Calum McSwiggan

A Beautiful Disaster

In Eat, Love on July 29, 2013 at 2:35 pm

London Skyline

‘And maybe, just maybe, I’ll come home.’

– Ben Howard

It was our last night in the temple, and as we sat atop the skywalk, lighting our bonfire and watching the tigers prowling below us in the darkness, we began to pen our wishes. Armed with a dozen candles, a flashlight, and a notepad, we wrote down all of the things we wanted for ourselves and for each other, and prepared to ceremoniously toss them into the fire.

Living in a Buddhist Temple was making me begin to believe in all things spiritual, but as I scrawled down the specifics of my each and every wish, I could see my friend worriedly watching me before she finally reached out and stopped me. Are you sure these are the things you really want? I looked at the items on the list, the things I would go on to make happen for myself in the following weeks, and nodded. She wasn’t convinced, though, she told me to be less specific and was adamant that I had absolutely no idea what it was that I wanted.

It felt like an attack on me personally, but I knew it was just an acceptance that absolutely nobody really knows exactly what it is that they want, and that you should be extremely careful with what you wish for. She had given me two life-changing tarot card readings in the month that we had spent together, and for that reason, I trusted her with all things spiritual.

I had those readings in mind when I began rewriting my wishes. The first had been about my love life, and the second about my career, and although she stipulated that there’s no such thing as magic beforehand, they really helped me understand the things most important to me.

I asked for love, happiness, friends, and a home before tossing the wishes into the lit bonfire and watching them crackle and burn. It was this moment I thought of as I sat alone in my new Spanish apartment, watching a single candle flickering on the windowsill, having all of the things I’d originally wanted to wish for, and yet being debilitating unhappy. She had been right.

Each day the thought of having to wake up, get dressed, and cross the Spanish border to work both exhausted and depressed me. I had once loved the picturesque walk along the shore and into town, but now it only made me want to scream.

The problem was, despite having everything I thought I’d wanted, I had absolutely nobody to share it with. Without a working internet connection I could no longer chat with my best friend on Skype, send outrageous things to my friends on Twitter, and flirt excessively with the boy I liked on Facebook. I was suddenly disconnected from my world of friends, and for the first time it became apparent that I wasn’t actually surrounded by the people I love. I was alone in an empty room.

I needed to get out and about, and so each evening I’d wander through the streets, soaking up the atmosphere, and popping in and out of tapas bars and warm vibrant cafés. I could feign perfect contentment until I’d get hit with the full emotion of seeing somebody I knew, and then I’d well and truly fall apart.

A sense of overwhelming happiness would fall over me as I’d push through the crowd to try to catch up with Liz from Ohio, Jang from Thailand, or Matteo from Rome. I was so excited to see these amazing people that I missed so much, only to be left deflated when I realised that, of course, it wasn’t them. I was in a quiet Spanish town in the middle of nowhere, and as much as I would have liked to have bumped into friends from all over the world, it was never going to happen.

I remained hopeful that people would come to visit, but as each invitation was politely refused, a date cancelled here, a friend too busy there, I realised I was sitting around waiting for friends who were never going to come. A bottle of champagne sat waiting to be uncorked, a book of vegetarian recipes sat waiting to be cooked, and mood setting candles sat waiting to be lit.

Every day that passed I began to feel more and more alone and wondering why on earth I was out here in the middle of nowhere. I had an incredible job, and family just around the corner, and yet still I craved for so much more, this just wasn’t enough. I was saving every spare penny towards that dream of moving to New York, but I couldn’t wait another second, I needed to be in a big city.

That thought really hit me as I stood in the supermarket looking at frying pans and ready to fall apart. The same excitement I felt when kitting out my spider-infested room in Thailand was somehow lost, and as I walked out of the shop empty handed, I felt something snap. How I had gone from playing with tigers to shopping for cooking utensils at such a short turn around was beyond me. Somewhere something had gone wrong.

I sat at my desk that afternoon and talked to my friends profusely about how exhausted and bored I was of living in Spain, and then as each friend independently revealed to me that they didn’t understand why I was still there, I felt something spark inside of me. It was nothing more than a glimmering idea of what if, but by the time I got home that evening, it had snowballed into so much more.

I paced up and down in my apartment, shaking with excitement and nervousness as I rang my best friend over and over again. I paced for almost an hour waiting for her to finish work and pick up, and when she finally did, I told her that I was going to quit my job and move to London.

To me, this was the most ridiculously spontaneous thing I had ever done, but I was deadly serious and couldn’t think of a single reason not to do it. I lost an absolute fortune on an apartment I’d only lived in for two weeks, and I was wrestling with the idea of losing a well-paid job that I loved, but somehow none of that seemed to matter. I knew that something had to change, and before I could even begin to fathom the consequences, I was packing my bags, negotiating with my boss, booking my flights, and getting on a plane.

I had never been so sure of anything in my life, and yet I could have so easily talked myself out of it. The choice to move into an apartment in Spain was a catastrophic mistake that turned out to be a beautiful disaster, but without taking that leap, I never would have made it here, to my best friend’s East London apartment, filled with all the hope and happiness in the world.

I know that I made the right decision. It’s scary to take such a drastic u-turn, to sever commitments and ties, and accept that you’ve made a massive mistake, but sometimes that’s just exactly what you have to do. It was undoubtedly the craziest choice I’d ever made in my life, but already, as I sleep in the familiar warm of my best friend’s sofa, I’m already beginning to feel like I’ve finally come home.

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