Anyone who has ever been travelling will remember the feeling of freedom. The sense of adventure. And the ability not to care.
Looking back on photos from my Filipino adventure and I am longing for the same simplistic satisfaction. I’ve only been back in the UK for 8 weeks and yet I’ve already lost some of that “I couldn’t give a crap what I look like” attitude. Something which seems impossible to hold on to when the media is recommending that you should be thinner, use a different type of foundation and wear tight designer jeans (which only seem to fit over my arm at present!) The oppressive and dominate influence of modern media- be it on television, billboards or on the side of your Facebook page- appears to misguide us, unwillingly, into a pit of self-hate and belittlement.
Enter me- donned in bright harem pants, no make-up and my Dad's beanie hat (because it is cold). I am loud and proud of my new-found sense of self (because I went and ‘found myself' in the Philippines right?) and yet I am like the last piece of the puzzle that doesn’t quite fit. I clash and I contradict with the ordinary way 20-somethings should behave. With no urge to buy clothes, curl my hair, or trade-in my waterproof back-pack for something more trendy (and less yellow!) it seems as if I don’t make sense in this place anymore. However, it would be all too easy to blame society, London, the media etc. etc. for my feelings of isolation and lonely confusion. For if I had a stronger sense of self- that couldn’t be shaken by an ad on Facebook advertising anti-blemish cream- then I wouldn’t feel the need to keep questioning my identity.
I think travelling abroad gives you an easier sense of this because it allows you to transcend the norms of space and time: you physically distance yourself from the place you call ‘home', as well as the people, institutions, identities and values that attach themselves to that. When I went abroad I felt like a child again. I never stopped learning and I started to really think for myself. What do I like? What do I want? What is the right thing to do? I could no longer rely on my Mum or boyfriend to tell me if “I looked fat in this top?” So I had to ask myself all these (silly and serious) questions.
On some level I think this unrestrained sense of freedom is apparent when you go to university, move to another city or start a new job- because you have the ability to start over, or perhaps re-invert yourself. A blank canvas upon which you can draw a new story of “you.” But as I learnt in the I first year of uni- people’s true selves will eventually surface. If you don’t like going out and drinking then why pretend to? If you love reading and are genuinely fascinated by your degree- embrace it!
Yet what I am avidly avoiding writing is 'go and find yourself'- what an nonsensical, pretentious phrase- because in reality why do you need to find yourself? You are THERE right now- reading this article, scratching your head and drinking a cup of tea. YOU ARE RIGHT THERE. So instead of running away from that, why not take some time to get to know you.
What do YOU think of YOU?