I love watching people. I've found public transport locations to be the providers of the entertainment with lots of people coming and going.
Something that has always bemused me is the reluctance to sit next to strangers on public transport. Often people will place their bag on the seat next to them or even take the aisle seat as if daring somebody to crawl over them. There comes a point though when the bus fills up and once someone makes that dreaded eye contact with you, there is no real choice but to allow them the space you have tried so hard to make look unappealing. After the begrudging shuffle to clear the seat, often the next move is the refusal to accept the presence of the intruder. Common methods include staring pointedly out the window, texting or listening to obnoxiously loud music.
Levels of comfort
We all like our space and personal space is important. We all have that friend who hates being hugged and also that friend who will not stop with the hugs. People have different levels of comfort when it comes to physical contact but I don't think many people would say that they like people up close and personal, all the time.
There have been many articles written on the theory of introverts and extroverts being drained and energised respectively by being around people. I have always classed myself in the former camp, needing time to myself for fear of risking the emergence of an even snarkier sense of humour. I think a lot. If I don't have time to process events and conversations then I start feeling anxious and tense.
Away from it all
The last few months have definitely been a test of my ability to keep going and going at a pace that I never would have thought was sustainable. I have been away from my friends and family in New Zealand since the beginning of June, but have filled that void with an essentially 24 hour job at Summer Camp, meeting up with other relatives and travelling around the UK with friends. I hope I can portray how overwhelming this experience has been without letting a tone of ingratitude slip in.
Living in the camp bubble was horrific at times. But had we not all been overtired and muddling through it together, the bonds that were formed would not be as precious as they have turned out to be. Pushing yourself to your limits is a rewarding and necessary thing to do once in a while if you want to grow and find out what you are made of. That doesn't mean however, that there weren't plenty of times that I was internally crying out for some space.
Connecting with family that I had met a long time ago (or not at all) has been one of the best parts of this journey. But just because they're new to you, doesn't mean that there aren't times that you just want a break. Everybody wants to see you having such a good time but sometimes you just want to stop and read a book, or go for a walk or do not much at all.
Travelling with friends is awesome. You are seeing things for the first time together, enjoying being tourists, hating being tourists and trying to cram in as much as you can for a little money as you can. After weeks of being with someone almost 24/7, it is only natural that you need to do your own thing. In fact, ignoring this need is very dangerous in the long term.
Everyone gets a bit grumpy but suppressed feelings of being smothered can manifest themselves in some ugly ways. It's kind of like when you have a dream where a friend does something really horrible to you and you wake up thinking "that sneaky traitor" (or some equivalent) and you kind of have to monitor your behaviour towards them because they can't help what your brain made them do in your dream but for some reason that feeling of annoyance doesn't always automatically disappear. Well acting on your feelings of being smothered is almost as unreasonable and an afternoon of solo activities is usually an effective remedy.
Space from God
Something I wasn't expecting to be feeling during this experience though, was space from God. And not just an afternoon off from each other but like a big huge chasm of space. I don't know if it's not having my church community to rely on or a lack of discipline on my part but I just feel like He is very far away.
To be honest, when I left home I was exhausted with Church. I felt like I was turning up and doing my duties and leaving without a message or phrase or anything that I would take into my week to digest. It's not that I felt like God was not around at all but he just seemed to be observing, not really saying anything to me.
I have seen some awesome sights of nature at its most powerful and beautiful. I have witnessed some enormous acts of generosity and kindness. I have experienced the best of creation and human nature, so in that way I feel like I have experienced God. But I haven't really talked to him. I went to a friend's church service and felt more like a fly on the wall than a participant. Not an imposter, but definitely a stranger.
Despite how it may sound though, I'm beginning to feel like maybe this is okay. There have been some huge developments in my life and I can see evidence of His hand in it so I don't feel totally abandoned. Maybe God is giving me some space. Space to process what I have been doing and consolidating lessons learned. Maybe this is a period of measuring how far I have come.
Growth and change
A relationship is a living thing. It is constantly growing and changing. Refusing to acknowledge or adapt to change can only hinder the relationship in the long run.
The best friends are the ones you don't need to see all the time but when you do, you feel as close to them as you ever did.
God is often described as the Father. Not just the Father of Jesus but the Father of the human race.
Think about how your relationship with your parents changes as you grow. Periods of closeness and clashing; times of reliance and independence. Your parents don't teach you to walk and then insist on holding your hand all the time, but they are always there when you fall.
Helen McIntosh is a 21 year old trying to create more than she consumes. Writing is a way of banishing any circulating thoughts to make way for the new.
Helen McIntosh's previous articles may be viewed at www.pressserviceinternational.org/helen-mcintosh.html