Reinvention via combustion

Every two years or so, I get the itch to change everything.

I’ve spent a good chunk of today investigating why that might be. It’s not the easiest thing to Google; most of what’s there is clickbait listicles re: “How often should you change your career?

I feel certain I’m not the only one who entertains the urge to reinvent herself fairly frequently, but I can’t find where the rest of us are writing.

So - here - I’m writing.

Brief context: My history

It’s not that I want to burn everything down and start over — far from it. I mean, I’ve been there before. Tabula rasa is beautifully tempting in its blank, infinite possibility. But I like what I’ve built.

I’m an expat (slash immigrant — but I prefer plain ol’ “foreigner”). Born in Arizona, living in Barcelona. It’s not incidental; I’m not here because I don’t know where else to be. Over the past eight years, I’ve built a life here on purpose.

My adult life in a dry paragraph: I came here on a Fulbright grant to teach English, and managed to stretch out the gig for three years in Madrid. Then I finagled my way into the Barcelona tech start-up world. Recently, I got engaged to a Catalan boy.

By and large, I’m very happy here. I’m lucky, and I also make my own happiness. Both things are true.

But I feel pushed to make a big change.

If you’re already happy, why bother with change?

It’s almost as if comfort itself pushes me out. When I tailor my rhythm and logistics just so, and each day fits neatly into the next, and I have everything I want, and nothing is missing — I am plagued by the thought of falling into stagnation. I want to evolve.

I used to be obsessed with the idea of dynamism. There’s this wonderful D.H. Lawrence (yes, the Lady Chatterly guy) essay called Why The Novel Matters, wherein he states:

If the one I love remains unchanged and unchanging, I shall cease to love her. It is only because she changes and startles me into change and defies my inertia, and is herself staggered in her inertia by my changing, that I continue to love her. If she stayed put, I might as well love the pepper pot.

Meaning in both life and text results from being in motion. The text on a shelf is a dead thing; it requires engagement from the reader for meaning to begin its dance. Similarly — for me, at least — life signed/sealed/delivered feels like a small death (and not the fun French kind). I become incredibly antsy with my own impending mortality. Even the thought of enjoying things in the exact same way five years down the road induces mild anxiety.

I don’t know if it’s due to my upbringing, my cultural background, or some secret in my genetic code that provokes me this way. Probably some combination of all three. It doesn’t particularly matter, really.

What does matter is that I pay attention to it.

And the decision to do that, consistently, is something that makes me quite proud of myself.

Up in flames like a phoenix

Like just about everyone, I’ve been through some shit. Some of my shit makes awfully good stories; perhaps they’ll emerge over time.

I’ve been terribly down before. On several occasions, I’ve felt completely lost to myself. Have you ever failed to recognize yourself in the mirror?

The place I keep finding myself, inevitably, is on the page.

Writing is my way of fighting back. Against the crunch of routine, security, and the known. Against the Spanish cultural imperative to to simply settle and the American mistake of confusing comfort for happiness.

I’ve been feeling the impeding itch for months now. Last week it struck, and I’ve become obsessed with the thought of moving out of the city to a country home in the mountains. One where I could raise a few chickens, and maybe a family. Where I could work remotely and have so much time for creation. Where I could try my hand at growing zucchini.

But, like, I know nothing about gardening. Or children. I have a splendid cushy start-up job, where I actually get paid quite a bit to write creatively. I bike to work. My officemates are kind. Nothing is wrong. Everything is in place.

Given all that — here’s my plan:

I will write. I will write frequently. I will write with wild abandon — not just for myself, but with an audience in mind. I will let you in, despite being deeply scared of allowing strangers into my life. I will do so because I keep seeking others who are like me, who have the same fears that I do, the same questions and worries and desires.

I will spend the rest of the year writing. That’s five months. I will keep my full time job, my full time relationship, my handful of creative pursuits. But I will make space for this. It will become my priority.

I will quietly publish. No hoopla.

Fuck: SEO, CPA, CTR, AdWords, Facebook pages, domain names, monetizing, Wordpress themes, content calendars, newsletters, metadata. They pay me for this shit, and it’s what keeps me from actually saying anything myself. I love building structures — but attempting complex scaffolding before you have any actual substance is exactly what keeps projects from getting off the ground.

For five months, I will generate a great deal of words. Not content — words. It will be personal and professional and designed to be read, but not to be spoonfed to anyone.

I get so fucking excited when I come across writing that feels real. There’s this homogeny of tone on the internet these days; everything feels churned through the content mill ’til it’s slick and easily digestible. I’m ready to put out something to chew on.

And then, in January 2018, we’ll see.

What I want to find with all this

I want to find other would-be mothers who are terrified at the prospect of pregnancy, who have nightmares about losing themselves to their children.

I want to find others who struggle with environmentalism as much as I do, who want to leave less of a footprint but despair at the futility of individual action.

I want to find others who are excited by the idea of alternative living, who are writing their own playbook.

I want to find others seeking their own models of loving relationships, and who talk frankly about feelings even as they struggle with their own.

I want to find others who feel called to write and write and write, who are disgusted by the sheer amount of crap that’s cranked out into the internet every second, who are determined to put something good out there before they die.

I want to find others who believe that we can learn from each other without falling into the influencer trap, shilling for products and exploiting our own image.

And — I want to find out if I can write something that matters, that rings true with me and with the people I might find along the way.

Come with me, if you like. You, Stranger, are invited.

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Janel Torkington

Janel Torkington

Content designer. Sassy futurist. Ukulele plucker. Ottolenghi acolyte.