A taxi ride, chaos and time collapsed
I’m in a taxi bound for the station. A train waits to take me to Rome. The sky is grey and Mika plays on the radio. I have a flashback to another taxi ride two years ago. I’m headed to Colombo airport, bound for Delhi. The sky is blue and Mika plays on the radio.
Time has collapsed.
These experiences may be years and miles apart, but the feeling they incite is the same. I know it intimately, this sense of simultaneous excitement and disquiet. Change is coming and it’s unsettling, yes, but it’s also deeply regenerative.
The greatest disparity between these two pictures, however, is me.
There’s a chasm between the girl I was and the woman I’ve become. Sometimes I look back at that girl and admire her tenacity, but I also knew her pain. And I know it’s her chaotic journey to womanhood that’s taught me to love this in-between space where both departure and arrival are imminent.
We’re always in transition physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually, but travel intensifies this sense of momentum, of endless new beginnings. It’s a process of growing up.
So my nostalgia affords me a reminder that without life’s flux we’d atrophy physically, mentally, emotionally, spiritually.
As the taxi moves through the traffic, I consider the way I left London three years ago. I knew what I was turning away from, but hadn’t a clue what I was turning towards. While it was prime circumstance to turn towards myself, I was far too preoccupied with running away.
While I’d happily leapt, I didn’t want to land.
More than that, part of me fought like fury to resist all that was changing, recklessly grasping at passing relationships as a grounding mechanism, relying on others to lead the way, doing most anything to shirk responsibility for my journey.
I’d not yet truly departed from my former life, which meant that anything new I desired was little more than a pipe dream. The irony was that I’d unknowingly catapulted myself into a highly unstable, but highly creative space, which I now know to be chaos — a word (and concept) that makes us twitchy.
If we trace its etymology back to classical Greek we discover the origins of chaos in ‘chasm’ or ‘void’. Better still, Hellenistic mythology tells us that chaos was a primeval state of existence, the blank canvas upon which the universe was painted. So if chaos refers to something that’s not yet formed, it grants us great opportunities for creation as well as destruction.
Chaos is pure potential.
Yet still we fear it. Anything without defining parameters confuses us. We’ve no means of measuring, classifying, ranking, of knowing a thing without form. Just like that girl gallivanting across Asia didn’t know herself.
I was simultaneously running from and craving all that was measurable, definable and knowable. I was falling unconsciously into chaos, resisting the process, which led to knee-jerk planning and overspending as overcompensation for all I could not control.
Fast-forward to today, however, and I now thrive on the chaos, choosing to fall into it consciously. I’ve learnt to recognise when it’s time to leave, and to properly grieve whatever is passing, before painting new beginnings with very broad brushstrokes.
I have faith in the process of destruction before (re)creation.
So what changed? How did I get from that place to this one? How did something highly reactive metamorphose into something deeply creative? It did so when I finally understood how the relationship between that girl and this woman was rooted in chaos.
Chaos was the bridge.
However much we want to move from one place to another we simply can’t if we bypass the bridge. And since we worship continuity, bypassing anything that threatens it is the easy choice. We expect change to be preassembled and delivered next day. But life doesn’t work like that.
Chaos is the natural order of things.
Whatever you’re ending and whatever you wish to begin, know there’s a world of mess that needs to be experienced between the two. Consider it your wintertime, the necessary pause before creation springs forth from the mulch.
Full immersion in chaos is what grants us full liberation from the past and full access to the future. It’s where we collapse time.
It’s where we learn to love what we’re leaving behind (like I learnt to love that girl) and harvest it for the seeds of something better. And this is why travel for me is no longer about escaping but decontextualizing. It’s an essential deconstruction of any routine that breeds dependence on continuity. It’s a way of strengthening my change muscles.
But you don’t have to travel to do the same. The chaos metaphor stands wherever you are since life has a way of throwing curveballs whenever you get too comfortable.
So while you may tell me you’re happy as you are and you’ve no desire to change, take care not to atrophy, my friends. If you’re not moving forwards, you’re most certainly drifting backwards.
But if you are ready to leap, know that chaos will always catch you.