“Life is like a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving.”
If you’re feeling a bit romantic, I would recommend watching a movie called Away We Go. It came out shortly after I moved to Australia, though I don’t think it ever made a huge splash in the cinemas. The movie is about a young unmarried, interracial couple, newly pregnant, who decide to find a new home by exploring several cities in which they knew people or had friends. They had high hopes, witty exchanges and nothing to lose by picking up and trying to move on elsewhere.
By the time it had come to our television set, maybe two years later, my then partner and I had already experienced a number of environmental challenges that stood to threaten our relationship. We seriously discussed packing our lives up from Melbourne and trying out a new place. We discussed the Middle-East, Europe, Thailand and South America. We could be just like the couple in the movie…without the baby. Well, without the baby yet.
But as life goes, it didn’t happen. We stayed in Melbourne and tried our best to weather the challenges through immediately accessible support systems, which exhausted themselves around late 2012, so we split up. We never re-enacted the film’s premise. I used to wonder if we would still be together if we had, but I don’t anymore. Both of us moved on long ago.
Instead, I recently found myself in a position where I asked myself if I could do it on my own…no partner, and [still] no baby.
Initially, I had planned a 3-week holiday. London, Amsterdam [possibly Belgium] and Berlin. But after leaving my most current role, completely broken by the madness of it, my thinking expanded to something of infinitely greater significance – what if I didn’t going on a holiday anymore, but a reconnaissance mission to find a new home?
I have lived in Australia longer than I’ve lived anywhere else – 7.5 years. I’m an Australian citizen now. I have friends now…good, amazing, beautiful friends who have sustained me during some extremely tumultuous times. I have a great gym, and a creative community in the form of comedians, writers and artists. I have a flat that I love, mostly because I don’t share it with anyone else, and a kitchen fully stocked with every kind of culinary device you could think of…I also have a red shag rug that proudly declares to ANYONE who enters that you’re in my home. These are all important things [red shag rug included].
I also have a tremendous hole in my heart that has only grown in size and depth from a number of failed professional and personal endeavours, capsized by challenges, many of which, I would argue, are indigenous to Australian life. For all of the good Australia offers, none of which should be dismissed, there are large elements of the culture with which I find myself constantly at odds. It’s often here, at this point, where I find myself particularly aware of what I say, because Australians, more than any other nationality I know, react negatively to criticisms of their culture, especially when articulated by a non-native-born…even if she is a citizen. My audience reduces precipitously when I talk about racism, or sexism or the growing anti-intellectual movement exacerbated by the increasingly xenophobic politics of our current government. These aren’t things that just stop at Parliament…they sneak nefariously into our everyday lives, right down to the water cooler conversation had at work, and the awkward small talk used to break the ice on a first date. You don’t want to hear it, that’s fine. But know this…I have not had a single job, or romantic relationship in that country, unaffected by these things.
So, because I want you to really hear what I’m about to say, I’ll summarize those thoughts and feelings with the following: Increasing bouts of frustration, anxiety and dissatisfaction with…well, the direction of my life, I guess…have led me to re-evaluate every aspect of it, from employment, to romantic relationships…and, last but certainly not least, location, location, location…
In short, it’s time for a change.
I’m not foolish enough to ask for your unmitigated joy. I understand if you’re upset, or angry or sad…or maybe just confused.
What I will ask is for is your understanding and respect. I deserve that, and I demand it.
You might be tempted to accuse me of running…I wouldn’t if I were you.
That’s an accusation I would be more interested in entertaining if it was October 2012, when Josh and I were just splitting up. I thought about running. I almost did.
Instead, I stayed in Melbourne, put myself through Graduate school while working a full-time corporate job for two years before moving into a new role, what I then described as my dream job, as a digital content editor. I did all of this to give myself the best chance of making a self-sustaining life, independent of the relationship that initially took me there. I exhausted every resource available to me to make the kind of life I wanted, and pushed myself in ways unimaginable to create the happiness I deserve.
…aaaaaand it didn’t work.
Three and a half years later, I can safely say that I’m not running…I’m flying. And I’m free to start over.
Somewhere between my last day at work in Sydney and boarding a 26-hour flight to London, I decided that that is exactly what I’ll do. And this series follows the unfolding of that mentality across Europe over the past four weeks.
Someone mentioned to me that my story is just like Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat Pray Love. Minus the “pray” part…and the “love” part…well…*scratches behind ear*
…we’ll get to that.