I have always longed for a world without borders. A world where people may travel freely, wherever they wish to go. Where your ability to travel is not determined by your nationality or where you happened to be born.

Yes, I know it’s idealistic … I have been told … but still …

Now of course, we have even more borders, and a world where people may travel freely seems very far away. Our borders have become layered … country borders, state borders, city borders, borders within suburbs and in some cases, within houses.

White goat with black markings, trapped in a makeshift wooden enclosure.
Black and white magpie looking at the camera, whilst standing on the kerb of a roadside, next to a red-paved verge.

It has made connecting quite challenging, relying on technology to make contact – Zoom, FaceTime, WhatsApp, Teams, Google Meet, etc. Don’t get me wrong, the technology has been a great way to stay in contact with friends, families, colleagues, clients … 

For some, even when there has been no lockdown, technology has become the preferred contact/meeting option. It makes sense; no need to travel to and from a meeting, no need to look and pay for parking, no need to find someone to mind the kids or the dog, no need to wear pants …

What happens though, when we get too comfortable with borders, too comfortable with Zoom meetings? What happens when we forget how to interact in person or when we struggle with the thought of going out?

This can happen outside of the current pandemic world, though I think it is exacerbated by it.

There are times when we add strength/layers to those borders, shutting ourselves into our own special bubble. Those times when we choose to email instead of call, meet up on Zoom rather than in person, FaceTime or WhatsApp without our video turned on. Where we avoid going out even when we are allowed to because it has become easier, it feels safer to stay where we are. It’s more comfortable – remember, we need to wear pants when we go out ….

When this happens we can become fixed, narrowing our world until we are no longer free, even when those external borders are gone. We end up like a fish in a bowl, stuck in one place. 

Sketch of a girl wearing bathers, sitting in a fish and bowl blowing bubbles, while a fish watches from the outside.

One of the team sketched this drawing and pointedly, at least to me, put the fish on the outside – a fish would probably know to swim off to freedom once the border of the bowl was removed.

How do we avoid strengthening life’s borders when they don’t have to be strengthened?

Recently I have changed my professional focus, leaving a full time job to concentrate solely on my own business, Mental Strides. This means that unless I am out and about training, running workshops or meeting with people in person, I am cocooned in my rather pleasant office, in my rather pleasant house with its pleasant yard. On those days I can easily not venture out at all – no need for pants even – but this sketch has made me cautious.

To keep me in check, I schedule outside somethings on those ‘home’ days – coffee catch-ups, adventures with a grandchild, walks with the dog, getting out into nature, op shopping, painting, calling someone I haven’t talked to in a while … 

This is helping me to keep my borders lean, flexible and removable.

Two black swans and six cygnets, swimming on a tree-lined lake, with a duck in the background.

About the Author

Engel Prendergast, Mental Health Consultant, Mental Strides

Engel Prendergast is a Mental Health Consultant, working with organisations and groups to build a culture that supports good mental health.

Engel is an accredited Mental Health First Aid and safeTALK Instructor, and Lifeline Crisis Supporter and Mentor. She holds a Bachelor of Science (Health Promotion), Diploma of Counselling, and a Certificate IV in Training and Assessment.

With natural compassion, a determination to help others and extensive experience in training and facilitation, Engel provides an environment that fosters learning and ownership.

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