I’ve often heard the phrase “sleep-walking through life” and wondered how it was possible. The idea behind it is that you live your life in a kind of numb, unquestioning way, going through your daily routines, one day to the next, and before you know it, years have passed, without any real excitement or adventure, and perhaps you were not even aware that things could have been different.
Thinking about this “sleep-walking”, I didn’t really believe any one could actually live like that long-term. Days are filled with many moments and different emotions, years contain different events and celebrations, the course of life is changed by rites of passage such as marriage, birth, death. To me, the idea that you could “sleep-walk” through all of this seemed impossible given the depth of human emotion; it seemed to me that a person would have to be extremely detached in order to have lived in this “unliving” way.
However, in recent weeks, certain things have happened to me that make me feel as if I might actually have been sleep-walking, because I have a strong feeling that I have woken up, looked around me, and started to see things with clearer vision.
Of all the things that would force someone to reevaluate their life, it was actually quite mundane: a letter from my landlord informing me that my rent was due to go up. I even received it and put it aside for a few days – it’s not as if the letter immediately called everything I knew into question and I drastically decided to change everything. But this letter was the beginning of a slow realisation that things could be different, that the routines that had become normal for me could actually do with being shaken up a bit.
The “waking up” moment really occurred after a few days of considering moving, talking about it with friends and family, thinking about different options available. Changing from my current flat where I live alone (and have enjoyed having space and peace, and making it my own) to a smaller flatshare wasn’t initially what I thought I wanted – but after a few days, sitting alone on the sofa, I looked around me and thought – “Hang on a minute, Jo, What ARE you doing?” The more I thought about it, the more the idea of moving started to appeal to me. I am now swapping my suburban flat in Greater London for a flatshare near Brixton, but this change means a lot more to me than just a change of location. Making this move has reminded me that I’m young, single, and free to make my own choices. It has opened up more opportunities to go out, have fun and be more spontaneous.
Growing up moving around a lot, I mostly grew up thinking of relocating as exciting and looked optimistically at future changes. But after I graduated I made a big move and a big change (to teach in Bratislava) that didn’t end well when I came home early after suffering exhaustion and stress. Afterwards I had to take time to heal from this experience, but I think it also made me scared to put myself in situations like that again.
I realised my outlook on life had been affected when instead of being excited by upcoming changes, I started to fear them, and started to want things to stay the same. When I felt this, I sort of blamed it on the fact I was getting older. I figured that maybe as you get older, change becomes more scary, and I thought that is what had happened to me.
But the way I am feeling about the approaching move to Brixton is the “old” feeling of excitement and optimism, and I’m really glad to have it back. It feels as if the person inside, who used to be more spontaneous, excited and optimistic is coming back – and is going to replace the one who became scared of change and fairly set in her ways.
Sometimes you don’t realise you’ve been asleep until you wake up; sometimes you doze off and need a nudge from someone to wake you up again… I’m really glad that the letter that arrived gave me a nudge in the right direction. It has put me back in touch with a side of myself that I had begun to forget about. It has made me remember that I don’t need to be older and wiser – I need to be young and have some fun.