Living for joy: notes on my trip to South Africa and return to London

I forgot why I am came to London. I came here to live for joy. I want to withdraw everything from life’s joy register. “I might not be rich for money, but I’m a millionaire. I debonair with no cares” sang a sultry singer once 😉. 

But honestly, I’ve become tired. So damn tired. Immersed in exhaustion and worn out to my bones. Withdrawn and shriveled up. Large and fast-paced cities can tear strips from a person. 

You see, I am a workaholic. This is the first time that I’ve said it without any overtones of pride. I work to blackout. More than any other addiction that I’ve been blessed with, this one, is moerse bitch. I work to avoid feeling the anxiety that plagues me. “You’re running out of time, falling behind, you’re wasting time, you’re going to end up under a bridge, you’re not doing enough, you’re almost 40 and you’ve fucked up, no money, no nothing...” 

It’s quite simple: I use work to avoid these feelings. 

During my first week in South Africa, I crashed. I had no routine, no schedule and it shook my inner world like a magnitude 12 earthquake. Routines are my guardrails. They’re the steel mesh fences keeping the wild animals at bay. Nasty beasts gnashing their teeth. The fences are control. 

 

What will happen if I lose control? Am I less of a person because I decided to check out of the rat race? Because I structure my day around doing what I want and not what someone else wants from me? If I could do whatever I want I would: be 100% unfocused. I would wake up, do a little work (to pay the bills, of course), read, play piano, learn something new and arbitrary (probably about renaissance music or British royalty), visit a coffee shop and talk to people, then people watch, What’s wrong with a life like this? I don’t owe society anything more than what I take from it. 

What if I am happy just getting by? 

Ah! What a thought. 

 

You’re a millennial. Check your phone. Check social media. 

** Opens Instagram ** 

!!!MUSICIANS EVERYWHERE DOING WHAT YOU SHOULD BE DOING!!! 

Cue Britney Spears: you want to look hot in a bikini? You better work bitch! 

AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! 

** Hyperventilate ** 

** Panic ** 

** Stress ** 

“Look,” says my mercenary ego with knife to my throat, “either you get on a damn plane and go back to the rat race or you enjoy the time off!” 

Choice is so simple when the stakes feel overwhelming. And what choice did I have? I couldn’t afford to change my flight and I knew I’d be furious at myself. I chose to lean in to the moment and enjoy it (and keep off social media). 

My final week in South Africa was just glorious. EXACTLY what I was craving: to feel joy again, to be curious by life, to have deep thoughts. My creativity was super charged. I reflected so much ON creativity. I found lost thoughts and ideas. Some of them just needed dusting off. 

And so, I found some perspective. It’s funny how perspective changes everything.  Allow me a moment of surrealism: I’m holding on for dear life to a horse, petrified and hurtling towards a cliff. Obviously I can see this. A random pterodactyl swoops in from nowhere and grabs me, lifts me up a little (and keeping up with the horse). I look down and realize, OH SHIT! I am NOT the horse. Then the lizard-bird drops me back onto the horse and pisses off back 65 million years ago. I gently put my arms around the panicked horse and whisper in its ears “whoa boy, whoa. It’s OK.” 

Did you know that the silence of nature cleanses the ears? I’m telling you! It does! I discovered this whilst visiting a friend who lives on a fruit farm far outside of Cape Town. So much noise had accumulated in my ears from London that I couldn’t hear my own thoughts anymore. So the silent choir of fruit trees sang to me so sweetly that the gunk and grime clogging my ears just fell out. 

So now I’m back and what do I do with all this perspective? 

Well I’ve come to realize a few things. 

I accept my inner world and all its turmoil. I can’t always explain it. I don’t mean any harm by it. They’re there and they impact me so much. Regardless, I am not a bad person or a failure. 

I’m doing the best that I can in a world that actually wants me to be a mediocre human being so that it can exploit me and sell meaningless shit to me. And I’m doing this sober, which is quite something. I made mistakes and that’s OK. I’ve mostly done the work necessary to forgive myself so that I can focus on the present moment. 

Most importantly, I DO NOT want to write shit music. Learning techniques and ways to not write shit music takes a lot of time and energy.    


Home always felt so far away.

But lately, it feels closer. 

Only seeing the massive grin on my face when I arrived in Cape Town could do justice to express how happy I am in Cape Town. 

There really is something magical about the mountain. 

It gathers all time towards it. 

My heart is in South Africa and my life is in London. 

For now that is. 

I came here to live for joy 

And ended up working for fear 

I remember now. 

I am addicted to my thoughts 

This must change. 

In August I will start busking and will take another step closer to doing what I enjoy: more than anything, I love performing and making people happy. 

I’ve also just finished a course on music composition and will apply what I’ve learned to my next song, Too Many Pieces. 

I’ve come away from South Africa feeling spiritual (even though I don’t believe in spirits). 

I’ve climbed out that pothole in a puddle and a puddle in a pothole. 

I am addicted to my thoughts. 

That doesn’t make them real. 

Remember that. 

I want to work to chase joy. 

I want to live for joy.

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