On the eve of New Year’s Day 2019, I make a decision. I walk away from a bad situation and out into the night with a suitcase. I text my best friend: “I’m coming home”. I receive a response seconds later: a pink heart emoji and three kisses. I feel suddenly overwhelmed with gratitude that I have a home to go to, and wonderful friends who send me sickeningly sweet messages when I need it most. I remember who I am. Strong, independent, creative, honest, reflective. I realise that I’m still all of those things. I realise that I have just made an excellent decision. I realise that despite all of the inconveniences I will have to deal with later, and the money I will lose as a result of this, I am happy. And I start laughing, hysterically laughing, wheeling my suitcase into 2019.
In the weeks that follow, I am fuelled by an energy so intense that I feel like a Dyson vacuum. I am making plans left, right and centre. I am having engaging conversations that make me want to write and create. My mind and body are working in harmony for what feels like the first time in my life. I feel powerful and centred. I have the confidence to make a bold move. Which is exactly what I do when, without a hint of my typical overthinking, I slide brazenly into the DMs of someone who has been floating around the periphery of my thoughts for six years. The act is so out-of-character for me that I proceed to throw my phone into the depths of my bag and not look at it again for several hours. I have absolutely no idea what I think I am playing at – all I know is that this is important. On a level that goes beyond conscious thought and words, I know I have to speak to this person, have to know them, as a matter of urgency.
Later, I sit on my best friend’s sofa with a mug of tea and a grin the size of Australia on my face. Being brazen, it seems, has worked out superbly for me. I relay the story to her and she looks at me with a wide-eyed expression that I haven’t seen since we got told off for giggling inappropriately in Year 9 History.
“You do realise that you’ve just invited yourself on a date, don’t you?” she says.
I consider this surprisingly astute observation and take an extended sip of tea. “I have done no such thing,” I say.
(Reader: I had done exactly this thing).
The year moves fast. I need it to. 2018 was a year of stasis, where I thought too much and did too little. The decision I made on New Year’s Day blasted off the bars of a cell I didn’t know I was trapped in, and I am dancing away from it, kicking down doors that had been closed for far too long, because I no longer care about the mess. I make choice after choice without agonising over all the possible outcomes of each one. I curl my hair, put on red lipstick and drink wine from the bottle because I remember that I can. I stop sugar-coating my words and start asking for what I want, because I really, honestly, have run out of fucks to give and don’t intend to buy any more. Good things happen. I move into a new house after months of looking, and it becomes the first place after my childhood home that I actually call “home”. I get a job offer, completely out of the blue, from a company I interviewed for years ago who happened to remember me. I accept. I keep running with what the universe sends me and listening to the inner voice that told me to be brazen and turned out to be right. I do everything with the newfound confidence that even if I don’t make the right decision, I have the guts to say “fuck it” and walk away.
Things slow down a little in autumn when I have foot surgery and am forced to sit down. (Unsurprisingly, I do not enjoy this at all). One afternoon, when I have exhausted all forms of sedentary entertainment (including rewatching Gossip Girl for the fifth time and reorganising my sock drawer), I video call my brother in Australia. We sweep through all of the pleasantries before inevitably, being the chronic overthinkers of the family, landing on our favourite topic: life. We pick at the subject tentatively at first, like polite party guests who don’t want to disturb a fresh bowl of snacks. He is the first to make a move.
“But how do you know if you’ve made the right decision?”
He is actually asking me for an answer, I realise. I chew over the question and come up with some waffle that doesn’t really mean anything. I don’t want to say “when you know, you know” because I do not want to sound like a wanker. But in hindsight – and hindsight is everything – I know this to be true.
I know now when things feel right or wrong. I knew at the time that I’d made a bad decision back in 2018, but I wasn’t listening to myself. The strange thing is, I think the universe was trying to give me a chance to correct it. There was a problem with the flat I was due to move into, so the move was delayed, with a possibility of it being cancelled altogether. I wasn’t disappointed; I was relieved. When I eventually did move, I felt sick the whole day and I couldn’t get anything to look right. The plates wouldn’t fit properly in the cupboards, the toilet wouldn’t flush, it was too hot and too cold all at the same time. I spent the first night pacing up and down the hallway, staring at the street lamp across the road, searching desperately for something that I didn’t know how to find.
I knew then, standing barefoot and alone on the cheap vinyl flooring, that I wasn’t where I was supposed to be. But I felt so far away from myself that couldn’t make sense of anything. For the past 18 months I had been busy ignoring who I was and forgetting everything that was important to me. I’d gone running around in the music industry for a year, constantly telling myself that the fast-paced environment was thrilling in a good way and not in an on-the-verge-of-a-nervous-breakdown kind of way. I’d gone out to parties and gigs and bars and drank far more than I wanted to, because this was fun, wasn’t it? I kept telling myself things I didn’t believe, yelling over my inner voice until I couldn’t hear it any more.
In December 2018, I went looking for quiet. I flew out to Portugal and walked on the beach every day at sunrise. Slowly, I started to piece myself back together. I stopped yelling and started listening. The New Year approached, and I could see exactly what I wanted it to look like. After living at odds with myself for so long, I vowed never to do so again – and this is how I learned what making the right decision feels like. The right decision, in my experience, is an expression of your truth. It comes from a place that can’t be explained in words. It brings peace. It, annoyingly, is one of those things that you do “just know”.
I don’t have all of the answers. I don’t always do the right thing or know exactly what that is. I still wander around most of time with absolutely no idea what I’m doing. I still decide to bring garlic potatoes into the office for lunch and wear black skinny jeans on my summer commutes. But I know who I am and what I stand for. I wear bold colours and I make bold moves. And when I inevitably make a tit of myself? Fuck it.