In our house growing up, we were never allowed to watch commercial television. In fact, it’s almost true that I was unaware stations other than the ABC and SBS existed before I was old enough to begin sleeping over with friends. In any case, I was completely ignorant as to the content they broadcasted. Dad was insistent that if we were going to watch tv, the things we viewed be educationally beneficial, or at the very least wholesome. Starved of the sensational, we’d rise on Saturday mornings before he was out of bed and with the volume down, flick through the channels to watch the programmes aired on other networks. At this time of day it was only ever cartoons, but nevertheless the niggling guilt would gnaw at my grey matter; it was commercial garbage and it was destroying our minds. Nowadays I don’t own a television, but if ever I find myself watching something intellectually redundant, whether it be a poorly scripted film or a mindless video on YouTube, the all too familiar voice my head loses no time in informing me that I’m polluting my brains and wasting precious time.
Increasingly over the past month that nagging madness of my conscience has returned with a chorus of modified chants, demanding I articulate exactly what I’m doing with myself and to what end. I guess I should be thankful for the respite offered by the two month grace she gave me for settling in after my move, but she’s well and truly arrived now; baggage in hand and expecting answers. The year is lapsing, she points out, yet I’m still unemployed and no closer to discovering the meaning of life, or whatever it was I’d come here so adamant about finding. So what exactly have I been doing?
I’m growing anxious again and the self doubt is back by the bucket load. Is it wrong to be seeking? Does whatever it is I’m hoping to discover even exist? Is this year going to pay off, or is it nothing more than an epic waste of my time? I keep thinking that if I’d worked this year, rather than running off on some kind of self indulgent pilgrimage, by the year’s end I could have saved a house deposit. And all the while, the ceaseless mantra of my inner voice drones on. She’s pulled up a pew in the shadows, and from there she rehearses her extensive, hugely repetitive and less than pleasant back catalogue; something about time and wasting it. I feel like a kid again, guiltily waiting to be sprung watching Home and Away commercials while there’s an informative documentary on another channel.
I went home for a few days last week with all of these worries bubbling just below an apparently stable equilibrium. But after confiding my concerns to an old friend, he told me quite simply that what I need to do is stop fretting and just be. Heard aloud, it seemed blaringly obvious. Surely I just need to get busy living and wait for the moment of dawning and epiphany to rock up to my awesome party.
Meanwhile, though I have no answers, it’s fair to say I’m feeling closer; if to nothing else, then to myself. And for the most part I’m having an excellent time, filled with new experiences and good vibes.
I’m coming to terms with the fact that since she’s stuck around for the past twenty seven years, chances are the voice in my mind is with me for keeps. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing. Because even if I choose to ignore her, even if she’s rarely right, even if our entire dialogue consists of her criticising and me justifying, it can’t hurt to have someone who’s armed with probing questions and an endless scepticism to keep me from becoming static. Regardless of the fact that she’s just another voice in my head.
I’m also realising that the most likely way of figuring it all out is by calming the heck down. What I’m investing in this year is time. There’s little to be gained by tripping over myself, unsettling everything in my path in my desperate plight to uncover some illusive and precious thing. For me, this will be the most difficult lesson; to go steadily, sit quietly, wait patiently, listen.