Almost exactly a year ago, I tried Roller Derby for the first time. I absolutely loved it, it was the most equal parts exciting and terrifying thing I tried last year.
Today, just a few days short of my first derby-versary, I again find myself doing something that’s equally exciting and terrifying—only this time it doesn’t include dusting off my skates and purchasing a mouthpiece. Today, I’m buying a one-way ticket to an island in the Scottish Highlands, where I will be working part-time and doing who-knows-what with the rest of my time.
My bags are packed, but I’m not sure I’m actually ready to go. What I do know for sure is that I’m tired of waiting until I am, because I might never feel like it, so I’m just going.
I stopped being an overly cautious adult-in-the-making some time during my first year of university. I used to be focused on school and getting good grades—all because that was the key to securing a good job, and having a good life. I was determined and I worked hard, knowing that I was in charge of my future, and that my current actions would decide what the rest of my life was going to look like. Until I stopped.
I struggle to pinpoint the time and place which marked the difference, or even an occurrence that set me on a new course, because I didn’t realise what was happening—and just how deeply I was changing—until years later. I found myself having changed, the way you find yourself having moved on from a failed relationship. You wake up and start your day, and it’s hours before you think of whoever or whatever broke your heart, before you feel those familiar pain in your chest and emptiness in the pit of your stomach, before you miss whatever it is you were missing until the day before. And even when you do, it’s only an afterthought: Sorrow becomes sadness, and you just get on with your day. And then one day it just doesn’t hurt anymore.
In the same way, I woke up one day and I realised that there was something that made me much happier than being in university, and that’s what I wanted to pursue—even at the cost of giving up nearly everything else. Graduating wasn’t a priority anymore, and for the first time dropping out didn’t feel like self-sabotaging and ruining my life and abandoning all chances of securing the future I had once dreamed of. And it made sense, because I don’t have nearly as much control over that future (or my life, for that matter) as I thought when I was younger. I can only shape the present—and how insignificant is my influence over that too!—and I want to be happy in my present.
“What’s coming will come, and we’ll meet it when it does,” wrote JK Rowling in Harry Potter. Now, I don’t exactly plan to face the Dark Lord anytime soon—but I’ll take this piece of advice regardless.
I’ve been talking about leaving for the longest time. I might have started right after I returned from my first month-long experience abroad. My family knows it, my friends most definitely know it, I’m fairly sure every single person I’ve had a conversation with that lasted over five minutes knows it: I want to leave Italy. I love it; it will always be where I’m from, but it doesn’t have to be where I am—for no other reason than it’s not the right place for me.
The excruciating bureaucracy and complete lack of organisation of my university have made my academic path so complicated and exhausting, to the point where I developed an anxiety disorder. Job opportunities for young people are hard to come by, and they almost always come with dreadful conditions you’re forced to accept. This is even more true in the field of arts and culture (where I’ve always dreamed of operating), because for some reason the government doesn’t see them as priorities—a rather foolish decision for a country with so rich a cultural heritage. We’re still fighting a delicate battle for equality, and the legislation on queer rights (or rather lack of thereof) is simply appalling.
It’s perfectly clear to me that these aren’t just our issues, and that the situation is not that different elsewhere; by no means I’m saying there’s nothing good with Italy whatsoever—there’s simply nothing good for me. At this point, staying feels like being in an abusive relationship: unhealthy to the point of psychologically damaging. And I need to cut loose before the damage becomes irreparable.
Every other aspect of the equation is just value added. The fact that I’m moving to a foreign country, filled with strangers and opportunities for new adventures, and that I have secured a working opportunity that is not going to make me rich, but is still something that I’ve wanted to try for a long time: all the pieces fit—everything is aligned as perfectly as I could only hope for.
And did I mention it’s a breathtakingly beautiful place, too?
For longer than I can remember, the will to leave has been a defining trait of my identity; a desire so strong that I find it hard to leave out when I’m getting to know someone new. Leaving was essentially my plan. Which is why I was so lost and confused when the opportunity to act on it finally arose, and I froze.
I got the job offer, and I panicked. Suddenly, I wasn’t sure I could actually do it. And then the second-guessing started.
I have nothing to keep me here but a simple routine of regular but not full-time jobs, gym practices, and nights out with friends. My presence here has little to no influence over anything: My family can get by without me, so can my derby team, and the people I work for can find someone new in no time. The fact is, for most of the things I do I’m easily replaceable. But am I really?
I’ve been away before long enough (and far enough) to know that the people who truly want to keep in touch with you, will do it. Distance is not an obstacle, but rather something a relationship, whatever its nature, needs to adjust to; sometimes it can’t—and that sucks—but sometimes it can, and it will. But will it really?
I’ve been hoping and planning even for this for so long–then why am I paralysed now? Why am I not rushing to plan celebrations and goodbye parties? Why am I worrying about how people will react and what they’ll think of me? Why do I feel like I’m bailing on everything? Is it because I’m still more depressed than I’m willing to admit, and the illness is physically keeping me from being happy—or at the very least content that I’m finally doing something I’ve been agonizing over for so long? Or am I just scared?
Of course I am scared—in this situation it would be foolish not to be! After all, this is a pretty big leap in the dark. But if I let that stop me, I will be stuck here forever. I may not know where I’m going, but I know where I’ve been, and I know I don’t like it there anymore. As for the other questions, I don’t know—but I don’t want to stick around to find an answer. There’ll be time for reflection on the plane, and then some.
All this time I’ve seen myself as waiting for the right time to leave—a moment whose characteristics got harder and harder to identify as time went by. At first I thought I was waiting for a good working/studying opportunity; then it was a travel buddy—even though I’m a big believer in solo-traveling. Lately, what I told myself I needed was merely the energy and mental balance to plan things properly. I still feel like I lack most—if not all—of those things. At this point, I’m not even sure what exactly I’m waiting for anymore, and all the reasons why I haven’t left yet sound like excuses I made up for myself.
Maybe I wasn’t ready. Or maybe there’s no such thing as being ready for something—there’s only the moment you start doing it.
Whatever it is I’m waiting for, “You can always wait while you’re gone,” said one of the wise people I asked for advice. Somehow it makes sense, at least to me.
One-way ticket: Scotland, here I come.
Her talents include building piles of books to read that are taller than actual furniture, transforming money into flight tickets, getting emotionally invested in every sport she watches, and making eye-contact with the most awkward person in a room, at the most inconvenient time.
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