As a control-minded person, I never quite realised that having too much of it was making me more anxious, not less.
It's quite the paradox that I only realised during recent overseas travels to Spain and Italy when nothing was in power, yet my anxiety was at an all-time low.
I now live in Wellington, a city where it's easy to control pretty much everything in your life.
Everything works here. Trains run on time and traffic flow is predictable. When you ask people for anything – whether your friends, your pharmacist, or the teller at your bank – you will normally get them. Food and coffee will never disappoint you. Weekend social activities go pretty much exactly as planned.
This efficient Capital's lifestyle has conditioned me to think everything in my life is within my will. It extends far beyond the above administration: I've been led to believe I can take charge with all things work-related (and always come out on top), that I can pick and choose my friends, clients, and colleagues so they never leave me hanging, and even that I can even proactively ensure few things rarely go awry in my relationship.
As such, in my New Zealand life I worry things won't go to plan, and the result is concern and worry. This is because I feel like I've lost control I should have been able to maintain.
The experiences I've had in Europe in recent weeks threw these beliefs out the door. In said Mediterranean countries, worrying is like walking behind an Italian man on a busy street when you're in a rush. You ain't going nowhere. You have zero control. You must just accept what may be.
Life is famously unreliable in southern Europe. From people to public infrastructure, nothing runs on time. Everything is slow – I've been telling people I use the "20/20/20" rule when eating or drinking out (which means it takes 20 minutes after sitting at a table to be acknowledged by wait staff, 20 minutes to be brought a menu, 20 minutes for your first drink to arrive...) When travelling in airports or train stations, nothing would ever go as it should. There was simply no point in keeping a schedule – the kind of idea that freaks me out at home. The only thing I could plan on was everything not going to plan.
Yet, such heralded a form of acceptance. No matter what went wrong with my day in Barcelona or Rome (e.g. I was three hours late, my apartment keys wouldn't work, I was ripped off by a taxi driver, I needed a supermarket but one wouldn't be open for 24 hours because it was a Sunday) I dealt with it. I survived.
I accepted what was, that it made me uncomfortable, and there was nothing – seriously, nothing – I could do except wait it out. So I'd just walk at 1/3 of my normal pace like everyone else.
This sort of mentality is one I dream of having in my regular life. Imagine having the ability to just accept that nothing will go to plan, but you'll figure it out anyway? It's incomprehensible for my little Kiwi brain.
As I arrived home in Wellington after more than 30 hours of flying, having no sleep (something that stresses me to a maximum level at home), I got in an airport shuttle. It took longer than it should and was more expensive than I expected, and – even though I'd been back in New Zealand mere hours – I felt myself becoming tense about it.
I was searching for ways I could have controlled this situation better: should I have ordered an Uber? Should I have negotiated the price? Should I have left my car at the airport so I could drive myself?
None of those thoughts would have crossed my mind during my European trip, and I was all the better for it. I was concern-free for weeks, and managed to power my way through my days with no regrets, and no worries.
Now, what I have absolutely no idea how to do, is re-apply that same easygoing state to my usual New Zealand lifestyle.