I would call myself a lot of things, many self-depreciating, but independent is not one of them. Admittedly I enjoy my own company and tend to do most things alone, but I’m starting to think this isn’t a choice I’ve made willingly.
At home I found myself in a monotonous cycle of work, emotional and physical absence and lack of identity. The thought of discovering a new plane, and in turn potentially discovering myself, manifested into a reality – somewhat. I knew I had to go somewhere, anywhere, and it had to be soon.
When I travel there’s always someone to meet on the other side and I treat this much like a safety blanket, one I didn’t have this time around. When I was presented with the opportunity to travel to Israel I thought it was an intriguing prospect, and also something any previous and current medieval history student (or otherwise) should experience at some point. I almost booked a month long trip but decided 3 weeks would be enough time for me to possibly make friends and see what I wanted to see. I managed to bat away the anxieties I felt before leaving my town and told very few people (I love a good Irish exit) as I figured it would make it easier not to discuss the journey I was about to take – alone – and to more or less enter emotional autopilot from the moment I left the Luton runway.
You know that scene in The Inbetweeners 2 when Will loses it with Katie and the double-barrelled prick Ben, and then rips the shit out of their bougie-bohemian mentality? I thought that would be me – or at least me after a couple of beers. I am surprised by how far I was from that, by how much I embraced and how much I did (which some people may still not regard as much) considering my lessening mood. I knew going in that it would be harder for me to make friends than most people and to warm up to a new environment. It was difficult, despite being readily welcomed into a new community, for me to shake the instant feeling that I had made a mistake and that I should go back home and return when the timing was better. Another issue was that the accompanying feeling to this is guilt. You keep telling yourself that you, and potentially others, have invested a lot into this experience and have hyped it up so much you should be enjoying yourself instantly. You should be grateful for each moment, and when you’re not you essentially feel like an unappreciative little bitch.
Overthinking too much? Maybe.
A lot of bottles of cheap Israeli wine were purchased to help me open up a little more, but this was my first time wading through uncharted waters alone so that’s allowed. Despite staying somewhere where there were always people around and almost everyone was acquainted with one another the loneliness continued to creep in. I tried to embrace it, on days where there wasn’t much to do but spend time in my own thoughts I would take walks around Tel Aviv and Old Jaffa. I’d sit on the beach and read. I tried to embark on my own version of Wild by hiking a section of the Israeli National Trail for a good 7 hours, although that just resulted in me getting lost and hitchhiking back to Tel Aviv in a car with around 7 children. Nothing seemed to kick this funk I was in. If anything, the more people I was surrounded with the more I would retreat into this dark space of my mind which was gradually expanding and restricting my sight. I found solace in a few people, but they came and went much like my moments of contentment.
I took these photos on my “Wild” excursion, it made it kind of worth it. More here.
Something that was always a constant, as usual, was music. If you read my previous stream of consciousness bullshit Raising the Dead, you’ll know that Johnny Flynn is now my unofficial therapist. Whilst I’ve been away Flynn not only released the second single from his new album Sillion, Heart Sunk Hank, delivering a sonorous depiction of absence, love and struggle, but he also released Wandering Aengus, leading from W. B. Yeats’s poem of the same name and also for which Simon Ryninks directed a music video “centered around one woman’s moments of abandon”. Flynn’s final single release, Barleycorn, is his take on the traditional English folk song John Barleycorn, a personification of the barley crop. Flynn is once again proving honourable to his folk-influenced qualities and continues to compose alluring melodies and conjure complex, emotional imagery for which I am eternally grateful.
It is this and many other things which helped me to pull through and take the moments I needed to breathe and regroup. Eventually people started to arrive who were in a similar position to me, and we took mutual comfort in our seemingly minute yet overwhelming feelings. I escaped from my mind for a few fleeting hours each day, but that was enough to soak up my surroundings and the company I was in. We spent evenings feeling as if we had found clandestine graves amongst the boisterous Tel Aviv night life in the form of small coffee shops, cheap bars in old markets, beer bazaars and late night street food. Spirits began to lift as my time in Israel was coming to an end – but I guess this is a good thing. I have made new friends and memories, experienced a life where people help one another not for a quid pro quo, but out of kindness. I don’t think I had witnessed that in a while.