I live in a squat in Sydney. The basement is inhabited by heroin addicts and a nest of funnel web spiders. The doorbell rings often, never for me but our drug dealer landlord. I work in a beautiful glass tower for a health insurance company, wearing one of two outfits each day. I get paid not quite enough money to live, less than half of what the temp agency get paid for my labour. I meet my boyfriend after work to walk the house pitbull. I am as happy as I will ever be.
I live at home in Dublin, in my childhood bedroom. I work at a big tech company, something something online advertising something. I can’t believe how glamorous it feels to go to work every day. I make enough money to pay all of my loans and go out on the weekends.
I live with my boyfriend in Dublin, in a tiny, charming, over-priced apartment above a pub. Work does not feel glamorous anymore. I make enough money to go on holidays, to buy as many books as I want, to buy box sets to watch in the exhausted evenings.
We fill the tiny apartment with too many things. I have a very nice title in work and the best desk on the 5th floor. I spend money visiting Singapore, paying for electricity, on drinks.
I leave the big tech company but not the tiny apartment. Thanks to stock options, I have plenty of money, enough money to live for a year without working at all. I read a lot of books. I buy many types of yarn for knitting.
We go to South America for months and months, leaving the tiny apartment for the last time. We stay in cheap hostels and spend money on buses, lomo a la pobre, palta, vino. We look at stars in the desert and get caught in the rain in cloud forest. I feel alive. I begin to write in a small notebook, “what should I be doing?” People I know buy houses, have kids. It feels like I have never done the right thing at the right time. I am as happy as I will ever be.
We are in a new rented home, a tiny cottage with a deck and a real fireplace. We fill it with little trinkets, memories of our travels. We work side by side, website design and computer fixing. We have hardly any money at all, but lots of time. Every week is an exercise in making something from nothing. I join a writing class. I am anxious as all hell.
I work at another big tech company. It is all very exciting but I am on edge, watchful. It hurts my teeth to see the bright young folks out of college filled with that doomed messianic start-up zeal I once had. I have enough money to live, enough money for money not to be my primary worry. I leave a writing class; I say it is because I don’t have the time, the reality is I have no mental or emotional energy to spend on what matters to me.
It goes on. I work, I make money. We get married and go to Laos for a whole month on our honeymoon. I remember who I am while I am there, I’m re-inhabited by my travelling self. I stay off the internet. I write. When we get home, I cry on the way into work and when I get in, the whole floor is empty, cleaned out. For one transformative moment I think the whole company closed down while I was away and I am free. Then I realise we just moved to a different floor.
My travelling self didn’t leave me, it screams for escape. I have enough money to live for a few months without working. I have a novel I’ve started and want to commit to. I don’t know what I’m doing but I’m going to do it anyway. I leave the big tech company but not the tiny cottage. I write. It hurts. I cry a lot. I feel things much more, like my skin has been removed and my raw insides roll in the dirt of the world. I write more. I make new friends in the real world and find other kindred spirits online. Listening to small talk and platitudes starts to make me feel itchy.
I go to Thailand. The money is almost gone and I’m gripped with a huge fear of needing to return to work in another big tech company. I begin to teach. I love it. All that expensive yarn I bought is eaten by moths, along with the painstaking creations I knit and crocheted. I think about those moths, every atom of their material being forged into reality from the products of my creativity. I write. I write and write and write. I write until it hurts too much and I need to cry. I cry until I remember “I chose this” and get back to it. I am happy. I wouldn’t say I am as happy as I will ever be but I believe that such things can only be recognised in hindsight.