I leave Monday. I’m going to Sydney for a week. It’s nearly been three years since I’ve been home to Australia. Time has just rumbled by as I have attended to the needs of my work, my family, my dog, the rented condo, the seasons, the groceries, the diary’s daily entry of must-do-things. My missing of home has lessened, however, mitigated by the regular contact afforded by social technologies. I chat with my family and friends via Facebook and email, Skype and FaceTime. These communication tools have all become so pervasive and easy to access and use, I no longer need to really ‘schedule’ such chats. They can happen on the bus or while I’m walking across campus. Video, audio, text and everything. I carry everyone in my pocket. You all live in my phone. So why does this impending trip feel a little bit strange?
It’s both comforting and alarming that nearly three years have passed since I have set foot on Aussie soil. Let’s do the comforting first.
I’m comforted because I remember the first two years of living here I felt disoriented and misplaced. The mountains were lovely, and many new holidays (hello Halloween!) and experiences of everyday life were charming. The kids and I were open-mouthed fascinated by the smallest aspects of daily life here. Putting our letters to be sent in our own letterbox with the flag up so the postal carrier could collect them; riding bicycles as a primary form of transport but with a backup of buses with bike racks on the front so when we tired, we could just catch the Skip home; and snow. Oh life in an environment of snow. All of this was charming, but it wasn’t all pretty. Those first couple of years were riddled with homesickness, a difficult transition to a new educational and working environment, a home a quarter the size of the one we had in Sydney filled with rented everything, right down to the silverware. Think 2-star beach-house holiday, but with snow, lots of work, and no end in sight. The charm was many, many times blanketed in layers of tears.
After those couple of years I began to let go of some of the things that were hard. They were not going to change. If I was to do more than simply survive our new life here, I needed to adapt. Gently, I loosened my hold on things I “knew” to be true about how life “should” be. I tried to embrace difference. I began hiking more, I took cake decorating classes, and I more firmly connected with other bloggers in addition to the few very close friends I had already made (I don’t know how they tolerated me). I began to allow myself to belong. Oh what a difference it made. What a difference it makes! My circle of friends became real rather than a network of acquaintances. I love my friends and to leave them now would be very painful.
In letting go, I allowed things in. I embraced more of my environment in a spiritual and emotional way. I grew. Over the last few years I’ve grown in confidence, ability, knowledge and most importantly, understanding. I “get” many things. I’m less angry. The roller coaster of losing my mum in 2012 was traveled with people who believed in me and my ability to get through it. I remain comforted by that. Friends, mentors, and advisors who have only known me for six years or less truly want to see me do well and be happy. What a revelation of thinking! When you’re dropped into a foreign place, it’s difficult to come to grips with that. But wow, what a reassuring, warm understanding it is when you arrive at that understanding – that you belong and people actually value you being there.
So, while I am comforted by my journey to now, I’m also alarmed. The prospect of going home has elements of trepidation.
I know Australia is not the same place it was when I was last there. Governments change (oh my word, and how). Major news events happen and disturb people in ways only Australians can understand. New standard practices are introduced – like the Opal transportation card thing. How am I supposed to work that out? The daily way of life is tweaked. Just a bit, but enough that I know it will feel foreign to me.
And some things will be reliably the same. Aussies still drive on the left (uh oh, I haven’t done that in a long time, not even by accident!), Roselands Shopping Centre is still across the road from the swimming pool. You can still catch a train into the city from Beverly Hills station (Bevo), or a bus to Hurstville or Bankstown Square. Or you can walk it like my mum used to. You can drive over the Harbour Bridge – something I used to do daily, but I think I’d break out into a cold sweat doing it now, even though I’ve driven in a number of cities in the US. Oh, and you can drive down to Wollongong on Sunday arvo and get fish and chips by the beach. Or go further south to the Berry donut van.
Even those things will be different, though. Because I am different. I’m not the standard Aussie girl any more. I realise that when I hit home soil I will also be something of a tourist. All these things, places, ways of doing life that I knew when I lived in Australia – heck, even when I visited Australia – will be slightly different. My current comforting stability is going to be disrupted by going home. It’s strange and honestly, it’s a little scary. I’m nervous. The last time I was there was incredibly challenging and emotional – because of the waves of love and care as we said goodbye to mum’s physical presence and began to instead rely on feeling her force within and around us. (BTW, we’ve gotten pretty used to that now – our family everywhere knows mum’s with us still, and that’s all good.)
So what’s it going to be like, going home? I’m excited! I want to see my oldest kid, my nephews, my brother, sis-in-law and friends. My stomping grounds. I know it will have challenging emotional times, but I pray it will be reassuring and centering as well. I hope I find my place, and that it’s all okay.
And I really want a meat pie.