New Year’s Resolution

Adventures, as Bilbo Baggins once pointed out, are “nasty, disturbing, uncomfortable things! Make you late for dinner!” As a child I of course paid him little mind – adventures were the stuff of my most favourite dreams and games and stories. I gobbled up The Hobbit and the Indiana Jones films and Star Trek and Mysterious Cities of Gold and other grand tales of high adventure and exploration with a fervent appetite, resolving that when I grew up I too would boldly go and explore the world. I was a determined child, it appears – I’m quite struck with amazement sometimes when I realise that I have ended up with exactly the kind of job that seven-year-old Gill would have approved of – frequently jetting off to remote corners of the planet, hacking my way through the rainforest and trading stories, goods and friendships with hunter-gatherers. I’m immensely lucky. But thirty-year-old Gill is painfully aware of the truth of Bilbo’s words – of the price that must be paid to fulfil seven-year-old Gill’s wild dreams of derring do. Adventures, no matter how much you prepare, are as utterly terrifying as they are fantastical. I guess that’s kind of the point.

Five years ago I went to live and work in The Philippines for a bit. I uprooted myself from my comfortable life in the UK, where I lived in Cambridge with my boyfriend and a cat and a big television and an income that bought all the middle-class organic food and sauvignon blanc I could ever ask for. I knew I needed a big, amazing adventure or I’d go crazy. And yet, for the first few months of that big, amazing adventure, all I could think about was counting down the days until it ended. I *literally* crossed them off on my calendar. I had an end goal in sight – that delicious moment when I would walk back through the door of my home at the end of the year, adventure over and done with, to be welcomed again by boyfriend and cat and a big glass of sauvignon blanc, and pick up my life once more where I’d left off. The thought of that moment kept me going through a lot of the lonelier, harder, scarier times in The Philippines (and there were many of those). Yet, ultimately, the moment never came. By the time I returned to the UK my relationship had fallen to bits and I rocked up heartbroken and homeless. I moved to London to seek my fortune and build my life anew. I’d spent months wishing my adventure away for a future that would never be; I laughed at the bitter irony of that, and I resolved never to do it again.

Seven-year-old Gill might have been determined; thirty-year-old Gill is a regular fucking mule. This year I am once again going on a big, amazing adventure. I’ll be spending around 9 months in total in the Congo doing fieldwork for my PhD, and, I’ll be honest with you, I’m bloody terrified. I’m happy to admit to that – I think not enough people tell you when they’re terrified, even though most confident-seeming people probably are quite a lot of the time. I’m terrified because deadly snakes and nasty wormy things that come and live in your stomach, and I’m terrified because responsibility for large, complex, risky projects, and I’m terrified because anthropological fieldwork is really *really* lonely a lot of the time. But most of all I’m terrified because, four years after I moved to London to seek my fortune, I’ve ended up much happier and more settled than I’ve ever been before. I love my life here. I want to come back to it and carry it on. But I also know that if I wasn’t going on this big, amazing adventure I’d probably go crazy here too; seven-year-old Gill’s determined influence remains strong. And that’s why I’ve made a New Year’s resolution for 2015 – that however nasty, disturbing and uncomfortable it gets, and no matter how much I want to be home again for dinner, *I will not wish this year away*.

See you on the other side dudes… but not before it’s time.

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