Time to move on

Moving house is not the most stressful thing you can do in life, but I’m pretty sure it’s in the top five. Even so, I’ve chosen to do it a lot over the years. I’ve lived in around 25 different houses, flats or apartments since I left my parents’ home in 1989. That’s an average of one a year.

The impulse to keep moving is a strong one. After leaving New Zealand almost ten years ago, I’ve traveled a lot. Thirteen countries just in the last year. Over half of those more than once. I like being elsewhere. I enjoy forward momentum. ‘What comes next’ has always been my primary interest.

As a long-term renter, being able to find somewhere else to live – somewhere better – at short notice is important to me. I like having that option, even if I don’t make use of it.

After all, a house is just a place to keep your stuff. And if you find a nicer place to keep your stuff, why not pack up and move on?

Except at some point, where I live became “home”. I’ve been there for almost five years, which is something of a record for me. It’s in a part of town I love, it has all the elements I like about a house, and I’ve made the place my own. There have been a lot of changes in that time, but I’ve built a life there. I’d even thought about cutting down on the travel, maybe getting a dog and living a more settled life.

So the landlord’s sudden decision to sell comes as something of a shock. I guess that’s the downside of renting: flexibility also means uncertainty.

I wasn’t looking to be packing my life into boxes again, but here we are. I have about six weeks to ensure that this is a move up, not just a move out.

It’s been upsetting – but only for a little while. It’s also exciting. Perhaps this is what I needed. Maybe that feeling of comfort was complacency. It’s possible my love for that house was more a matter of inertia. It’s just a bungalow in Kings Heath. We’re not talking mansion on the lake here.

I don’t know what happens next. I’m stepping out into the unknown. Part of me likes that feeling. It’s a little stressful – and will become more so. But I’m going to look at it as an opportunity. Life is change, right?

Whatever happens, and wherever I go, my contact details will remain the same. I live on the internet.

I like writing

I write every day. I type a lot, of course – sometimes up to 5000 words a day, even not counting emails. But I write too. Longhand. In a journal. Three pages every day, first thing in the morning.

It usually takes me about 20 minutes. Writing whatever comes into my head in all its jumbled, nonsensical and disordered glory clears away all of the crap that’s accumulated in my brain overnight, gets it out of my system and lets me start fresh.

My friend Trevor used to call it my morning ‘mental poo’. Which is kind of horrible – but entirely accurate. I prefer that metaphor about the guy who cuts down trees for a living, figuring out that he needs to take a little time each day to sharpen his saw. That’s what my morning pages routine is all about.

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I like reading

I read an awful lot. You’d expect that to be the case. I am a professor, and reading is part of the job description. I read a lot, and I read quickly. 500 words per minute is comfortable. I can manage 700 on a good day.

But here’s the thing – I’m not the sort of person who reads a lot of novels. I read some – and more than I have for the past decade (especially since I bought the Kindle) – but not as many as most of my friends.

I like novels, and I sort of half-wish that I would read more of them – but most of the time, there are other things I’d rather be reading. A novel has to really grab me for me to spend time with it – and that happens so rarely. Like – once or twice a year.

I’m a bit of a non-fiction junkie. But more than that, I’m an essay junkie. I like reading essays. For pleasure. To me, the art of writing and storytelling – that art of portraying something about the world and conveying it with skill, emotion and in a way that points to something larger about the universe – that’s at its concentrated best in the essay form.

And it just so happens that I’ve recently stumbled upon the best way to read essays. It involves, as you might expect, technology.

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I like taking photographs

Today’s reflection on ‘stuff I like to do’ is about photography.

Like going record shopping, taking photos has sort of become my ‘thing’. Unlike going record shopping, this is a fairly recent development, and I had a pretty steep learning curve.

I took a beginners’ course a while back, which gave me a good start. It helped me with a core understanding of the mechanics of the camera, a basic sense of how light works, a bit of insight into concepts of composition, which way around to hold the thing and so on.

Since then, it’s become one of my favourite things to do. I’ve been on a couple of organised photo walks, but actually, I hardly go anywhere without a camera – and in fact, I’ve started going places because I have a camera.

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I like buying records

If you’ve just joined us, I’m reflecting on a bunch of things I like to do. This post here explains why.

Today: record shopping. I like buying records.

The important thing to notice is that I didn’t say that I like listening to records, collecting records or owning records – although those are, of course, things that I very much enjoy. If I really think about it, the activity that seems to give me the most satisfaction is the process of acquisition. The time spent browsing, rummaging and discovering second hand vinyl – and usually cheap stuff.

I guess that’s largely because I’m always immersed in music, and the records I buy simply get absorbed into that mix and take the aggregate experience in new and interesting directions. I certainly wouldn’t be short of stuff to listen to if I didn’t go record shopping – but I do really love going record shopping.

It’s relaxing and exciting at the same time – simultaneously meditative and engaging. Like I imagine knitting would be if there were spot prizes.

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Thinking about things that I like

This blog post is not for you. It’s for me. I’m thinking out loud. You’re welcome to ‘overhear’ that process if that’s of interest, but I’m writing it to help me structure my thoughts about it, not to entertain you or convince you of anything. Those things may happen along the way (with any luck), but they’re not the intention.

I’ve been thinking about the year ahead. I know it’s already fairly well established, but I can never really get started on a year until I’ve made my mind up about what sort of a year it is meant to be. What it’s for, if you like. And while most years tend to go in a much different direction than I initially had in mind, it helps at least to make a start with some sort of intent, because that always at least sets you off in interesting directions.

Last year’s theme was reinvention and rediscovery. It was that archetypal quest to ‘find myself’. And I did. Here I am. Perhaps not so different on the surface, but pretty substantially and profoundly changed – in some ways that are entirely deliberate, and in all sorts of ways that I could not have possibly anticipated.

But it’s an ongoing process, so this year is about course correction. Or at least, I’m finding that to be a useful metaphor. I may be on a journey of discovery and it might take me in new and exciting directions, much as last year did, but I do really like the path I’m on. However, there are always certain telltale signs that I’ve gone off-course in some way or another, and they will usually manifest as stress, dissatisfaction, restlessness or exhaustion.

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