From Somewhere, in Limbo

We’ve all been finding new ways to fill our time, or at least finding ourselves filling time with tasks that never really needed doing. High on the agenda for me this week was sorting through the piles of old notebooks and half-filled journals that previous versions of me once thought they’d fill.

Most of these books are filled with something between inane drivel and angst – the sort of thing that curls your toes when you wonder what on earth may have inspired the past you to put pen to coffee-stained page in that moment. But one particular book did stand out: a journal I’d started a decade ago, almost to the day, of a trip to Thailand that a 20-year-old me had taken.

It wasn’t the total juxtaposition of now and then that grabbed me though: the freedom of somebody on the cusp of adulthood truly experiencing the world for themselves for the first time, compared to a 30-year-old that had been locked inside the same four walls for five weeks. It was the exact similarity of where I am right now, to where I was right then, in my first entry of the journal:

“April 2nd, 2010 – On a plane somewhere above Iraq.

…I think we’ve been in the air for nearly five hours, but it doesn’t feel
like it at all. I’ve had an endless supply of movies and free drinks to keep
me going. It’s weird to think that directly below us is a country in
turmoil, and here we all are, happily filling our faces and numbing our
brains….”

Ten years later, and I could be on that plane again, locked in time as the realities of the world pass by below me, existing only as abstract concepts brought to life by the news and new signage in supermarkets. The truth is, I’ve always enjoyed plane journeys, in spite of their obvious discomfort. There’s always been a strange sense of peace in the idea of quite literally being suspended above the world, somewhere in limbo.

See, on a plane, you exist in an almost quantum state of potential. Whilst you’re up there, there really isn’t a lot that you can do. During those rare hours, the outside world is no longer any of your business, and you are no business of it. As you’re passing helplessly through time-zones, time itself ceases to really matter. As you’re passing from one place to another, you can only ever be somewhere. When your only real responsibilities are to not kick the chair in front or cause chaos by attempting to leap out of the cabin door; you can, at last, breathe. In your new-found quantum state, you can take comfort in the fact that the world really does not revolve around you. You can do nothing but wait, and fill that time as best you know how.

Limbo is a place of waiting. A place of nowhere. A place to consider the above and the below; what was and what might be. And that’s where the attraction has always been for me. Perhaps I should feel guilty for wanting this lockdown to go on just a little longer while the real world outside struggles, just like that subtle pang of guilt I felt up there in the clouds a decade ago.

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