Scratching an Itchy Soul

Let me preface this post by saying that I love our apartment. I love having an oven and a closet. Walking to the beach. Speaking English. Not being stared at.

But it’s happening again. The itch.

Only this time, it’s a little bit different. It started after my mom came for a spontaneous visit. We checked out all of my favorite spots in Newcastle. Drank coffee. On my 32nd (ohmygod! 32!) birthday, we went to a bridal boutique.

And as I tried on dress after dress, I realized that they were all the same. Different, but the same. I have no illusions about picking out a wedding dress: it doesn’t need to be life-changing. It doesn’t need to be magical. It certainly doesn’t need to cost an average of $2400, which these dresses did.

Standing there, looking at myself in yet another white flowing gown festooned with sparkles and/or embellishments that I specifically said I did not want, I wondered what the heck I was doing.

Wedding dresses

It’s pretty, but so is $2400 cash.

Why was I wearing a dress I didn’t particularly care for that was way out of my budget? Why, when the woman told me its price, did I nod as if I am the kind of girl who appreciates French Chantilly lace? (If you are that kind of girl, this is not a criticism. That is totally fine. I’m just not that girl.)

And then BAM!

I was hit with an urge to be in Southeast Asia. Breathing in traffic fumes, eating questionable soup on a sidewalk, scrubbing sandal-shaped streaks of dirt off the top of my feet.

A few days later, it was Europe. I wanted to be cycling through a field of French wildflowers, baguette tucked under my arm, the winds of freedom whispering through my hair.

As I write this, I realize that it sounds like I’m getting cold feet about the wedding.

That’s not it.

Jared and I have been building a little nest, albeit a rented one. I’m applying for casual part-time jobs and getting rejected at lightning speed. It seems that having a jumble of international jobs in ten years isn’t appealing to conventional employers.

I’m doing what society expects me to be doing.

I’m getting sucked in.

And that freaked me out a little, because I forgot the most important thing:

Nothing is carved in stone.

Feather

We are all feathers in the wind. ~Deep Thoughts, by Lauren

Jared and I are where we are because we chose to be here. Choosing to be here now doesn’t mean choosing to be here forever. I’m free to do online work and write, which is really everything I ever wanted. Saying yes to Australia today doesn’t mean saying no to Southeast Asia tomorrow.

It sounds fickle when I see these words in print, and we actually have no intention of selling everything off and moving to France. I’m happy here. The first draft of my memoir is thisclose to being finished, wedding planning is chugging along, and I can’t wait for summer to kick off. Besides that, we’re still waiting on my visa so we aren’t exactly mobile.

However.

Remembering that it’s still possible to do whatever I want has revived my creative spirit.

My mom decided to come to Australia with six days’ notice. It reminded me that we are the ones that make things happen in our lives, not the intangible expectations fencing in our behavior.

Newcastle Australia

Multi-generational selfie at Newcastle Museum.

My life, like whatever wedding dress I eventually choose, may look different (but the same). I don’t expect it to be more special or better than anyone else’s life. I just expect it to reflect me and my choices.

As soon as I realized that I was still free to choose my path, every step of the way, the itch started to subside.

Travelers often talk about itchy feet, but I think it’s more like an itchy soul. When you feel it, that gnawing on your insides, or a nagging feeling that something is off-kilter, it doesn’t mean that everything has to change. It just means that you might be neglecting a part of your spirit. Your intuition is trying to get your attention.

In my case, it was a reminder that I need to reclaim the feeling I had in my early days of travel – the belief that anything can happen, even on the most ordinary kind of day.

Also that Chantilly lace might be pretty, but I don’t have to pretend like it matters to me if it doesn’t.

20 Responses to “Scratching an Itchy Soul”

  1. Sure is a pretty dress on you, though!

    I get the itch all the time, so I completely understand. I call it “grass is greener” syndrome.

    • Thanks!

      ‘Grass is greener’ is a good way of describing it. I really need to work on appreciating the current moment I’m in and not coveting something else.

    • WORD.
      Oh my god I’ve been struggling with this so hard lately. Grass is greener. Urghh make it stop! I just want to enjoy here, now!!

      • That’s it. The thought that there are multiple paths we could choose, all of which could potentially be rewarding, some of which might not be. I think I just described a Choose-Your-Own-Adventure novel. Except those were better because you could hold a finger in every place and read all of the endings!!

  2. I definitely agree that sometimes that itch is a way we can recognize our own fear of being stuck. I feel that a lot in my life when I think about life back in the US. Will I just be trapped or will I remember that life choices are just that, choices. I can choose my life–just saying that makes me feel better. 🙂

    • That’s what I’m trying to stay conscious of – not getting stuck by accident. Life here is easy, and I don’t want to get complacent. Those first few weeks of being home are so nice, but after that it can be a little claustrophobic unless you have some other goals in the pipeline! “I can choose my life” should be our new mantra!

  3. I get the itch too! And then when I travel I often think about how nice it would be to just settle for a while somewhere! I see it as a good thing that we’re constantly assessing our options and living exciting lives. So many people don’t even consider what else is out there.

    • I agree. Assessing the possibilities doesn’t mean rejecting your current reality, it’s just checking with yourself to make sure it’s all still working for you!

  4. Lovely part hun 🙂 I always find that when I’m travelling I long to build a home somewhere and when I’m home I want to travel. I think you’re right, it is a bit like having an itchy soul, but I think that comes with having experienced a life-less-conventional, if you will.

    That dress looks loved on you by the way! Although at $2400……maybe not 🙂

    • Agh yes! The traveler’s paradox. I’ve found that after embarking on so many life-changing travels, you can’t really go back to the way things were. And you will always compare major clothing purchases to the price of a plane ticket!

  5. Your mom sounds like a really cool person :). I definitely know the itch. We usually work in a country for 8 months to a year at a time, and I always start to feel a little restless around the 5 month mark. Sometimes it really is just about reminding myself that I could leave if I really wanted too – I’m not stuck in one place unless I choose to be.

    • She is!!

      I thought the itch took longer to sink in for me, but I think the 5-6 month mark is about right. Enough time to get used to things and start thinking about the next move.

  6. I feel you. But I want to know more about this part:
    “It just means that you might be neglecting a part of your spirit. Your intuition is trying to get your attention.”
    What is my intuition trying to tell me?? I wanted home life routine while I was backpacking; I wanted to be backpacking while I was living abroad in Thailand; and now that I’m living at home, I just want to be living abroad or backpacking.

    • Here’s what I think I was trying to say: it’s not so much that you’re doing the wrong thing/living the wrong life, or even that everything needs to change. For me, the niggling feeling usually creeps up when I’ve been neglecting my writing or my health. Not working out as much, eating a bit crap, putting off my creative endeavors, but still enjoying myself b/c I’m going out, meeting people, having a good time. I think our intuition tries to give us a heads up when elements of your life are unbalanced. It might not be dramatically off-balance, but veering that way. Which is part of why we find ourselves craving stability while on the road, and vice versa. Of course, solving the mystery of how to have both is an ongoing process. Does that make sense? Still trying to work out my theories on this topic!!

  7. Oh my god, 2400 dollars? Go the Sound of Music route I say, find a pretty curtain, rip it off, take it to a musical nun, and she’ll make you a pretty dress out of that…

    Anyway, I totally know what you mean about the itch. I feel it here in Italy. And it’s hard to feel free because I moved here for this great job, but it means I feel so trapped sometimes…I miss being able to just be like, fuck it, I think I’m going to move to France in three weeks! (which is exactly how Paris happened.) Or Thailand. Or Brazil. You know?

    • I KNOW. I don’t mean to get down on people who do spend that kind of money on their dress, but it really, truly blows my mind. I thought about learning to sew but then remembered the time I showed my grandma a pillow I made in 6th grade Home Ec and she said, “Is that supposed to be finished? What are they teaching you down there?” so maybe not. Plan B: Musical nun.

      The free/trapped feeling with work – I totally identify. It helps knowing that ‘fuck it’ is always an option, no matter how remote – once you’ve moved abroad and started from scratch once, you can do it at any point in your life. That’s what I tell myself, anyway.

  8. Your mum is wearing clubmaster ray-bans – too cool!

  9. Oh, I’m getting the itch big time at the moment, Lauren – living at home since August is taking its toll, and I’m not moving until January! I’m taking lots of mini-trips (this comment is brought to you from a mini-trip right now, actually), but I want to get out again and explore. The thought of taking root in England makes me dizzy.

    • Living at home makes me SO ITCHY. It’s like, sometimes when you travel you think it would be kind of nice to go back to your native country and spend some time there, but when you’re actually doing it you think, “Oh, right, I started this travel thing for a reason, didn’t I?” Though sometimes being home is something we have to do. Sounds like you have something big coming up in January, though – hope that helps!

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