I used to live in what we Lankans like to call dotey.

Dotey is an all-encompassing term city folk use to describe suburbia: living in the ass end of nowhere like Wattala or Malabe or Buthgamuwa Road. Yes, I used to live there too, embracing some hippie ideology that living far away from honking horns was the only way to really live. Away from everything, where my creativity would soar; where I would feel free and unshackled by the pace of city life. So off I went about a decade ago, bags packed, kitchen sink and canines in tow, to the backwaters of Mirihana and Kotte.

Since then and until January this year, this is a snapshot of what my life looked like:

Always late to meetings. Child on a warning list at school for repeated late arrivals. Homework half done and his breakfast half eaten on the road. My hair frazzled, lipstick smeared and starving until lunchtime. Usually there’s a coffee stain on my top from having to wolf down hot liquid in under 2 minutes like my life depended on it. And it did. My social life also came to a grinding halt. Because once you fight through angry drivers for an hour and something in traffic, you just want to take your bra off and lounge on the couch until the next morning when it all begins again. Days passed me by like this, without even knowing I was there. And this was supposed to be the dream? Hippie my ass.

I should also add that I hate traffic. You seem to be sitting in one place, feeling like you’re going nowhere. It had started to become an analogy for my life. Living dotey had suddenly stopped being so alluring. It had become the thief of time.

So, this January bags packed again I ran back to the city that I had once left, thinking I would never come back. How wrong had I been? Sometimes it’s ok to go back, I thought. It’s ok to admit you have been wrong.

The snapshot of my life is different. Because time is now a given and not a thief.

Mornings are mellower, I sleep in longer and sip my coffee slowly, seated by a 3rd floor window, wind my hair and where traffic is a distant siren from time to time. I get to meetings in under ten minutes and the kid gets to school on time. And friends know what I look like, without having to depend on Instagram filters of selfies shot in cars and tuk tuks that make me look better than I actually do. Sometimes, I just sit around doing nothing, just because I can.

I now wonder what it means to be free and unshackled by the city because life is better again. I am still a free spirit and the only difference is that I have the time to explore what that means now, instead of living my life on moving wheels which didn’t seem to be getting me anywhere. Who said you can’t be a hippie in the city? Especially in this city, where trees grow in abundance and we are still far away from becoming an urban jungle. If I lived in New York or London, I might not say the same thing, but my home is Colombo and what a beautiful city she still is.

Maybe 20 years from now, dotey will call again. But for now, I am happy where I am.

A Column by Natalie Soysa – 26/07/2019