Perhaps it’s that phantom Catholic guilt, dragging me over the coals for such careless spending, or some internalised Freudian wet blanket telling me I shouldn’t enjoy myself this much. But over the last few weeks I have had a suspicion, well founded I might add, that I am being incredibly indulgent. Indulgent in choosing to come on an exchange to the far side of the world, indulgent for the travel I am fitting around (read, over) a relaxed uni schedule, indulgent for indulging in thoughts of an eternity of being this free from obligation.
So I want to build on the theme of an earlier post, and try to unpack in greater detail the logic behind taking time off.
It is easy to feel trapped in a particular schedule, with historical expectations shaping our lives. Is it perhaps time to reconsider these expectations?
Today’s world is miles removed from that of our grandparents. As a middle-class child in a first-world country I have none of the difficulties that plagued earlier generations and, as a result, have a wealth of opportunities open to me that were previously lacking. Despite these opportunities and the wisdom and experience that they could possibly provide, it seems as if there is a conflict between the historical expectations and these current possibilities. There is a disjunction between a traditional drive to build a strong career, and the wanderlust that accompanies these opportunities: a desire for the unknown coupled with a sense that it would be wasteful to not take advantage of this luxury.
So it was with this in mind that I decided to go on exchange, and to flag deciding about that big mountain we call life for a while. Idealistically I am hoping that finishing my degree another year later will be an advantage rather than a handicap – with the travel providing me with experiences and perspective that will enable me to approach a career with purpose. This is ideological as fuck, and certainly indulgent, but it is at least considered.
Old mate Orwell said “during times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” Is it possible that the capitalist lie that work and money equal happiness is now so entrenched that to defy its mandate is to engage in revolution? In some sections of society it would certainly seem so, but I can’t help but feel very strongly that in taking time to reflect we gain a greater understanding of ourselves, and in doing so become more comfortable with who we are – allowing us to attain a satisfying happiness that goes beyond the ephemeral satiation of material wealth.
Of course, this is where the indulgence arises – it isn’t really necessary to come all the way to Europe for a year of skiving off in order to gain these insights, but it does provide one way in which to facilitate them. And yes Mum, I know, everyone has to get a job eventually, but this isn’t so much about avoiding work per se (as ideal as that might sound) – it is about taking a moment to pause and evaluate your choices thus far: how do they sit with you when you remove the deadline-imposed blinkers?