Opting In

Grey mizzle across the country, a hanging mist, traffic fluidly moving through

the capital’s centre, commuters buying coffee, picking up the free paper,

listening to their ipods. Schoolchildren on a train, the first day of term after

the summer, a little apprehensive, a little excited, grey and red uniforms.

I feel a great warmth for the working, participating, world this morning. Policemen

in their fluorescent yellow jackets, taxi drivers waiting to take passengers

to offices. People transforming from lovers to parents to passengers to workers.

Cycle gear being replaced by suits. The world is moving, the day is starting

and it’s not even 9am yet.

I’ve been thinking about this ‘growing up’ thing since Felix’s

last post. I’ve been

to a wedding and watched two friends do the thing they really want to do: get

married, make a commitment to each other, live together… and by that I mean

really live, lebensgefährter, travel through life together. Other friends

have had kids lately, something that has made them so happy, has been absolutely

rewarding. Something they really wanted to do. It’s quite something to

feel capable, ready, grown-up enough, to not only want these things but to carry

them out. To opt in.

I fear I may have been wrongly represented. Or rather, people may have assumed

my stand-point by virtue of the last year in a strange place, ‘a wonderfully

simple bubble’ as commented

by Span. A number of people wondered if going to Antarctica was running away

from something, escaping reality, and I used to vehemently defend it as an alternative

way to ‘opt in’ to life rather than opt out. (Similarly, I think

‘gap-year’ is a terrible expression, suggesting an acceptable one

year ‘out’ of the real world.)

What you may not know is that I have been thoroughly enjoying being a part

of the working world since coming back. Making my contribution to the 9-5 world

that I know so little about. I love flexi-time and take great satisfaction in

swiping-in and out every day. I like my dull job. It’s exciting in the bigger

picture, perhaps, but the daily process of number-crunching is a far cry from

laughing with the midday stars. I like coming home at a reasonable time and

having an evening to take whatever class I fancy, cook dinner or meet folk in

the pub. I love the house that I share with one friend. Today, I even like the

rain. And sure, I can see that ten years of this might become monotonous and

dull – but so could ten years on the ice.

I have never lived such a routined life as at Halley. So today, for the record,

I’m all about opting-in. Choosing the life you want. Having babies, buying

houses, going to work and contributing to the flow of whichever city you live

in. In Cambridge, it’s biking along the river and shopping in the market.

In London, it’s watching people on the tube and magicking myself from

one side of town to the other on the buses using my swish new oyster

card. In Edinburgh this weekend I enjoyed being a tourist, admiring the great

old buildings and being swung around the dancefloor, clueless, at a ceilidh.

Yes, cities have grown this way because enough people have actively chosen this

life. And there’s nothing wrong with that at all.

1 thought on “Opting In

  1. Re: bubbles. I’ve been misunderstood. I don’t think you were running away and I did actually mean what I said (and I have been pondering it over vino so I must mean it). Going to Antarctica has given you an invaluable perspective on the world. It’s given you an opportunity to think about, to realise, what’s important. I know you had a fairly healthy dose of that perspective before you left and your time on the ice has further consolidated that view. But maybe the solution to the problem of the earth’s population disappearing up its own arse is for more of us to go and spend some time in a simple, wonderful, perspective-bearing bubble.

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