Diary Extracts from a Tropical Nomad Part V

Grist for the Mill

It had been exactly one month since I had left the UK.  After having my first break away from the Islands I felt slightly recharged and somewhat excited but I still had a cloud of uncertainty hovering over me.  A big lesson I needed to learn/am still learning, is that when you turn 30 you start to notice subtle changes in the way your body looks.  In other words, a battle with gravity is stirring in no mans land.  Political dissent is brewing in your thighs and there’s an bingo wing armada on the horizon.  

It was a very lazy winter for me in the UK and that combined with lots of eating, albeit relatively healthily, I had put on a considerable amount of body fat.  I was the proverbial baby seal. In order to keep active in a dwindling pool of motivation, I was trying to fill more than my belly with food. Cooking was a way to maintain a level of creativity that I was struggling to find in my illustration work.  

In the spirit of brutal honesty here’s a picture of me looking very tired and sweaty after a particularly long day.

It’s taken me a while to introduce these two entries, I could never work out what exactly what I wanted to say.  Then today, a passage from the book I’m currently reading summed up the lesson I was beginning to learn back in April and am solidifying now:

“The ticket to emotional health, like that to physical health, comes from eating your veggies – that is, accepting the bland and mundane truths of life: truths such as “Your actions actually don’t matter that much in the grand scheme of things” and “The vast majority of your life will be boring and not noteworthy, and that’s okay.” 

This vegetable course will taste bad at first. Very bad. You will avoid accepting it.

But once ingested, your body will wake up feeling more potent and more alive. After all, that constant pressure to be something amazing, to be the next big thing, will be lifted off your back. The stress and anxiety of always feeling inadequate and constantly needing to prove yourself will dissipate. And the knowledge and acceptance of your own mundane existence will actually free you to accomplish what you truly wish to accomplish, without judgement or lofty expectations.

You will have a growing appreciation for life’s basic experiences: the pleasures of simple friendship, creating something, helping a person in need, reading a good book laughing with someone you care about

Sounds boring, doesn’t it? That’s because these things are ordinary. But maybe they’re ordinary for a reason:

Because they are what actually matters.”

Mark Manson – The Subtle Art of Not Giving a Fuck

18th April 2019 – Thursday

Local Time: 12.35pm
Location: Bali – Denpasar Airport
Mood: Comfortably Insecure

I’ve had a funny realisation about vanity.  Since I came out of hibernation in the UK I have been very aware of my looks.  I cannot describe the strength it takes to work in an environment surrounded by people whose level of respect is based on what you look like.  It’s even passed onto the next generation when some of the kids tell me how much they weigh when they say hello.  

This cannot be healthy.  

So being in Bali has not been an escape from this, rather, it has re-enforced my insecurities.  But guess what.  I just truly realised, it was all for a reason.  Another layer to strip away from my ego.  

I would stand in line at immigration and believe everyone was looking at me.  It made my very aware of myself and I probably looked awkward. 

I just remembered something I forgot.  The beauty of being invisible.  As in, nobody is looking at me.  It takes so much pressure off my self image and my body.  It has also reopened, just a little, the door to tangible self-fulfilment and improvement.  As a woman, our self worth in the eyes of the world, fades with age.  It’s so difficult to escape this feeling of extinguishing.  My face is fattening, my eyes are darkening, but hey, my career is blossoming.  There’s a strong chance I may end up doing something worthwhile and exciting, all the while, travelling.  I’ve learned so much from Bali.  It was exactly what I needed even though it didn’t feel like it.  Next adventure – work.

Things I would like to learn in the next year –

Bahasa Indonesia
How to Surf
How to create an artists programme
New connections with awesome people

I was beginning to realise that my looks are diminishing and that I am not someone who turns heads just by my appearance. And that’s okay. I don’t think I was ever more than commonly attractive but youth is a powerful asset in this world. 

Of course there’s things to do to keep my body healthy but I am an average human being. However, is counter intuitive to be okay with this fact in a time when individualism is the bread and butter of our collective imagination.  

A Treasure Map I drew in chalk for the kids club on Nikoi. It was the first time I’d created anything since I’d arrived. It was a small moment of meditative creativity in a sea of existential crises. I still don’t know why I have artist’s block but the urge to create is tapping on my door at the moment, looking for a place to stay.

‘You matter, you can achieve anything, you are exceptional’  These things are drummed into us by those who genuinely believe this is the case.  Forgetting that if everyone was exceptional then no one would be.  

It reminds me of that bit in Monty Python’s ‘The Life of Brian:

Brian: Look, you’ve got it all wrong! You don’t need to follow me. You don’t need to follow anybody! You’ve got to think for yourselves! You’re all individuals!

Crowd:  Yes! We’re all individuals!

Brian: You’re all different!

Crowd: Yes, we are all different!

Man in crowd: I’m not…

My journey to accepting this is still ongoing of course, but in that acceptance I can now strive to get better at things.  I can try to become slightly better than average at maybe one thing but also accept that I am not exceptional and will probably never be exceptional at anything.  I can only enjoy the moments that flow into my life and then away again like a river of experiences.

However, back to April, the next few weeks would be the millstone on which I would grind down a place for myself in my new life.  I had to purge a lot of emotions and strive to be okay with myself again.  

Cempedak Island from the Jetty. It takes about 10 minutes to walk from end to end.

My port of call after Bali was my first introduction to working on Cempedak Island. I have a very interesting job. It’s the best job I’ve ever had and although it may seem that I don’t love it from the content of these blog posts, in fact, I consider myself to be amongst a very small percentage of people in the world that loves their job and the freedom it gives me to pursue my love of travel, art and novelty.

The nature of my position – Guest Relations Manager – means I float between Nikoi and Cempedak, covering the breaks of the other GRM’s. This means I never spend more than 8 days in one place. This also kind of limits me to the amount of time I have to settle into a routine. On the other hand, the lack of routine has become the norm for me now. It has become routine.

Lilla Pantai in Senur – Bali – Good food and reasonable prices. A great place to write a blog.

As I write this blog I am sitting outside a beautiful restaurant called Lilla Pantai (highly recommend it) in Sanur, Bali. Cool jazz is playing in the background and there’s a soft evening breeze blowing from the sea. I have to use whatever time I have in one spot to work on the things I want to achieve. Like; this blog, meditation, playing guitar and god willing, drawing. This is an interesting evolution for me because I always used the transitory nature of my life as an excuse to procrastinate. As I write this, I realise I chased transition in order to not complete anything.

I digress, we’ll save that for another blog.

30th April 2019 – Thursday

Local Time: 3.30pm
Location: Nikoi Island
Mood: Melancholic

The last few days have been very difficult.  I was on Cempedak island for a while last week.  I don’t even know exactly what is wrong except that I feel like a total failure of a person.  I can’t get any motivation to do anything.  I am slipping into a depression and I am really struggling to see any positives.  I have tried to let go of investing emotionally in the job too much but now I just feel useless.  There’s a work experience girl here today and because I feel so low, I’m really finding it hard to maintain a good attitude.  

I drew a treasure map for kids club this morning.  Looks pretty cool and I did it as soon as I was asked instead of putting it off like I felt like doing.  To give myself credit I am better at this now.  I always do everything as soon as I can.  My self confidence is lower than it’s been in a very long time.  Why?  I feel ugly, overweight and tired all the time. 

I feel totally alone.

My heart has broken in so many ways
I started to put it back together
But I lost the instructions again

It was quite hard to transcribe this last entry.  I can feel now, the pain I felt then.  I remember how lonely I felt.  Homesickness was creeping in like water through a split dam.  I was surrounded by people who seemed to be comfortable, successful or at the very least not riddled with anxiety about every utterance that springs from their mouth.

But this is not the case.  Everyone suffers to varying degrees over different issues.  I knew this already, I just had to remember that I am not alone, that I am not worthless and that it is selfish to think that I have nothing to contribute to this world, no matter how small it may be.

Join me next time as I fall further into cognitive dissonance.  Sounds fun eh?

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