I never post as quickly as I mean to and I still can’t believe Christmas was already two months ago. I was speaking with a friend a few weeks ago and mentioned being glad “I was other side of January.” When I said it, it felt like a title for something, and here we are. The temperature in Ottawa is hovering in the low plus temps and I’m trying to quell my hope that an early Spring is on its’ way.
My last post was about the first 10 days of my time in Australia, a trip taken on the heels of a breakup but also the desire to go back just because – it’s Australia after all. Alice and I had a great road trip in Southwestern Australia and now she and Yvonne are reuniting on the East Coast which makes me so happy – the travel friendships never cease to reform and build again. While I’m floored that Christmas was two months ago, I can also admit that January was a really difficult month for me. I would never wish away the days of my life since I know I will one day be 70 and wishing I had these days (or some of them, or the ability to run and mobile at least) but I still find myself constantly looking forward to the next thing. Far too often I am caught living in the past, photos of moments long gone, memories of people I don’t see anymore, and it’s okay – once in awhile- but we need to focus on tomorrow. For now though, I’ll recall the past two months to catch up to present day.
The last week in Melbourne was wonderful – which was perhaps the problem. Alice had an earlier evening flight the Thursday we came back to Perth so we decided to hit the airport around 5pm. Sadly, my flight was not set to depart until 1 A.M, AND it got delayed by two hours. I had a few overpriced Heinekens and played way too many games on my tablet before finally, FINALLY we took off. I didn’t sleep a wink and remember messaging Melbourne friends from the Skybus at 8 am the following Friday, a gorgeous 26 degree day full of sunny skies. I felt guilty to nap at my friend Rimma’s, but I needed it. I woke up in the late afternoon and went to a BBQ at Nick, Ella, Chris and Kendall’s with some of their friends. It felt weird being in a house I’d gotten to know well a few months earlier, but everyone was friendly and welcoming. The next day, Nick and I grabbed brunch at Foxtrot Charlie and headed out to Erika’s for her early Christmas party. It was a really nice time, seeing a number of familiar faces, and meeting Michael who was actually from Ottawa and used to bartend at Tila Tequila. We had 17 mutual friends, as Facebook told me, thus proving the world is smaller than you think. We played a gift exchange and teamed up with Nick to score myself a Bailey’s set and him, portable coffee mug. Most of the evening crowd went home but a brave bunch of us went out dancing with espresso martinis. A good night indeed.
Christmas Day and Eve passed in a whir. I was sad to be away from family but didn’t feel festive in the heat. Nick and I took the train out to Castlemaine on Christmas day (which was free, so lovely) to meet his mom and her friend Susan. We had a nice visit and tea in her house before going to a traditional 3-course Christmas lunch at the local pub. I can’t say I’ve ever had a shrimp salad during Christmas! We were all so stuffed we couldn’t finish our plates, and I’d say we had an enjoyable day. I was, as I recall, beat by the end of the afternoon, and tried a nap on Nick’s shoulder on the train home before retiring to Rimma’s to watch holiday movies by myself.
I had joked with Nick in November that I’d never seen a Cricket game and it felt like a rite of passage. He forgot about it completely, then as luck would have it, was offered tickets to the Ashes through his work. We spent Boxing Day melting under 30+ degree heat while I tried to learn what was going on. I would say the first two hours were fun, the crowd would cheer occasionally and you’d try to make sense of the events, but by the afternoon we were both fairly sun-tired and dehydrated. A quick respite at home led to meeting Victoria and Mike down in St Kilda for a drink which made me really happy. I’d seen Vic briefly when I arrived but was glad for the second visitation.
Erika wanted to celebrate her birthday by heading down to Torquay for a surf and swim. Nick and I got a late start but met them eventually and spent a few hours along the water before heading back into Torquay for dinner. It truly is such a small world – one of the girls in our group had my mom as a personal trainer back in Sault Ste Marie. After dinner, there was a group photo and a few people played with Erika’s nerf ball before I told Nick we had to leave. I cried on the way back to the car and it just cemented the emotions I know so well – it is so important and good to have an open heart and let people in, but as easy as it is to say hello, it is so bittersweet to say goodbye. Nick indulged one of my favourite traditions in Melbourne by going to trivia at Lucky Coq that night. Our favourite host wasn’t there, and we didn’t win, but I’m glad I got one last chance to play on team Wooden Spoons.
My last day was a good day and a difficult day at the same time. Nick and I grabbed one last brunch at one of my favourites, Tall Timber in Prahran. He was nice enough to help me do a few errands before dropping me at Rimma’s. Relationships end for so many reasons: wanting different things, cheating, disagreements, being in different places mentally… the ones that end not because of lack of caring, but by conditions out of your control, are the hardest. I sometimes wonder if it would have been easier not to meet someone a few months before coming home, but I would never regret it. They were some of my favourite memories of my 2 years in Australia. I will always hold a place in my heart for my favourite Aussie man, but the truth of life is sometimes our plans don’t always work out, and every new beginning comes from some other beginning’s end.
After a rather difficult goodbye, I knew I could count on my friend Rimma for a nice afternoon. She let me cry a bit, then took me out for my favourite thing – cheese and wine in St Kilda. We went to Milk for a wine and cheese plate and were lucky enough to be joined by Kat and Erika, who we’d seen biking by us on the drive over, strangely enough! It felt so good to be joined by girlfriends in the final hours of my visit. Rimma’s friend joined us also, then came back with us to her place for a gin & tonic and banter before I made the ride to the airport. Rimma has been one of the most generous souls I’ve known in Melbourne and her friendship will never be forgotten. Love you girl!!
The trip home was long and annoying. My flight to LA got delayed, my flight to Toronto got delayed, and we sat on the tarmac in Toronto for 3 hours so I missed my bus home. I haven’t been so hysterical as when I had to book a hotel and trudge my massive suitcase through half a foot of snow on the sidewalk at 2am down a quiet, dark street… I cried and yelled and cried some more, then cheered up when my weary legs finally found my bed.
As stated previously, January was not me at my best. It was a long month spent missing Australia, my friends there, Nick, hating Ottawa, hating my part-time job, my low salary, and otherwise feeling miserable. I probably wasn’t the most fun person to be around. Still, you do what you can. I started going back to the gym. I started tutoring a month ago which will give me some extra cash-in-hand, and I’m up to 5 times a week now. It means my Wednesdays and Fridays are early, my Thursdays are late, but it keeps me busier. My dad pulled my moms 20 year old cross- country skis out of the basement and found a pair of SNS profil boots for 30$, which is crazy good luck. Ken and I have been out skiing a few times now, but given the weather, the season might be over. I’ve signed up for Volleyball skills and drills in March with my friend Brad. It’s only 6 weeks but maybe it will give me the confidence to join an actual team, or hopefest, in the spring!
Something as small as tutoring has turned my mood around and made me feel less helpless. I have no plans for March break so I have an interview tomorrow to work a March Break camp. The money isn’t formidable, but it’s money, and I’d really like to buy a passport. The idea I legally can’t travel right now is crazy to me, haha! I also have an interview for the Secondary supply list next saturday. I credit my ongoing sanity to the good friends who’ve surrounded me. I see Kristin often for movie and wine nights, coffee and work nights, or the whole group for the occasional brunch. Ken and I have been cross-country skiing or indulging in video games, and I’m in the early days of dating again. I’m hopeful Spring will come soon. I had a weekend cottage trip to Rawdon, QC with Scott and his run club friends. It was two days of Olympics, hot tubbing with drinks, and good food. The next item on the list is Xi Delta Theta’s 25th anniversary in April. I want to take my FSL part 3 course in April to get category 4 by summer which means if I do get a new job, I’ll be in my highest pay bracket.
Other than that, life seems slow. I’ve signed up for volleyball skills and drills with my friend Brad so I’m possibly not pathetic come spring and can join a league. I often stare out my office window and dream of Australian shores, or flick through photos of my friends there, and feel sad. I tell myself that those friends won’t be there in 6 months, or that it’s the memories I’ve had that make me love the place, not the place itself. I don’t know if this is true. My mom said she met a young girl at a gas station yesterday who lived in New Zealand for a year and she missed it every day. My mom told her of my experiences and said she’d tell me to live anywhere if it made me happy. Happiness can be complicated. I love Melbourne, but to go back would mean a 4K$ visa that could take 8 months to process, and would I go for myself? My long distance relationship barely survived two months. I think if a family member was ill, it would be more than a day’s travel just to get back home. School holidays are in January, the worst time to come back to Canada. They seem like superficial reasons, but for now I think I’ve made the right decision to build towards a full contract. If I’m restless, I can take a year’s leave in 2019 and reevaluate what matters. I will always miss Australia, and I feel like part of me is incomplete…But for now, I am looking towards Spring, and hopeful for the next best thing.
With love from Ottawa,