I feel a bit like I’ve fallen down the rabbit hole – but I’m here in Melbourne, my new home city.
I’m starting a new job this morning, after touching down just yesterday afternoon. The bits of my life that could fit into two suitcases and a backpack are sitting quietly in the corner of the spare bedroom that my friends Nick and George have generously let me stay in.
I won’t lie: the last couple of days have been rough. The realisation that a phase of life was coming to an end brought with it more than a fair share of tears, recriminations and if-onlys.
This has been a very quick transition, but it repeats a pattern that has recurred throughout my life whenever I’ve wanted to make a big change. There’s not much space between decision and action for me, even when there’s been much thought leading up to the decision (which in this case, there has been).
Remember when you used to get cuts as a kid and it came time to take off the plaster? Did you rip it off all at once, or gingerly tease it off, wincing a little bit at each bit of adhesive lifting off your skin? Which, objectively, caused less pain? I’d always argue the former.
There’s a red-hot sting, followed by an aching afterglow, which usually dulls itself fairly rapidly. Little thought process is involved once the decision to rip off the plaster is made. You know the steps you have to take. Grasp, brace, pull.
The prolonged method doesn’t just bring with it the needle-stings of pain as you tease the edges of the still-fresh wound. Your mind is fully involved, anxiously. It’s like trying to defuse a bomb in a bad movie with crappy, loud string music, scored by John Williams before he learned how to write tunes.
Anyway, crunch time came for moving, and yesterday was a strange day. A morning of packing, a goodbye lunch with my husband and parents at the airport, a plane trip during which I worked on some more of the ‘Men Like Us’ book and drank far too much coffee, and then I had arrived.
It’s the little things that get you. I’ve filled out departure cards at the airport in Auckland many times, but for the first time I was ticking that box that said ‘leaving permanently’.
I’ve had a few people say, in a well-meaning sense, ‘if it doesn’t work out, you can always come back’.
This isn’t especially reassuring. If you leave a place for very specific reasons to go to another place, the thought of returning to the former place does not feel like a safety net. It feels like stepping on a snake in a game of Snakes and Ladders right before you reach the last square.
Others have asked if I’ve set a time limit on coming here, as if I’m putting the city on probation. The answer is no, I haven’t.
If there’s one thing I have resolved to do in this phase of my life, it’s to be more in the present moment.
There are new things to see and do, new challenges that will unfold on a daily basis. How can I fully experience and enjoy these if I’ve constantly evaluating them against some sort of worthiness scale?
Of course, I’ll be looking for familiarity amongst the new, in order to anchor myself. This is what will provide me with a sense of reassurance that my world is not completely alien.
Since announcing that I was leaving New Zealand for Australia, I’ve heard every variation of immigration experience: tales of moving and flourishing, moving and returning, moving and disaster.
I don’t know what my story will be, and by every measure imaginable, that should make me incredibly anxious – I have an anxiety disorder, after all.
But it doesn’t.
Because I’m not a character in someone else’s story, I’m the writer of my own, as we all are.