It seemed like the easiest choice in a year that had been anything but: the chance for some new scenery, and a reprieve from the demands of reality. So I applied for an exchange, determined to get away from the grind that I felt my life in New Zealand had become.
It had been four years since I moved to Auckland, and for all the joys of being a student there was a bitter current undermining my happiness. Weighty tomes of law and self-imposed high standards strung me out, the late nights serving drinks to future employers adding to the dark rings silhouetting my eyes.
In hindsight it wasn’t nearly as bad as I thought it was, but there was no denying the drag of routine. The general fatigue at the all-encompassing nature of university was heightened by a summer spent researching in the Psychology department – starting a new year yet feeling like I had never left. It was a daunting year too – the pressures of an honours research paper atop a heavy course load, with promises of a corporate internship to follow. It felt like my next few years were already written for me, and that my role was to dutifully complete the steps. I found the whole prospect of it somewhat stifling, and was deeply sceptical of my own motives for taking this path.
So I decided to opt out, to take some time to re-evaluate my commitment to the corporate future that awaited me. An exchange was the perfect pretence: “overseas study” an obvious euphemism for a government-funded holiday. The choice of destination was one that didn’t overly concern me – anywhere but here, screamed a part of me, and so distant Holland it was.
It was a torrid few months in the lead up to my departure: long tedious hours spent in rigorous servitude of an unwanted future, hand cramps accompanying dull volumes of legal precedents and screeds of scribbled refill.
Prior to exams, a good friend of mine had taken the time to tag “die living” on my desk, with the apoplectic “fuck law” enclosed in parenthesis. In a fact not unknown to him at the time of tagging (half of bottle of vodka deep, awaiting my return home from work), this prophecy was to stare me down for the duration of my study, constantly poking fun at my determined attempts to focus. There was still that final year of study off in the future, but for now it was distant enough to lack reality and consequently I paid it little thought.
Fortunately for my future self, some sense of discipline survived these taunts and I managed churn out respectable marks once again, the letters on my transcript belying my lack of enthusiasm.
The final months of university faded into my internship in a typically anticlimactic fashion. But I had done it, and my attention was spent – the internship was just a formality to be attended before I was free. It must have been obvious that I had itchy feet; when your freedom is so close it is hard to seem interested in far-off future consequences and the arbitrary deadlines of the corporate world.
Thus far this is, perhaps, a familiar story. One brushed with escapism, boredom and the clichés that swarm when one talks of finding oneself. But, as with other stories of this kind, there is no written end, and this, dear reader, is wherein lies the attraction..
I was finally free to indulge my wanderlust, and it was to be every bit as liberating as I had hoped.