The first time I saw the #alwaysgo hashtag I was in my late teens and desperately searching for direction. I had hoped I would find it at university, but after a year of drunken highs and hungover lows I turned nineteen feeling as lost as I had been at eighteen, still waiting for some bigger purpose to fill my life up with meaning and worth.
The uncertainty I felt about my current self was matched in weight by my complete faith in the person I wanted to be. My future self was a glistening mirage always just out of reach and I had no idea how to turn her into reality. Then I stumbled across #alwaysgo and it was like someone turned a light on. I related to it immediately. It sounded romantic and feisty and free – everything I wanted my adult life to be. It seemed such simple advice to follow, such an easy choice to make.
I will become that person, I vowed, an #alwaysgo person. Through the act of doing, I will become. And I did. From the ages of 19-23 I moved to Nantucket island, then to New Orleans, then to Hawaii, backpacked through Morocco, worked for a travelling circus, became a housesitter and finally a bookseller in London’s Covent Garden. I was young, unattached and financially independent. Nothing was serious because I would #alwaysgo before things could become so.
But then, when I was 23, I made a decision that meant I would need to stay put in one place for at least the next two years. And not just stay put anywhere, stay put in back at home in England, near enough my parents’ house that they could drive me to the local hospital every six weeks. There would be a surgery and a long recovery time. It was a huge commitment for me and one I struggled with immensely. The #alwaysgo philosophy I had come to depend on was now no longer feasible.
Eventually I reached a compromise with myself. I would live in London and find a regular hours, five days a week, monthly pay check job and save every penny I could, then once the surgery was over and everything properly healed, I would set off again, this time with a comforting stash of savings to keep me warm in the winter. It wasn’t ideal, but it was the best I could come up with. Time will go by, I told myself. Just keep busy and the days will pass and then you can be away again with nothing holding you back.
I had my surgery thirteen months ago and as of right now I’m still in London. Back in the summer I had plans to move to Ireland and do a Masters degree. I quit my job, paid the course deposit, told all my family and friends and began trying to imagine a different life for myself across the sea. But then something suddenly didn’t feel right. June became July which became August and still I hadn’t really organised anything. Apart from my course deposit, nothing had been paid. I had no plane ticket, no place to live, no idea of what my life would look like out there. But rather than exciting me as it once would have, the thrill of the unknowable felt like ice in my stomach. Everything was too much, too rushed, too up to chance and I wasn’t ready.
I thought I’d had two years of preparing for this moment but actually, when I took a breath and looked around me, I realised what I’d actually been doing was slowly but steadily building a life for myself. It wasn’t the life I’d envisioned, wasn’t really the life I wanted, but that didn’t make it less real. I was no longer the same afloat person I’d been at 23 who would #alwaysgo. I could still go, know I will still go, but the process has to be different now.
This time around my leaving will be more of a slow untangling, a gentle extraction rather than the sharp slam of a door. I now like to think of myself as a person who will #alwaysgoifitfeelsright but also #notgoifitdoesn’t and I’m happy with that. There’s agency there; a power in trusting my own instincts, of saying no and taking ownership of what I feel when I feel it that I didn’t possess at 19 or 21 or 23.
I’ve made peace with the fact that I am no longer a person who will #alwaysgo. That person was fun but she was a product of that time in my life, not the sum of all my parts. I’m 25 now and no longer need a hashtag to tell me what to do. Sometimes I’ll want to stay, will need to stay, and there’s no shame in that, no guilt. To #alwaysgo is just not my reality anymore; I’m ready to start taking my time.