Germany began with my husband and I in different countries. Because our marriage pastor was lazy, we were only legally married in the system ages after our February wedding. This meant that I could not get a visa, which meant that only after two months, three months of our brand new marriage were spent really far away. The other problem was that I was essentially homeless in South Africa because we had moved out of our apartment in preparation. I lived out of a suitcase at my parents’ until the visa would come. We had no idea when, and this not knowing is the worst part of anything. Staying with my parents was restorative. I allowed my parents to look after me. Restorative. But I still had nothing to actually do. No job. No hobbies. Not even something to clean.
And so I started a project I had seen and never got around to. Project Life. And Project Life showed me that I was actually doing things and not completely useless during this transition period of “nothing”. It also made me say yes to a lot of things just so that I could take new photos. Along with my parents, Project Life saved me from a depression. Now Project Life still isn’t quite in South Africa, so in 2013 it was even less there. I had to be really active in the way I looked for it. I could only use digital products or scrapbooking paper from the early 2000s. So I was using almost exclusively Paislee Press. That’s how I discovered that whole world. I discovered that creative teams meant that you got to use your favourite products that you would use anyway, but be paid for it. I applied to be on the Paislee Press creative team.
When I look back at what I was making, I have no idea why Liz said yes to me. This truly changed my life. It was reinforcement that what I was doing mattered enough that someone actually wanted me using her products and showing people. It was reinforcement that this was a worthwhile project that other weirdos were doing too. It forced me to keep doing this, if only to make stuff that’s not utterly crap to put on the Paislee Press blog. I couldn’t simply stop doing this like I had done with any other hobby before. This was something that had to continue.
I put that exciting email from Liz as a big photo in my album. And then my visa came. I went to Germany.
In Germany, everything was magical. It had castles, and fairy tea and dogs and nice people and beer drinking in the cinema. Germany had Amazon and Scrapbook Werkstatt and really great internet. Germany had adventures. Over time, these adventures were reserved for weekends since T had to do the thing we came here for and work. After a trip to France, after Lübeck and Heidelberg, after Rome and Tuscany, and Greek islands keeping me busy, I had five straight days with nothing to fill my time until T and I could do something.
I had an entire year during which it was literally illegal for me to work. We joked and said that I had retired at 25. So I had a year to do all the things I ever dreamed of doing. Except the problem was that I never had any dreams. What did I want? Who did I want to be? I had NO idea.
There was no big life revelation that happened, no core changing life event. This was not a confetti-filled revelation, nor a Eureka moment. This was a slow change.
I looked at my current life and the tiniest, tiniest part of me whispered at the possibility of more. After 25 years of suppressing that voice, I’m not sure how I heard it. At the time, there was absolutely nothing wrong with my life that I could see. Looking back I can be more objective about it and know that the way I was living was directly contributing to my depression. My relationships suffered. There are big stretches of time that I couldn’t account for even directly after they happened. I wasn’t living to my potential.
I still hate that word, it feels dirty on my lips (or fingertips).
That’s why the negatives of passive living are so difficult to quantify – you can’t quantify the things you’ve missed out on. The true measure is how much you could have done. And could is not a scientific measurement.
After years and years and years of ignoring that voice. I made a list. It wasn’t a grand list by any stretch of the imagination. It was 25 things I wanted to do at 25 years old. It didn’t matter what those 25 things were. It mattered that there were words after each number. After the Paislee Press CT, this was my second step into Actually Doing Something.