Unsafe

Wary of the rut. When the days turn cold and the nights dark the world seems to close in upon you and the simple routines cut deeper. You catch the same train every morning and sit amongst the same people, their silent faces become familiar with repetition. You turn up to work and make the same greetings, get the same coffee, start in on the same kind of work. Often it appears urgent, activities vary, as do the conversations, but step away and the difference is little. One day you have steak for dinner, the next day it’s a stir-fry, but it’s still dinner.

On the way home, you catch the same train, or near enough, and settle into the same routines as outside the darkness deepens – dinner, the regular TV programs (which lead to the same conversations), bed at the same time, ready to repeat it all.

It sounds awfully depressing when put like that, and of course, there are moments interspersed of surprise and delight. When you’re set-up as I am though that’s what it boils down to.

This explains a lot about me – my restlessness, my need for challenge and new experiences, my love of travel, the inability to ever really settle down, or even settle. There’s always something nagging at me – there’s more than this. You get one go, get off the beaten path. Go for it. It accounts for much of my foolishness and some impetuosity, but also for some great moments and notable achievements.

There is no easy way to manage this. By and large, life is set-up for the quotidian. The safe way is the regular way. The gears of society mesh because of such predictable and ordered behaviour. It’s been ever so. What happens now has happened forever before, and chances are will continue forever into the future.

In order to survive that it’s always important to me to feel different, to think myself an individual. It’s a conceit I recognise, but choose to overlook, though I strive always to be authentic. For me, it means saying what I think rather than what convention suggests. It predicates a certain bluntness, and perhaps some subtle eccentricity. And it manifests itself in a persistent yearning for something more, something different.

I used to alleviate a good part of that when I went travelling. Taking off for foreign cultures and different environments was great fun and absolutely essential to me. Typically it meant when I got there that I would try and immerse myself in the place, the culture, the people. It took me out of what I knew and put me in a place where I knew little. Travel made me feel a fuller, wiser person, but I don’t do it anymore.

At work I would and still do put myself into demanding situations. I always put my hand up. I want to do more. There’s life sometimes in taking on something so big that it is daunting and breaking it down into bite-sized pieces. There’s a sense sometimes of the wind in the hair. You are doing something. You’re overcoming a challenge. Often it feels very personal. This is the thing you measure yourself against. And of course, it creates a disruptive variety to otherwise predictable days. This is why I strive so hard, search so much. I’m happy to reap the rewards that come with it, but ultimately it’s about the challenge. It’s lucky then that I’m capable of doing it, lucky that I can be so fascinated by figuring out the detail and untying the tightest of knots and finding a way when everyone else is stumped. That’s my thing – and it’s my thing because it’s so extreme. I will overcome, and in overcoming I find purpose.

What happens then as I get these things done is that I’m recognised and lauded and marked for higher things. I’m happy for higher things. The higher you get generally the more interesting it is, and rewards are so much better. What I don’t like is the sense of transitioning from an outsider doing things for his own reasons to that of an insider working towards a common goal. I hate the smug cosiness of familiar behaviours. I don’t want to be so well known that I’m predictable. I always want to be myself, and not subsumed within a category or type. Strange as it may seem, I don’t want to be a member of the select – I want to go my own way. I recognise that’s uncommon, that in all probability it is the direct opposite of most. It reveals a lot about my essential self, and explains much.

These are recurring themes with me, and where they come from or how they started I can’t say. It’s interesting. Would I change it if I could? I don’t think so, though doubtless it would be easier if I did. What it means now though as the days grow cold and the nights dark is that I wonder why I do any of this, and am yearning, more than usual, for some meaning to make sense of it and look forward to. There has to be more.

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