31. Change in the house of whys

Your guess is as good as mine

There’s a saying in the British Isles I didn’t understand until I moved here, and even then only after I’d heard it in several different situations. British people love sayings.

Let’s say you want to get away for a bit, but you don’t have the holidays or it’s too busy at work. Or you’re weighing up a decision between something new and keeping things as they are. In these situations a friend or colleague may pipe up with,

“A change is as good as a rest.”

Even before I knew what it meant I’d say it, because it’s just the thing you say. I’m not sure what confused me so much about it. Maybe it’s the particular syntax, which I’d describe as “extremely British saying”¹. Or the unusual juxtaposition of “change” with “rest”, the tension of which is a large part of the phrase’s stickiness. At some point it clicked and I felt 2% smarter and 17% more British.

Anyway, in 2020 I’m going for a double rest. And it’s kind of exhausting.

The hardest part of this global pandemic for me has been the lack of change. This is a ludicrous thing to say and feel, and here we are in 2020—the year of the absolutely batshit ludicrous. While I’ve felt largely static the entire world has been shifting like a rodeo bull on tectonic plates made of ice. While nothing is changing everything is changing and we’re all supposed to act like we know how to navigate that.

I don’t know how to navigate this.

Because this feeling of stasis has come with two fairly sizeable changes. I’ve changed jobs. And, as part of the job change, I’ll soon change countries.

When I finished at my last job I closed the computer and put it in a box for someone to pick up. When I started my new job, I was sat in the same chair as before. I just opened a different computer and that was that. I didn’t see anyone to say goodbye when I “left”. And I didn’t see anyone new to say hello.

I now work for a company that makes remote collaboration software and business, as they say, is booming. The world is experiencing a seismic shift and we sell seismic shift shoes in every size and colour. We’re an essential part of the new normal.

Except I don’t feel normal. I feel messed up.

Back in February I took a trip to Amsterdam. That sentence seems factually impossible, but I did. I got on a plane and flew to a different country and ate in restaurants and went to art galleries.

When it came time to go back our flight was delayed by heavy winds. Then it was cancelled. Then we were told we were waiting for a bigger plane, because the small planes that typically take people cheaply around Europe couldn’t handle the weather.

And I remember thinking, what if this is how travel is now. What if the climate crisis has made quick trips like these impossible (a situation exacerbated by the proliferation of cheap air travel). Remember the climate crisis? I hadn’t thought about it for months until the California fires pushed it back into my consciousness.

I probably wouldn’t even be moving now if it weren’t for Brexit. Remember Brexit? I didn’t. The biggest political decision of this century for the UK and it’s been completely subsumed by the normality of people never leaving their homes.

I’ve been struggling to settle in at work, to feel the rest this change had promised, and was getting a bit paranoid about it when, thankfully, the part of my brain that doesn’t hate me piped up. “You fucking idiot, look around you!” And I did and hoo boy… it’s a humdinger out there, isn’t it?

I feel the same way about moving, because who moves during a global pandemic?

Some of my friends have been holding off on big decisions, which feels wise. But some friends have gone all the way the other way and are deciding big things on the regular, and somehow that makes sense too.

Choosing change during unending change doesn’t put you in the driver’s seat. It just means you willingly stepped on the raft as it hurtled down the river. And while a change can be as good as a rest, sometimes what you actually need is rest. I just don’t know when that’ll happen again.

¹ See: “You’re a long time dead”; “Sod this for a game of soldiers.”

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