This week marks a whole year since I moved down to Canterbury. The past year has been… good, difficult, but at the very least – interesting.
We humans are a fickle bunch, aren’t we? Hating monotony, yet shirking at the prospect of changing the routines we’ve become so accustomed to. ‘Change’ seems like either a sunrise on the horizon indicating a new dawn, or a thunderstorm in your back-garden when you’ve locked yourself out of the house. When we need change, we never have enough in our purse, but when we don’t need change we are aggravated by, and just can’t seem to get rid of, all the copper-coins which litter our desks and pockets.
The move to Canterbury is a change which seems to have provided all weathers, certainly a year of four-seasons. At this one-year point I look back and truly acknowledge that.
I grew up in Watford always knowing that one day my parents would move back down south to Canterbury – back to their childhood, back to their identity. Fortunately, I’d always liked that sweet little town on the River Stour, recognisable instantly by it’s looming cathedral spires, visible from the A2 motorway. Whenever we went to Canterbury, the sun shone and colourful pansies on the riverbank of the Westgate Gardens would greet us as we walked through the medieval archway of the city Towers into the main streets, so cobbled and cute. I loved the presence of history, and how the vast amounts of tourists gave a walk around the city the warm feeling of being on a vacation of your own. By contrast we’d later return to the grey, congested streets of Watford, a town recognisable not from a World Heritage site like the Cathedral – but from a YMCA, a few kebab-houses, and a ginormous Tesco in which I once had the great fortune to work. It’s true, I’d grown to take the place for granted, it’s well-oiled cogs falling asunder to aesthetic displeasures.
When my parents revealed that they’d sold the house that had been the family home for 22 years and were moving to Canterbury, I was delighted. Great, I thought. Pretty town. Lots of culture. Lots to do, I can go sunbathing next to the pansies! Lots of nice places to eat. Not too far from the sea. I’ll never get bored living in Canterz! I didn’t plan on living with my parents for much longer, anyway. (That’s still something I’m working towards!)
We moved down and for a few weeks I was enjoying not only the great weather, the wealth of new places to discover and the pleasure of living somewhere green as opposed to grey, I was also enjoying the novelty of not having to get up for work every morning. I’ll have another job soon anyway, I thought to myself, a thought which wasn’t arrogance, just bare complacency from the fact that there had always been plenty of jobs in Watford. That place had the London factor. More businesses, more job opportunities – very different, I would discover, to down here, where tourism, catering and academia are the most prominent sectors. It actually took me several months to find paid work down here, but the wait was worth it, I ended up with exactly the kind of job I was looking for, and a volunteering opportunity I love too. I am thankful for this, but by this point, the arduous search for employment had made me realise that lovely though a place may be, there are so many other important factors involved in really settling in to somewhere new. Pretty pansies on riverbanks are of little solace if you are dissatisfied with the other aspects of your life, and being in work is important to me. It’s what gives me a purpose. Life without work may sound luxurious when you’re waking up to catch a train at 6am, but in reality it is one of the hardest, most soul-destroying ways to live. I never want to be unemployed again. Because of this, the first few months in Canterbury were exceptionally difficult but I kept myself busy through exercise and sitting around in parks reading spirituality books which would drum into my head that everything happens for a reason! And they do.
There were other things that were stopping me from feeling at home. I hadn’t met anyone new and was depending on my old life too much; going back to London in order to socialise with friends and constantly thinking about the past; putting too much emphasis on good memories rather than seeking to create new ones. Meeting people in the area, and having lots of visitors, has helped give my new life it’s new identity. So too has seeing my parents settle in here so well and get so involved in the local community. Finally, I’m focusing on the present as opposed to missing the past. All that’s left now is for me to make my first trip back to Watford itself, my real home. Once that has been done, and the two lives overlapped, the move will really be complete, and I really will be fully settled here. Not to mention, of course, one of my best friends moving into a house just a few doors away from mine.
When I think back to the difficulties that have arisen at points in the past year I remind myself that if things never change, they just stay the same. Would I want to have stayed in Watford forever? Well, it would probably would have made life easier, but where’s the fun? Where’s the challenge? I often bleat on about wanting to live abroad but that would be even more dramatic a change than moving a couple of hours down the M2.
If there’s one thing I’ve learned from all of this, it’s that the more changes we make in our lives, the easier that ‘change’ becomes to deal with. When things are difficult, we just deal with them, and when we’ve dealt with them once, we know how to deal with them again. I doubt this will be the last place I ever live, and next time I move, I’ll be a lot more prepared.
So – year 2011/2012, you have probably been one of the most difficult years I’ve ever experienced, but I’m glad I have.
Song of the Day: The Pixies – The Navajo Know
I wish I’d been a lot older in the late 1980’s/early 1990’s. That is all.
This song is so New Mexico.