I'm signing out... It's been a ride

Seven years after I started this endeavour, I have decided it’s time to end it. It’s been a ride, but today I’m calling time on The-Room blog.

The reasons are many, the rationale hard to put into words, but I’ll give it a go. I owe an explanation to my adoring fans, after all (Mum and Jesse… I see you). In short, the reason is two-fold: it’s both entirely not about me, and it is. For those interested in the long-form version, buckle up.

It’s not about me

2020 has been a year. I end that sentence where I do because no amount of adjectives can encapsulate what this year has been… we all know it, we’ve all lived it.

The global pandemic is part of it, yes, definitely. But even without COVID-19, 2020 would likely still have seen the culmination of a growing tension that had nowhere else to go. We saw this manifest itself in so many different ways across the world stage this year, but undoubtedly the most impactful one for me was the Black Lives Matter movement, which prompted an honest discussion – often the internal kind one has with oneself – on a scale I don’t think we’ve seen before.

It has been as heartbreaking as it has powerful to bear witness to. It has been devastating and inspiring, but most of all it has been educational. To have witnessed and lived this moment as a white woman equates to taking on a direct challenge.

The years preceding this one have seen the gradual growth and ultimate domination of web content, rolling over into social media platforms. Both have changed the way we live in so many deeply influential ways. That very word, influence, has been robbed of its meaning in the age of social media, a space so submerged in “influencers” one feels they are – or worse, doesn’t even register the feeling of – drowning in content, often falsified, deeply insular, painfully self-involved content from people whose importance in one’s own life is elevated through the invisible world of the internet. People are either posting (read: peacocking) or being impacted by content posted by someone else.

In one sense, my blog is one of these platforms. Another voice, mostly drowned in the crush of other voices, saying things that don’t do or mean a heck of a lot. In my experience, it takes a surprising amount of energy and time, and while it has given me some real level of reward and joy over these last seven years, this year, the Black Lives Matter movement made me want to stop writing in a way I never have before. I want to stop being the voice no one needs or asked for and just listen for a bit.

And that’s where the weird flip side of social media comes in, in that I have discovered some truly inspiring, uplifting and incredible minds and words through these platforms. I don’t think these platforms are bad, I have simply, quite completely, lost the interest in presenting myself as a voice saying the same things as so many others… there’s a farce to it I have come to find tiring. The desire to be the digital presence I hoped to be with this blog has been replaced by a thirst for content that truly opens my mind; that continues the learning I have started and inform the action I shall continue to take. I feel a desire to reflect inwardly and encourage others to do the same – I guess I feel my blog about trips I’ve been on and books I’ve read and clothes I’ve bought has no role in either.

It’s also deeply personal

I’ll be honest, the bigger picture is only half of it. On a personal level, well… I’ve already said it. 2020 has been a year. In January, living in Toronto, Jesse and I got the unexpected chance to move to New York City through a job offer that came his way. Because of traditional and restrictive law all too common in the States, I was only able to go with him if we were married… de facto relationships be damned. We thought about it for approximately one day then made the only decision we really could… we were getting married. Soon.

In a turn of events I never could have imagined, we planned a wedding on the fly in Toronto for mid-April. Our immediate family members hastily booked tickets, I bought a dress, we were good to go. Then COVID hit fast and hard. Borders started closing, flights were cancelled, and overnight, trips halfway around the world became the thing of dreams.

In those early days when the world thought this may all blow over within six months (oh, you poor, ignorant things) we decided to get married anyway, keep the option of NYC on the table, even if it meant doing it without family by our side. Having been booted out of our lovely Toronto flat on short notice due to a panicked returning landlord trying to beat border closures, we found ourselves living in a particularly grim area on the very outskirts of Toronto, in a high rise, soulless condo building and such an absence of any nature it hit us both like a physical blow.

The complete and sudden disappearance of any and all of the things we were in Canada for – exploring the landscapes, seeing friends, enjoying the events the city puts on – combined with the realisation that they weren’t coming back any time soon, prompted us to make a decision to go home to New Zealand. At least we could wait this out in a place we can enjoy nature, be close to family. I could spend time I felt guilty about not spending with my fast-ageing dad whose health had been declining for some time. As family were supposed to be arriving in Canada on their oh-so-recently booked flights, we were booking ones to take us home.

A week before the wedding date, I got the call anyone living overseas holds in the dark place at the back of their mind. My dad’s long ill health had taken a total nose dive. Thoughts of getting home rushed in, but in April 2020, that was easier said than done, and anyway, I had flights booked for a few weeks from now, I’d be seeing him so soon. The next day, I got another call. I wouldn’t be seeing him after all.

Six days later, I got married in a living room with two friends present, and the small faces of close family crowded on a laptop screen, with one glaring absence. Five days later, TV news about a total US/Canada border closure told us we couldn’t get home on the flights we’d booked. Frantic calls got us on another flight, two days away.

So it was that one week after getting married, two weeks after losing my dad, and two weeks before planned, I found myself on a plane home. Whether we’d make it onto that plane was truly anyone’s guess. Jesse and I both had different points at which we relaxed – for him, it was once we were in the air above Toronto. For me, it was once the second and final plane that would take us home lifted off the tarmac in LAX. I’ve tried countless times to encapsulate what it was I felt in that month, the rollercoaster of emotion I didn’t even know was possible. It was the most stressful yet eye-opening time of my life, and I hope I never have another like it.

There’s one thing I will say in COVID’s favour – and I don’t think I’m alone in this – it made me realise real quick what truly matters. For me, it was the realisation of how important it is to be able to have nature in my life. Joy matters. Family matter. Home.

I’ve been home six months now and the dizziness is wearing off. I still can’t quite believe we’re married – nothing feels any different between us, after all, nor is it. We love each other just the same as we always did.

All this time later, I’m still processing the reality that my dad’s not here. I didn’t see him regularly while overseas so, naturally, the absence of him hasn’t hit me yet, not really. Lockdown meant our family wasn’t able to gather to grieve him and won’t do so until this time next week, when we finally have a ceremony in his hometown down south on his birthday. Maybe it will hit me then.

Even when I’d just got home, fresh off the plane that took me on the most surreal two-day journey of my life, even when my head was spinning from the stress and rush of it all, I never had any doubt that this was the right decision. I always worried I’d struggle coming back to New Zealand after my time away, but things conspired in ways I never could have imagined to make me run back to New Zealand with my arms thrown all the way open.

Since getting home, maybe because of this deep joy and sense of peace at being right where I am, and maybe because I can appreciate how incredibly lucky New Zealand is in its COVID reality, things have gone better than I’d hoped. After a two-month search, I got a job which gives me immense satisfaction and purpose, and one I hope to be in for many years. I have a lifestyle I love (we got a cat! Her name is Lottie and I love her. We also got a grown-up espresso machine that has made my life about 100 times more wonderful) and – just because we figured 2020 hasn’t been momentous enough for us – we’ve put an offer on a house. Try telling the me of one year ago what life today would look like and I’d have asked you what you were drinking (and where I could get a bottle).

Like I said, it’s been a year. Up to a certain point I kept thinking how I must write a blog to catch it up to my current life, but within the space of mere weeks that felt like an impossible ask. Even this, in all its length, barely scratches the surface.

I just can’t help shaking the feeling that I’m living in the “after.” Life after losing a parent, after returning to Aotearoa. After life as we knew it across the globe feels like a distant memory. After a global movement, kick-started as the breath was knelt out of one man’s lungs, shook something awake in me I don’t want to fall back to sleep.

I’ve tried countless times these last few months to pick up the threads of this blog, but due to reasons both beyond my own world and within it, every attempt feels disingenuous. Where do I start? How do I write like I used to? I live in a different world from the girl whose blog this is, and I won’t ever be able to get back to hers. But that’s OK. It’s simply time to close this chapter.

So, let this be a time capsule of a time in my life. An extraordinarily beautiful time, all the more so for the hindsight I see it with. I had vague hopes when I started it at 23 of it Becoming Something, but at the heart of it, I did it for the same reason I do my New Year’s letters each December and in that capacity, it has exceeded expectations. I did it for myself, for the sheer joy I get out of writing. I fully intend to continue writing, it just won’t look like this anymore.

To anyone who has read even one post, thank you. I was always so humbled to hear anyone read it and found some level of value in it. It’s been lovely to share these parts of my life here, and to air some of the more raging internal discussions I have with myself somewhere it could be accessed by others, and generate discussion. It’s been a real joy and a hell of a seven years… thank you for coming along for the ride.

A selfie for selfies' sake, upon finishing writing this post. Sun shining, coffee in hand, cat on laptop... feeling positive.