I realize that I’m behind on a number of posts and this blog currently resides in the occurrences of many months ago, but as with any task, it seems I only write when I’m driven to it. I took the habitual walk home tonight from work, but this time was a bit different. Instead of poring over facebook events, my eyes were up, scanning the gentle fading of the day. Melbourne winter is cold in a way that is hard to describe, but still, she is beautiful. The trees in my neighbourhood are European and so they bear the tell-tale signs of Autumn. I crunch over leaves as I walk, and the sun is slowly fading through the gumtrees. It brings me back to a book I read in Croatia a few years ago called the Happiness Project. She discusses something I can’t name, something like “retroactive memory”. Essentially, two people are in a moment. One is fully present and considers nothing else; the other is both enjoying the moment and aware that they will miss the moment sometime in the future. I don’t think either takes away from the pleasure of the moment. I simply believe one shows an awareness of self and the need to preserve this moment forever.
That is how I feel about my life lately, or rather, for much of this whole year. As my second year visa draws to a close in the next few months, I am hyper-aware of my days as they pass. I am not counting them down nor wishing them away. Sure, I could do without work sometimes (couldn’t we all?) but I am in a mindset of making these days count as much as possible.
Every summer back home, my dad and I would share the same sort of wavelength… we camp, we kayak, we love the outdoors and the summer for its every moment of beauty. With each passing week, we lament how quickly the summer seems to go. We make plans to suck every last drop from each beautiful day. When Labour Day comes, we say a literal ‘farewell’ to summer at the beach I’ve been going to since before I could walk, mourning the loss and celebrating the joys of another season gone by. Are we being negative? Possibly. Again, I prefer to think that we are two souls who are very aware of the moments we are both present in and passing us by.
In retrospect, this year has been such an amazing year. I will not talk down the first year I lived in Australia, because that was its own set of adventures, challenges and experiences that cannot be replicated and I will never have again. Having said that, it was a year of work, of farm work, of medical issues, complicated decisions and certain goals that did not get achieved. That year was a good one, that year gave me experience. My second year in Australia was like coming into a new relationship after a few heartbreaks. I was hopeful as always, a little nervous, but this time I had wisdom on what worked for me and didn’t, places more familiar, comfort with my employment, ways to make friends. This year has had its tough moments, as any will, but it has exceeded any expectations I might have had, sitting on my couch last August. Maybe that’s because this time, I didn’t really set any. I knew I loved this place, knew I wanted to come back, knew I had to see her again. As long as I could, everything else would work itself out.
There are so many memories I have fixed in my mind that I hope I never forget. Packing my bags with Melissa in Rimma’s apartment while we danced around and M had no idea what to bring. Sitting on the deck of our ship in the Whitsundays while we listened to music and watched a perfect sky of stars. Seeing a sea turtle for the first time and getting so excited I nearly choked on salt water. Laughing to tears whenever Amy would come up with her next epiphany at Iddy Biddy’s, surrounded by new friends. Relaxing at the Elwood or Brighton beach because we could. Spending a balmy 38C Christmas in the water at St. Kilda with Conor, Heather, Liam, Kent and the gang, Conor in his inflatable duck (or was it a goose?) and thousands of other backpackers. Hiking in Cradle Mountain with the girls and seeing massive wombats for the first time – if you don’t count the roadkill that dented our car that one night… trying lavender ice cream for the first time. Standing 130 metres above a canyon and thinking “FML” before taking the plunge. Dressing up in garbage bags as a wizard and dancing my buns off with a room full of backpackers I barely knew. Hopping in a strange kiwi’s truck, driving down uncharted roads and ending up in a backwoods pub in Taupo with locals. Flying high above Queenstown and feeling the thump-thump-thump of my heart as I took my first heli flight. Meeting Rimma again after living in Ottawa and road tripping around Melbourne. Dressing up in flapper gear and cruising the Yarra with Victoria. Countless dinners and drinks and amazing brunches and bars with friends from all over the world.
These are merely some of the many, many memories I hold so close to me now as the days go by. I can’t blame my astro sign, but I do know I’m an emotional person. These next few weeks will be difficult for me, not because life is sad, but because this has been such an amazing year. I said goodbye to a good friend, Erika, who is off doing her farmwork and whom I will not see before I leave for Canada. Conor and Liam, two fun Brits, are off on their next adventure. Heather, Liam’s gf and a cherished new friend, is taking off to Queenstown to join her man next week. Jen left a few months ago. Bridie and Ani, wonderful Canadians I met in NZ are going home to Canada – but the other side of the country. Sam, Camilla, Lisa, and goodness knows how many other, are all making their departure in the next month or so. When people leave it is hard, because it feels like part of you is leaving with them. The place you have come to love, this being Melbourne, feels strange and slightly empty when they are no longer around. Travelling and living overseas is such a rewarding, fulfilling, exciting experience, and same said for meeting people. The thing travelers know is that as exciting as the hello can be, the goodbye might inevitably be hard. My relationship with these people will be the same as with Australia – I sincerely, truly, deeply, hope to see them again, but as with anything in the future, you just never know. And so you cherish the memories and moments for what they were. You aim to be present. To smile, to laugh, to love, to experience. To hope for the best. To carry it, and them, in your heart, for always.
This year has not been perfect. I met someone travelling, tried a long distance relationship, I ended up hurt. I worry about finances and paying things off regularly. My travel partner and roomie Mel left in December, and I felt the loss. Work can be frustrating; it can be stressful. Dates don’t work out…. But on the whole, this year has undoubtedly been one of the best of my life. I still have three months to ‘close off this year’, though it’s looking like I’ll be home end of July or early August. I have plans to see Western Australia before going home ( Jon Farrell, you told me I had to!) and it fits well with the school holiday right after my birthday (holla!). I start to think about Airlie Beach, Byron Bay, Magnetic Island, Sydney, and multiple other places I’d like to go back to in Australia, but the truth of the matter is, you think you have time. You said it, Rumi.
Much as I would like to, there just isn’t. I could spend an eternity exploring Melbourne’s laneways, amazing cafes, bars, parks, etc. Why not stay? Some might ask. The truth is, I don’t know if Ottawa is my future home ‘in my heart’… but as I get older, I think about where I’d like to settle down. I love Australia, but I can’t see myself living here the rest of my life. It is a beautiful, fascinating, picturesque place, but it is so far from the family and friends I hold so dear. Everywhere I go, I consider if I could see a future – I tried it in New Zealand, tried it here, heck, I tried it in Edinburgh – but for now, Canada is home. Until some place, or someONE changes that, I will go with what feels right. That’s all any of us can do.
The point is, even with my talk of “fears of getting older”, of “being single”, of comparing myself to everyone else moving ahead with their lives on the timeline of what society seems to expect, I am, essentially, happy. So very happy. I would never in a million years regret this year and all the experiences it has given me, even if I do have to go home back to a sort of square one. This year has given me so much, and it’s not done giving. I’ve had days where I wondered if it could feel wrong to feel so happy. I believe whatever brings us happiness is perfectly deserved, and no one should make us feel any less. I like to think I’ve become pretty good at going against the grain and doing what feels right in my heart. I voice my fears and doubts but I am comforted in knowing that in the end, I will always go with what feels right. Right now, even with those I love leaving, everything still feels right. I will hold onto that. I have been teaching Grade 2 for 5 weeks and while I lamented having to ‘have a full time commitment’, as my ex predicted, it has actually been quite rewarding and good to feel like a real time teacher. I am keeping busy and making the most of my days as I’ve wanted, seeing friends in the evenings and road tripping on weekends. In the end, life is what you make it. I am choosing to be present, and to make the most of the time given to me. Wherever you are, know that I am happy, and I hope that you are doing the same.
Love from Melbourne,