21/08/2014 11:33 BST | Updated 20/10/2014 06:59 BST

Roots Versus Wings: The Dilemma of How to be a Grounded Free Spirit


My name's Roberta and I suffer from free-spiritedness. You say: Nine to five job; I wonder what skills I'd require to run away with the circus. My grandma asks: When are you going to get married? My ex-boyfriend said he'd probably have proposed if he hadn't suspected my reaction to a marriage proposal would have been to leave the country.

It's not that I'm entirely commitment adverse. I expect my friends would probably dub me reliable. I believe in doing as I say and I try to communicate clearly and openly. However, for me to commit my heart to a place or a person takes a lot. Unless I'm convinced; unless I deeply trust in that person or in the fit of a place, I keep exploring. When I trust, I engage my whole heart and being.

Sometimes people or places fit for a while then cease to. A friend asked, once: What are you running from? I'm not running. I'm learning. You can go to the ends of the earth but you can't outrun yourself. Ten years ago, a really nasty bout of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome changed my whole life. I'm still in recovery. Ever since those first days of illness, I've been making life changes, following my instinct. It's the only way I know how to live.

This isn't necessarily an easy path. Occasionally I toy with a fantasy of my alternate reality self. She lives in suburban Northwest London, works in an office. She's married to a man, perhaps owns a home. They probably have children. It'd be safe. My grandma would approve. It also isn't me. That life would be a kind of soul death for me.

So I move about, trying on different places to see how they fit. In my mid-twenties I fled London (too urban) for Brighton, lured by the siren song of the sea. I enjoyed Brighton but it was never home. Eventually even that busy seaside town proved too urban for me and I found myself in Devon. Tiredly, I dreamt of a quiet life, of sleepy, lush greenness, clean rivers.

There's more to it than that. I wanted to find a place in which I could put down roots. One day I'll live abroad for a while or go travelling for a drawn out period of time. However, whenever that time is, I want to know I have a place to which I'll eventually return; some sense of home. To feel safe to spread my wings, I must first put down roots.

One day I'd like a settled relationship, but lately I haven't met anyone with whom that feels right and so I date. One day I'll settle down more, but I don't want to settle; don't want to negate what feels right. One day I might want children and I wondered if Devon might be a place to raise them. It offers so much open space for children to roam free in.

Devon's not the place. Two years here and I appreciate its lush beauty, swimming in its rivers and ocean, walking in its woods, but I find myself dreaming of cities again. I'm hungering for city buzz and ethnic diversity. I'll be studying in Bristol from next month and perhaps I'll move there.

Too much countryside for long periods of time and I grow restless. Too much city and I crave wild green space. Somewhere within that I am always longing for the ocean. Short-term housesits afford me the freedom to dip into other landscapes and to try to balance the different needs in myself. For this I'm grateful. I'm trying to find the freedom to fan my wings. I'm hungry for roots. So I keep searching.