A nomadic lifestyle has plenty of benefits and drawbacks. Grey skies and holiday season blues can make the minuses sometimes seem greater than the pluses. So now, in the last week at my publishing internship and the last week before I go home to America for Christmas, I’m searching for the positives in transience. Okay, nomadism is a hyperbolic term for my existence – I am not journeying through Vietnam, catching a train in India, or trekking the Andes on an alpaca – but it is true that in the last five-and-a-half years, the longest I’ve stayed in any one place has been 10 months. And still, now that I am in England for what I hope is a long time, the jobs I’ve held have been temporary, my community fleeting, and my time to make a lasting impression, precious. I crave stability but I almost wouldn’t know what to do with it if I got it. My co-workers look a bit dejected at the end of the work day, eagerly awaiting the weekend like nine-to-fivers the world over. Many of them have worked here over two years. I have been here over two months. I bounce into the office, rarely take a lunch break and actually prefer the working week to the weekend… what does this honeymoon feeling say about me (besides that I’m a massive NERD)? I think that because I know this post is temporary, I don’t feel stuck in it, but I am stuck-in enough to be really sad about leaving. So I comfort myself with the bright side.
The clearest benefit to transience seems to be the opportunity for reinvention. This can be in superficial ways: for instance, I used to be a bit of a tomboy. It would surprise many of my school friends that now I sport frilly socks and don’t even own a pair of jeans. If I had suddenly come to school one day in a gown it might have seemed a little left field, so my sartorial efforts began in college. Equally trivial – I’d really like to wear more red lipstick. I didn’t set a precedent for it while in this job so here’s to the next. But this opportunity works in more serious ways too. So much of our identities are shaped by others’ perceptions of us (and of course those perceptions mostly by our behaviours) and so we start to fit into peoples’ expectations of us, which can hinder self-improvement and growth. If you are regularly tardy to the office then you become ‘the late girl’ (purely hypothetical, I assure you) and your lateness becomes expected, almost excused as a personal trait, by others and yourself. A new office is a new chance to be punctual Polly. Or, indeed if you are somewhat meek and therefore walked all over by a boss (not hypothetical, unfortunately) you will naturally strengthen your attitude when dealing with all subsequent bosses – a shift that would be more difficult if remaining in the same established work dynamic.
So in this way, perhaps the silver lining to a succession of temporary situations – whether it be a new country, school or job – is that they can be a catalyst for personal growth, if you make the effort.