one thing that I will stand adamantly with to the grave. It’s a lot easier to pick a preset path and follow it step by step, but there’s really nothing stopping you from reeling around and bolting the other way. No matter how much ground you’ve already left behind you. If you want, that is. You can quit your job. You can invite your closest friends one by one to corner cafes and tell them you’re leaving, you can break the news over shared cigarettes in alleyways, in tearful phone calls, on the veranda of your parents house with moonlight lighting up two solemn faces, a head buried into a chest, twenty fingers clinging. You can take a year off University. You can leave altogether if you like. You can swallow the lump in your throat and book a ticket, pack your things, there is nothing stopping you. No invisible hands to yank you back from steps you haven’t even taken yet. A lot of people tell me they’re jealous of my experiences and they wish they could do the same. But they can. It’s just a matter of whether you’re willing to sacrifice the things holding you down like stones in your pockets.

I know that choice is our only true possession. Rucksacks can get lost and clothes can fall to pieces with too much love and wear. Cameras can break. Even the people you love are not jars you can fill with trinkets and line up on your windowsill. (The best ones are charms on a bracelet. You can take their love anywhere, still feel the touch of their skin like metal cold against a wrist. But even they are unable to be bought, collected, owned in any way.) The only thing we will have with us each and every day of our lives without fail is choice. We should treasure that and make them actively. To let something so sacred go, to forgo it for default, would be the most unholy thing imaginable.

So yes, you can throw yourself on a plane. I’m telling you. Be gone from all of this within a few months. You can plummet into unfamiliar cities like a wrecking ball and find them working themselves into the creases of your palms, into the dark you come home to each time you close your eyes. You can teach yourself foreign words, currencies. Customs. You can live in a place you’ve never been before where you don’t know a soul, truly. Sometimes education can wait. Sometimes education only begins when you realise you can’t learn the language of the universe in school.

When you have deep roots within, you don't have to unearth yourself to leave. I’m starting to become accustomed to packing up my bags. It’s exciting and it’s terrifying. The latter mostly stems from the fact that I didn’t really think about moving away, an opportunity sprung up and I took it blindly. And then I was gone. One of the world’s greatest lies I think is the idea of becoming, that each day we step through is another domino in the process of expanding the bounds of our persona. That experiences will hammer us into different shapes. Make us bigger, grander, far more impressive. But really, becoming is nothing more than a printed out boarding pass, a bag full of dresses, a girl-shaped hole in the world you used to inhabit. Becoming doesn’t increase you, it’s a vanishing act.

We never did find those gardens. After we’d left the little bridge with the little river babbling under it, I interrupted the silence to start rambling on about various things as they jumped into my mind. About the way the world was structured. About the buildings standing tall and destructible all around us. About how it’s hard enough growing up to look at a stranger on the bus and even begin to comprehend that the mazes in their mind are just as winding and intricate as the ones in your own, that their eye-oceans are of drownable depth, it’s all too much and suddenly the world seems so full up with people’s boundaries, with the hugeness of their existence, that it’s bound to burst under the slightest amount of pressure. But then to take that concept and apply it to flowers, to rocks, to cracks in the pavement… It’s too much. Too much. The entire world is overflowing with pure, unbridled existence and the tendency of humans to forget this is not a flaw, but an act of survival. To live each day in such awareness would be quite a dangerous thing. We’d make our own decisions and say hello to strangers on the street. And who knows, who knows, what kind of wonders we’d be capable of then.

As we paused outside a bookshop my friend stopped me and said ‘Katie, sometimes I find it very hard to follow what you’re saying. But then you come out with a gem like that and I get it. You should write about this stuff more often, I’d read it.’ And I squinted into the sun on a Tuesday afternoon in Ireland and though it was one of those impossible-to-write-about kinds of moments. But we went into that bookstore, we said our goodbyes, we went our separate ways. And later on, I did.

hostel window

Saint Patrick's Cathedral

city sights

No comments