The world continues to spin, regardless of whether I stop to record it. Effect still follows cause, time remains linear. Change joins the list as another constant. The common factor between who I am now, who I was a year ago, and when all this began is I still don’t know where I’m going.
The difference is that I have travelled some, and not always the kind that means leaving home. I have become better at plotting places of significant interest on a once broad, empty sheet. Here there are mountains, over there is a brewery. In the vast plains between them I am able to read, write, and continue to practise playing catch with myself. The wandering is no longer for the sake of being on the move, at last there is an element of purpose. There’s the stretched metaphor. The title of the second track on the second album from which this blog steals its name. A nod to the working title, another repeated constant.
Looking back 2016 might have been the worst year I can remember. As we move into 2017, let us hope we don’t have a new contender any time soon. Moving away from the unnerving global shift, last year was closer to excellent. I’ll remember it now, while it still exists. I moved out, I got my first car, I drove around Iceland with two of my favourite humans. I brewed several beers described by many as “surprisingly nice”. I survived a family holiday without falling out over Brexit, and all this was within the first six months.
I could claim it was all unrecorded, a history waiting to be lost. What happened is I became lazy. Writing is hard, scheduling poorly written blog posts is even harder. Easier are clichés like a picture says a thousand words. You can take, edit, and share a photo in a fraction of the time. I’ve been more active on Instagram than before. You might be inclined to question my motives, as a millennial with unrestricted access to social media am I seeking approval in the wrong places? You might be right but I love that a stranger might like my photo. I love it even more if it’s somebody I know. Instagram isn’t all about the likes. Taking photos, especially good ones, forces me to be active. I have to go places, to do things. To have a highlights reel of your life shared on the internet first requires you to do something worth sharing.
My year at home might have been the one spent most on the road. A lot of my free time is still spent exploring. Much of my journey is also spent indoors, practising my latest craft; brewing. I would describe myself as an accomplished beginner. I know how to brew a beer, I’m still figuring out why things work. I’ve got six successful brews behind me, one down the drain. I’m becoming more experimental, increasing my chances of losing beer and enhancing my knowledge. I tried to make a chocolate orange stout over Christmas. It didn’t work but maybe it will if it’s left for another six months or a year to fully condition. Whatever that means.
If you don’t know where you’re headed I’ve found the best direction to move is forward. This can be hard when you encounter the strange physical sensation of a space rapidly decreasing in size. Walls close in, there’s a sudden awareness of another person in the room taking up more space than you remember. Yet it still takes too long to cross the court and return a shot. Just as fast those walls spring right back and you find you’ve lost the point. I’ve started playing squash regularly, I’m no longer a person who doesn’t exercise. Even better is that I’ve conquered my own anxiety and returned to the pool. If I find space to be transient on the squash court, when I’m swimming time becomes fluid. Head up for air, droplets on my goggles or chlorine burning my eyes it’s impossible to see. Beneath the surface everything becomes calmer. Debris floats like dust in the sun, the contents of the least enchanting cave of wonders litter the blue tiles beneath. I suddenly understand why a lot of people don’t like swimming. For me though, the controlled breathing, the regular movements. This is the closest you can get to mediation without trying before you fall asleep. Squash brings me the art of perfection, the lanes help me to reach a temporary state of inner peace.
I’m so far along with making my own map, it doesn’t seem right to be without one. Fortunately my Gran bought me one for Christmas. With it came the question of how much ambition is too much? To walk the whole of the South West Coastal Path is one go is definitely too much, at least for now. A dream on the back burner for a time when I’m fitter, happier, more productive etc. To begin with I’ve set myself the challenge of walking from Weymouth to Poole. Just shy of 50 miles seemed perfectly reasonable to begin with, until I remembered that I’d have to carry four to five days worth of gear, including a tent and sleeping bag. I’ve so far tried to convince myself that I’ve done this sort of thing before, when I was 14 and almost anything was possible. I’m not renowned for my upper body strength, but I do know how to pack light which I’m now heavily relying on. I wonder if my concentrated power of will be enough to carry me through? Maybe I should just go for it, take the challenge and see what I’m really capable of.