Up In the Air


I write from up in the air: literally, as I fly over the channel on my way to Grenoble, and figuratively, as, with my life packed into two suitcases, I find myself suspended in the transition from one life to another.

Perfectionists amongst you will relate as I confess that I struggle with transitions. I find the process of trial and error excruciatingly painful; if I can’t get it right the first time, overcome with shame, I’m likely to stop trying all together.

Like in the Bond theme ‘You Only Live Twice’, this attitude leads to a sort of splitting of lives; ‘one life for yourself, and one for your dreams’. For many, the life of our dreams is the life we would be living ‘if only’: if only I were richer, if only I were smarter, if only I weren’t afraid. Meanwhile, our real lives, the ones for ourselves, are lived from the safety of our comfort zones, where Netflix is readily available to fill the spaces of time we might use to work on making our dream life the reality.

Of course, we do not only live twice; happiness lies in merging the life of your dreams with your reality.

Having struggled with anxiety throughout my adolescence, the move to Grenoble marks for me a significant movement in the right direction. I’ve been in love with French for years, and yet I still remember the jolt of fear I felt as I confirmed university courses, all with a year abroad. Despite having studied French for years, I ‘couldn’t speak French’ and the idea of being plonked in a different country surrounded by people I couldn’t communicate with filled me with nausea. But somewhere inside me, buried under the waves of anxiety, must’ve been voice that said ‘I can do this,’ because all of a sudden, here I am, on a plane to my new home, teetering on the threshold between the lives of “I couldn’t possibly” and “I can”.

As well as for me personally, it feels as though in life we might be on the threshold of something new. As the typical structures of our political systems collapse and younger generations show a keen interest in making a better world, the sense of change in the air feels almost tangible. Every day, more and more people care about what’s in the food they eat, in the medicines they take and the fabrics they wear. Perhaps, while we might look around and see chaos, the little changes, the things we can do every day to be better to ourselves and our planet allow us to exert some control in our lives. As collective consciousness evolves, the potential snowball effect presents exciting prospects for all; new ways to lead business, new ways to consume, new ways to live.

I wanted to start this blog to work out the conundrum of being a fashion lover and an environmentalist. For two years I’ve told myself that my opinion wasn’t valid: though I’ve been clothes-shopping sustainably for almost a year now, I still own and regularly wear clothes that were made in less than honest conditions. However, now as I sit at my desk in my university accommodation, looking out at the majestic Alps, I’m reminded that this excuse is simply self-scaremongering. You needn’t be a vegan to eat in an environmentally conscious way, you needn’t lead the life of a monk to have a positive social impact on the world. The fear of disappointment you might feel because you forgot to bring your own shopping bag, or can’t recycle everything you buy perfectly shouldn’t stop you from trying the other 99% of the time.

Standing on this precipice, we mustn’t let the fear of what’s on the other side of the ravine stop us from making the jump, lest the ground on which we stand, ground which rapidly falls away behind us, disappears all together. We haven’t the time to be perfectionists, neither in following our dreams or in living sustainably. Life is simply too short.