I flew the coop one day, eager to spread my wings and fly. I had grown restless in the familial nest and when I saw an opportunity to take a year off University and gain some work experience across the ditch – I seized it with both hands. The glimmer of city lights, corporate suits and independence beckoned to me like a beacon on the coast. My ship was coming in and I knew it. I listened to Single Girls on repeat and packed my bags with a furious energy. I thought I was so organised, with my excel spreadsheets of prospective flat-share accommodation, carefully made To-do lists and budgets for the months ahead. Little did I know just how unprepared I was.
Arriving in Melbourne on the 9th of January with my Dad, I was not prepared for how efficiently we would finish everything we had set out to do. On the first day I applied for my TFN number, got a bank account, an Australian SIM card, and picked out my new flat. Perhaps this pleasant surprise made me complacent and slightly smug. But when my father left, I was not ready for how homesick I suddenly felt. On the tram coming back from the airport I almost cried and the sight of a father with three children all riding their bikes with matching pink t-shirts and denim shorts had me biting the insides of my cheeks and pinching my arms to hold back the floodgates.
I knew I would be nervous about work – a part of me always wondered how I got this job. I never thought I was good enough or smart enough to get an Internship and I kept waiting for the rest of the world to see it too. But work proved to be the one thing I really enjoyed. Two weeks into my new job I have yet to do much actual work but I’m slowly beginning to see that I was chosen to do this for a reason, and that I can actually carry out my role in the organisation. Moving out of home is hard enough, but moving out of house and country, starting a new job, and making new friends is another story altogether. I had hoped to form a close bond with my flatmate but living at home was awkward and uncomfortable. I had hopes of having flat dinners and talking to each other about our day at work, boyfriends, and watching TV shows together but that was not to be.
I struggled with the homesickness and didn’t let myself cry. When I heard my mum’s voice on the phone I almost hung up, it hurt too much to hear her speak. I missed my dad’s cooking, my brother teasing me, and my mum holding me tight. I was so eager to leave and see the world and be that strong confident woman I always thought I was that I never ever expected this wave of homesickness to overcome me. I called my parents every day, battled with a cough and blisters from my new work shoes, and swallowed my inedible cooking despondently. Cooking proved to be a struggle with a grand total of 8 ingredients but I managed somehow and yelled at my mum when she sent me ‘easy’ recipes that included exotic ingredients like desiccated coconut. I cooked for two weeks with no salt, pepper, or any of the spices so readily available in our kitchen at home. The first week of work passed quickly and on the Friday I felt like I’d reached a turning point. I rushed home from work, hurriedly cooked and ate my dinner – which lo and behold – actually tasted good for once. And then went for a long walk through the Royal Botanical gardens. I felt a sense of peace at the Shrine of Remembrance and got caught in my first Melbourne thunderstorm. Perhaps it was God’s way of showing me a sign that I would be happy here, before my life was altered yet again.
That night, five days after moving into my new place, my flatmate told me that she was moving to Perth and she expected me to take over the lease and buy all her furniture, the fridge, and the washing machine. I was shocked and felt lost and alone. I had never expected this to happen. As someone who always planned for the inevitable, prepared a Plan A, B and C – I now had no idea what to do. I couldn’t afford to furnish a whole apartment, and moreover, I did not want to buy a fridge and a washing machine when I was only going to be in Melbourne for a year. So I went back to my lists, my excel spreadsheets, and searched for a place to live all over again. My temporary sense of achievement and acceptance of my new life was shaken, and once again I was confronted by the unpredictability of my circumstances. The first time round I had my Dad to help me look for a place, now I was doing it all alone. I felt angry at my parents, for what I saw as their need to protect me and shield me from the world – leaving me vulnerable and naïve. I was angry at my Ex-boyfriend for breaking up with me 10 months before I moved, leaving me, to do alone, all the things we had planned to do together. And I was angry at myself for not planning for this, for not being prepared, for not researching more about sub-lease agreements and contracts and everything I should have known.
My team at work became my new family. Within two weeks they have become the people I turned to when I had no idea what to do, what legal rights I had, and when I needed reassurance that I was doing the right thing. They searched for flats for me at work and shared in my anger at my flatmate, they warned me about dangerous areas to live in, and showed me Indian shops to buy spices and ready-to-eat butter chicken packets, and made me a list of all the tourist places to visit. Sightseeing was the last thing on my mind though and I worked myself up and worried constantly about finding a new place to live, being able to pay off my student loan, and getting my bond back from my flatmate who was now refusing to pay me my bond until she got hers back from the agent. With no legal contract, and no receipt of the bond I felt extremely helpless and naïve and angry with myself and everyone else. After another few days of stewing in my own anger I realised that this was not anyone’s fault and that my parents had protected me because they loved me, because they didn’t want to see me hurt, and I knew I’d rather that they care too much, than not at all. I will always be grateful to them for everything they have done for me and their love and support. I realised that the only person who was responsible for my future was myself, and that I had to forgive myself for making mistake and not being perfect.
I went through many ups and downs over a week. I bought a bottle of cough syrup and broke it as soon as I opened it, hating myself as I wiped up 14 dollars worth of cough syrup and picked up the broken glass. I wiped the floor over and over like Lady Macbeth, more scared of my flatmate than I was of my mother. I looked at strawberries and grapes I wanted to buy but didn’t. Opening a tin of pineapples felt like a luxury and I savoured every bite as I made home-remedies for my on-going cough. I cringed at work drinks where I nursed one drink over 2 hours because I really couldn’t afford another and learnt to look at the dollar value per kg as well as search for the lowest price on the supermarket shelves. Meeting up with my cousin felt like a breath of fresh air and I had to stop myself from talking about my family too much…seeing even more family over the long weekend made me miss mine more. I watched the way another cousin played with his baby girl and the love and affection that was showered on the sweet little two year old. She wanted for nothing. I wondered how I had gone from being just like her, to what I was now….how children grow up to question their parents values and begin their own soul-seeking journey that takes them away from their families and their home. I am sure she will one day too, but seeing her I was reminded of the love I am sure was showered on me as a child and felt a restored sense of love for my family who will always be there for me no matter what.
It has been 17 days since I left home. There were many times I almost cried, but yesterday was the first day I gave into it and I wish I hadn’t. Rushing from Carlton to Prahran and back to Flinders Street, I went to 8 Flat inspections, six of which the agents didn’t show up to, and the other 2 I went to the wrong building. I came home, forced myself to eat my lunch standing over the kitchen sink and cried like a baby. Since then I have cried into my cereal, while doing the laundry, and drank milk straight out of the bottle because I didn’t want to wash a glass. It seems like I’ve back-tracked a bit from the progress I made a week ago. But I know it’s only a small step back, and then I will be up, back on my feet and marching onward again. I have five days to find a place to live, but I know that I’ve done the best I could and I’m not going to hate myself if I don’t succeed straight away. I know that I can always stay with family for a week or two if it comes down to it. I flew the coop so to speak, intending to be completely independent and discover the world on my own. But this journey of discovery is pretty lonely when you’re Captain, First mate and crew all rolled into one. There is no one to share your plunder with or the joy of setting your sights on new shores.
This is my first Australia Day weekend and I was fortunate to spend it with family. I ate a home cooked meal surrounded by the chatter of children, and went to church on Saturday evening with people who cared about me. Sinking into that security blanket of routine and the reassurance that I was taken care of, I slept till 9am for the first time in two weeks. Walking home across the bridge with my grocery bags this evening, I squinted into the sunlight and heard a street performed on Southbank Promenade playing ‘Fast car’. I felt like it was being sung just for me. My life is nowhere near as hard as it could be. I have a roof over my head, a job, food to eat, and a family that loves me. I am learning to deal with the curved balls as they come, and trying not to worry as much as I am prone to do. As I am constantly reminded by certain friends, my life is not as hard as many other peoples’ are. Yet this is the first big milestone in my life, and so everything will take on grandiose proportions, and I will worry as I always do. Moving is not as easy as I thought it would be but this is only the first leg of my flight, and I still have a long long way to go. In a years’ time I will sleep in my own bed, in the nest I was so eager to leave, and bask in the comfort of a family who loves me, my travelling days over – temporarily. There are still many more adventures to come, and challenges I will face no doubt. But this is the first of them, so forgive me my flair for the dramatic, my homesickness, and my naivety in the days ahead. I may not have the fastest car Tracy Chapman, but I can finally see what it means to be living. I got a feeling I could be someone….be someone.