A former would-be lover, after realising the concavity of the kind of love and life I wanted to inhabit said something that has stayed with me. There is a split second between receiving, processing and reacting to information. In that time, I realised he was right. I do live with my head in the clouds. I could not argue or deny the warm feeling of finally being understood, even by way of rejection. It brought into light what I had struggled to find vocabulary for. What I still struggle to understand, though, is why there are so few of us up here.
If you were in a grocery store and the manager said you had an hour to spend $5000, you would go mad. You would get what you really wanted but often deny yourself. You would try a bunch of new stuff and see how it goes. Sometimes the doorway to your passion and purpose is to try a bunch of stuff and see how it goes. This sort of abandon requires a sense of detachment from imposed parameters. And if you find yourself with more interests than socially prescribed? You live and embody them all. Embracing our complexities is what turns our juxtapositions into art.
To live in the clouds is to choose creating over conformity.
This thought may appear dangerous in third world and developing countries because we are often a salary or a bread winner’s death away from poverty and utter demise. We are socially primed to have one fire-proof plan – a ‘reliable’ university degree. But the reality is that most eighteen-year-olds cannot truly grasps what they are getting themselves into until they form a generation of middle-class South Africans stuck in jobs and lives they hate – feet painfully nailed to the ground by the demands of life.
In contrast, many of the working-class people I have met in the UK have had nine lives. They often have multiple degrees, career paths, and in multiple countries; not as means of survival but as means of education and self-actualisation. The concept of becoming is not at the expense of feeding your village. Nor is it an attempt at curating the perfect career aesthetic – a misplaced projection of #blackexcellence. Instead, life is a collage of experiences, messy, full, lived.
(To the sinical I propose we stick our hands up on the roller-coaster ride because if it is going to kill us then holding on to the bar will not help. If life is set with sudden turns, if we are bound to find ourselves upside down, then wearing rose tinted glasses is not the worst way to go.)
As means of keeping my place in the clouds, of dreaming while awake, I meet with a wondrous group of women and we practice what we have now dubbed writing yoga or yoga for writing. My facilitator, Amy, is a cosmic wonder. It mostly consists of playing with imaginative prompts to create narratives. An exercise might involve visualising a toilet and then becoming a toilet. I know right– the trick is not over-think it. The trick is to find play and nuance in the seemingly mundane. Changing a lens or medium of observation can often change a subject’s definition. If you looked at your life through the lens of child, or through a person on their death bed, your perception of your circumstances might drastically change.
I am not suggesting that we be far removed from the realities of life, but that we can interrogate the restrictions that bind us. We can ask where am I and how did I arrive here? We can create space in our stratosphere for play, joy, expression. Finding your cloud can mean detaching from capitalist notions of ownership (ask me about boat houses later), or pursuing a long-desired dream, unsubscribing from societal norms that no longer serve your growth, or choosing to wait for the kind of love you want. Or, simply, pockets full of beach pebbles.