How many times have you told someone a hilarious anecdote that fell flat and left you having to quickly follow it up with an “oh, I guess you had to be there.” People who have lived and travelled abroad will understand the frustrating experience of exulansis. We live abroad for various reasons – adventure, escape, work, a journey to ‘find ourselves’ . When we return we’re buzzing with a kind of confidence, a glowing sense of achievement and a burning desire to share this feeling with our loved ones. The words have been bubbling beneath the surface, always threatening to overflow with the force of a pending storm. Suddenly, they evaporate as quickly as they appeared. Where do you begin? What do people really want to hear? How do you describe a chain of experiences that impacted you in a significant way for, sometimes, no particular reason at all? Instead we summarise our trip in three sentences and spend the coming weeks reciting them over and over until the words become stale and tasteless on our tongues. We let the finer details fall to the wayside like we might let a sock fall into the back of the couch. We store the photographs on our computers, safeguard our journals and surrender to our new routines. Eventually, even the memory of our experiences become displaced like they happened to someone else or in another lifetime.
I often wonder how much life is just a chain of sensory experiences that we have contextualised and intellectualised to a mulch. A good amount of how we interact with the world and each other is an interpretation of sensory cues. A look, a smell, a touch – such simple experiences producing a profound ripple effect on the receiving end. How many times do you hear a particular song and it has an immediate effect on your mood – it can lift your spirit just as quickly as it can send someone else into a crippling spiral. Certain smells can retrieve memories we had thought we had forgotten, like the scent of mum’s coffee brewing or an old boyfriend’s cologne. Someone’s gentle touch can at one time feel loving and generous and other times cold and annoying.
This word strikes a niggling chord in me. As much time as I spend scribbling away in notebooks and tapping away on keyboards I shy away from the label of ‘writer’. Surely, to be a writer you have to actually finish something? I’m nefarious for journeying through life without course or direction. I’ve held multiple jobs across numerous fields in a handful of different countries. I’m the one you might invite to tinker with the kitchen sink when it’s broken but weeks later you’ll find it’s still leaking. Jack of all trades – Master of none. I know I’m not alone, I’m a product of my generation – lost, confused, spoiled for choice. We were brought up believing that we could do anything. You want to be a superstar? Release a YouTube video. You want to be a writer? Start a blog. Now, I’m trying to stay afloat in a sea of aspirational writers all peddling their legs to churn milk into butter. Just the thought of having to finish this blog post makes me break out in a sweat. How am I supposed to carve the course of my life if I can’t even resolve the outcome of my fictional characters?