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I adopted TikTok’s ‘floating rock theory’ to deal with life’s uncertainty, here’s what happened

Words by Genevieve Phelan

Reckless or revolutionary self-talk?

It was during an Italian BYO dinner party when a friend posed the idea of the ‘floating rock theory’ to me. A supporter of the unofficial theory, she explained “We all live on a floating rock and will be in the ground one day”.

Morbidity aside, this concept is an incredibly popular topic of discussion on TikTok and is designed to prompt spontaneity in its devotees. 


Interested to see how others navigate the world? Head to our Life section for more.


This friend proceeded to ask the waiter serving our 10-person table “What’s the name of your pizza chef over there? He looks really familiar” (a lie). We’d been gawking at the rugged hunk of a pizza maker flipping dough in socks and birks, covered head-to-toe in sex appeal and flour. 

That confident question got us the name and life story of the ex-sportsman flipping our focaccia. On the way out that night, my friend went up and high fived the chef, said something ballsy and strutted out of the venue into our fits of laughter.

“FLOATING ROCK!” was her response. And so it got me thinking about leading a week-ish of giving things a red hot go when I felt nervous and uncertain, to see what might happen. Maybe I could use this vivid concept of our impending mortality and the randomness of life to avoid sinking into a rut, languishing in the romantic waiting room that is my early twenties.  

Love

I’d say I’m a pretty impulsive person, but I simultaneously overthink the little things. I’m measured but capricious, throwing caution to the wind one day and being worryingly weary the next. 

My first course of action was to go on a date with someone I’d been speaking to for a couple of weeks in lockdown, but felt very angsty RE meeting in the flesh. I said yes, and did the booking myself. 

This was a daytime (lunch) date. Give me a moody wine bar after knockoffs on a Friday with a friend and I’ll be okay, but send me there in an Uber sober in the sunlight at a socially distanced, large Melbourne institution and I’ll be damned.

@manicpinterestdreamgirl#fyp #xyzbca #wieiad #foryoupage #existential #floatingrock #justvibing♬ Be My Baby – The Ronettes

It was the only time we could tee up as he lived regionally (aka far away from me). I was shaking on the way in. The date was lovely and I had a nice time. Floating rock, one point to you. 

I said yes to yet another date during this experiment. This one was planned with pace. We spoke sparsely for a couple of days, he suggested a drink on Wednesday night and I just went for it with a forward “Friday?” Dinner was then booked.

We’d hardly chatted much which I thought might be a good thing. Fewer expectations, more spontaneity etc. But my impromptu planning led to an overall underwhelming interaction. Dinner was divine, the venue was peak romance, but the chat was not there.

A girlfriend once described a first date as ‘40 points of ID’ in which you must gather information about them to deduce whether “You can see them throwing you against a wall”. But while accruing the former I learnt the latter was impossible.

He asked me back to his for a wine and I awkwardly struggled through a decline. The Yes Man-ing halted, and my floating rock-ery left me feeling a bit disenchanted.

It’s worth noting that I reverse-engineered my ad hoc dates above. After the events themselves, I used the opportunity to be more assertive when I actually don’t vibe something with someone. Instead of telling both dates some weird BS excuse as to why I couldn’t see them again, or ghosting them forever, I just sent messages that were honest.

They both read a variation of “I don’t think I am feeling it on a romantic level, but it was really lovely to meet you, x.” This felt at first hard but eventually highly relieving and good for me. Other people are out there living on the floating rock too, so why waste their time?

Life 

Last Thursday after work, with the floating rock theory in mind, I decided against a quiet night and opted for a pub gathering. The night –and I cannot stress this enough – escalated quickly. We stayed ’til close, ordered enough rounds for a small army and kicked on. First, it was to my place, then a friend’s. I must reiterate it was all on a Thursday.

“Am I wasting my young years?” The London Grammar lyric had stuck in my head and driven me to reckless decision-making that week. I missed my SoulCycle class the next morning, so this was not my finest crack at living with purpose.

I did, however, attend one of those aforementioned SoulCycle classes with limited capacity post-lockdown, leaving absolutely nowhere to hide on one of the 10 bikes in the room instead of 30 plus.

I was really ready to cancel that one, but floating rock. Who actually is looking at me? Who cares? Today, I sat front and centre, the middle bike in the first row. I survived to tell the tale.

Work

I dropped back my part-time hours to nurture my freelance work some more, allowing for a day in the middle of the week to play catch-up and get my shit together. I wasn’t coping and I find asking for things really difficult, so this was a pretty big deal for me.

Last week was my first one with a Wednesday dedicated to freelancing, and I feel so much relief because of it. I think this was the move that brought me the most clarity of all. 

One thing I have deliberately engaged in since considering life’s transience is that caring what everyone else thinks about me is the biggest waste of my time and energy. Last week I didn’t respond to calls. I left some messages for a few days.

I wasn’t so readily available and grossly reachable. I know I didn’t go skydiving or get a tattoo or adopt a dog during this investigation, but I did do things that seem hugely ‘scary’ to me. I responded to a Linkedin message flagging an exciting opportunity with me, and have given it a red hot go.

I’ve eaten potato cakes from Lambs on Richmond instead of telling myself my arms will be fatter if I even look at one of those heavenly golden discs. I’ve tried to be more honest with girlfriends. 

But when I woke up the other morning off the back of that ludicrous Thursday and the random Friday date feeling rather worse for wear, I couldn’t help but crave some exceptionally boring decision-making.

I went for the hat trick of three nights in a row (never a good idea) and ended up feeling delirious, disappointed in my romantic shortcomings and dismayed at where saying ‘yes’ too much had landed me.

In the stark light of my bathroom mirror, I thought ‘You idiot’. I’d floating rock-d myself to a physical rock bottom, all eyebags and tired feet and mascara everywhere from living the fast life.

All I could think about was how much better spent that time could have been on completing a few pressing copywriting projects, getting ahead of my schedule and writing/reading some stuff I’d been meaning to. 

So in summary, where did doing the things that make me nervy get me? 

  • I realised life is transient and fleeting. But I don’t think our decisions all have to be. 
  • This experiment was a lesson in making the right choices, not the reckless, out-of-boredom ones. Sometimes, it’s hard to discern which is which as both can be daunting and hard. The difference is, the real ‘floating rock’ choices are the ones that take your nerves and fears and turn them into meaningful outcomes. 
  • Having fun is great until you wake up feeling forlorn the next morning.
  • You can do the things you don’t think you can. Stop rejecting yourself.
  • I’ve realised I am fallible. Impetuous Thursday nights are now cancelled.
  • I think the novelty of going on first dates off apps has finally really, truly expired for me. We’re going on a break, for real this time.
  • I’ve learnt it’s best to come clean when you’re not interested. Be straight to the point but polite. There’s no point leading someone on to go on a halfhearted second date and prolong the inevitable.
  • For the next fortnight, my floating rock choices won’t be dramatic or anecdote-worthy at all. They’ll involve prioritising my downtime, daily movement, that new work regime and refocusing my attention on friends over romantic flings. 
  • Sometimes boring choices beat the dramatic ones.

Genevieve Phelan is Fashion Journal’s Lifestyle & Careers Columnist. Her writing fuses introspection with investigation, calling on her own personal anecdotes and the advice of admired experts in the realms of intimacy, money, friendship, careers and love. You can find her here and here.

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