Once I found it and acknowledged that I was at a place of indecision, it was actually rather pleasant, rather like being at a lonely crossroad with a heavy fog rolling in muffling noise and dampening mind chatter. Rather than panicking or struggling to find my way, I simply rugged up, sat on a bench and waited. All would be revealed. I was confident of that.
I was 37 years old and unsure of my future. I was happily single, having been divorced at a relatively early age. During the day I taught Communication Skills and a subject called Culture, Society & Change at a College in the eastern suburbs of Melbourne. In the evenings I dined with friends, took in movies, went to the gym and read. I had achieved outstanding results in post-graduate qualifications in education. I was an excellent teacher, a capable program coordinator and an active member of the teachers’ union.
“You have such a positive future ahead of you, “ I was told by the College Director, “Potentially an outstanding career”.
Comments like that sent me into despair when I should have been excited and diving for the professional jobs section of the newspaper, updating my resume, going to networking meetings, talking to role models and chatting up college executives. I should have found myself a mentor and developed a career plan. I should have gone through my wardrobe and flung out anything that did not fit with the image of a rising star in the education sector. I should have bought new high-heeled shoes, suits with padded shoulders (it was the 1980s) and pearls.
But no, there was something scratching away at my heart and soul. In the evenings I would toss aside the book and sit with a churning stomach, furrowed brow and an urge to scream. When that became too much I leapt out of the chair, marched into the kitchen and found things to do. I got a lot of housework done during those evenings: taps polished, spice jars aligned, oven sparkling; skirting boards and architraves dusted. I weeded the garden like a fury on the weekend. I wrote reams of self absorbed drivel in my journal.
And then one day while shopping I stopped in front of the travel agency. The window was full of glossy posters of foreign places with the word “ESCAPE” plastered across them all. I stood there stupefied.
“Idiot!” I thought. “That’s it! Travel.”
And so, I bought a round-the-world ticket, loosely planned a 12 month trip, announced my intention to my astonished friends and family and resigned amongst much tut-tutting from the College. All in the space of three days!
The fog had cleared and the sun was shining. I had chosen a road. Mind you, I had no idea what I was going to do with the rest of my life, but I did know that it would begin with travel.