This past month and then some has felt like a sort of inflection point. The dawn of a new start or a different season is here: not just of 2018, but also of ME. In the past five weeks, I celebrated my one year-anniversary since landing in Sydney, my halfway point around the sun toward Age 30, and the start of Spring (according the land down under). Not only do I love celebrating my birthday; I latch onto any excuse to commemorate and reflect on where I've been and where I've landed.
For all the reasons I acknowledge above, there are twice as many more that I didn’t realise loomed within me. This month-long storm of surging nostalgia and self-inquisition could also be spurred by seasonality or the zodiac. Every year for 15 of my laps around the sun, September marked the entrance of a fresh school year by the academic calendar: New teachers, new classmates, new friends and (often) a new romance. Then again, not only am I halfway around my current waltz of this galaxy; a new moon also rose in the sky this past week! Could it be to blame for the wave of clarity? Is Mars is close-by I hear? Is Mercury permanently in retrograde at Age 29?
Finally, various occasions for grief and joy have come and gone lately. In the wake of my work anniversary, recognition in my region and a personal-record of a performance review, I also hit bumps: a major error, an exciting milestone (teaching new hires!) and a major opportunity (all unrelated). This month I traveled thrice, the act of which always leads me to reflect while suspended in both air, a giant vehicle over which I have no control… oh, and time. Lastly, I enjoyed relief at the end of the latest trip...only to realise that I was boarding an aircraft on September 11th. While not the first of the somber anniversary of my first glimpse of mortality, terror and the true meaning of vulnerability — it was the first of its kind that I momentarily forgot. It reminded me of how precious life is, and how much I value the resilient spirit of people back home.
Upon returning home for a stroll around my local Surry-Hills-Sydney — donning a brimmed hat in the warmer than lately spring air — I finally felt I had a grasp on what was turning a new leaf. Something about the temperature, inbound love and catch-ups from my family here and abroad and an agenda-less day of errands and meaning-to-dos helped to put an extra spring in my step. Enter: Year Two.
Each weekend I'm local, I walk around to some of my absolute favourite neighbourhood landmarks and still explore at least two new places. That's the thing about Surry: Sydney's oldest and nearly the most recently gentrified hood. There are countless quirky storefronts tucked between town homes and split levels, usually identifiable by a flash of neon or subtle street art. Sometimes, a faded awning or creaky sign made from a multi-purpose object or signpost tells that that a hidden treasure or treat lies within. While I'm still finding many each day fit for a stroll, I also have my favourites to pop in -- like Messina and Sticky Fingers. There's Paramount and Chilli Coral and Bean Temple and Oscar & Friends - they're not unlike old friends you're stoked to run into each time. Never get old. New kid on the block? Bare Naked Bowls, the latest of the acaí family who are taking the nation.
Another trait of Surry Hills, thanks to her hills, are the cheeky views. I'll be jaunting along without a care in the world, and glimpse the juxtaposition of busy Sydney through SH's rearview. Perhaps due to its slopes and my uphill-facing route home, it's always a pleasant surprise when I glance back or in my peripheral on a corner turn to see the silver towers and reflections of the CBD. I'm only steps away, but outside the 9-5 it's like I'm in another time and world. After a year of getting to know her, I’d say I call Surry home.
I have routines. Local haunts. I store excess toiletries and hoard clothes I should donate. Every other Thursday, we have Rupert's fairy godmother (and our saint of a cleaning person) Ines come in. This means Thurs evenings or Fridays in I take a bubble bath and organise my possessions accrued. I've woven twinkle lights through his houseplants and across our front balcony. The other string stays in my room and frames my bed's headboard, preserving a permanent and year-round merriment that reminds me to reminisce of younger days and Christmas at home.
While certain milestones have passed now that I hit One year, a few staple favourites (see: lifesavers) have helped me make it through the busy times and tougher moments.
They Say Good Things Come in Threes
Friends at work, at home (no, literally. Upstairs.) and around Sydney have helped build a community where I feel safety and belonging. While I’m constantly vetting my Emergency Contact list (including backups), I am fortunate to know who I could call at any hour. They’re expat and local alike (they know who they are), and closest to home is Rupert who - lucky for me - is a bit of both as a Brit-turned-Aussie. I can make it out to bars, to musicals! and to dim sum. I can stay in with wine and in pj’s or with nothing at all and feel right at home thanks to my down-to-earth crews.
There are three prized possessions that have turned into [almost] daily habits. First is my Daily Dose Box: Shoebox turned affirmation-vending-machine that fits on my bookshelf. This past week (the tough one) suffice it to say that I pulled a stack for the first time in my 13 months here. It reminded me of how many people I have in my corner on all corners of the globe! Second: My "You Are a Badass" 365-day calendar (thanks, Chels). It speaks for itself, and also speaks for The Universe when I forgot. Most recently is my Beautiful Thoughts weekly journal that helps me check my mindset and re-frame it when necessary.
My three favourite on-demand applications that help me show gratitude and love: Bloomthat for sending not-only-blooms (like Talia's college dorm cactus and Chloe's edible birthday surprise)! Soothe - the most genius Uber-esque service I've come across that let me send zen to my sisters and their other halves for Xmas via virtual massage vouchers. Last but not least, Amazon Prime: it’s amazing what global reach and insta-delivery can do when it comes to must-haves and must-reads.
Three signs that I live here are scattered across my room. The first is a collection of local prints from Rocks Markets, Opus and Bondi Markets Postcards. Beneath the twinkle lights is even art of my own, painted at a Paint Nite concept in Sydney and resembling a sunset in Joshua Tree. Scattered amidst my books read and letters received are also seashells, collected from my favourite beaches visited yet. From Auckland to Byron to the secret bays of Central Coast, I’ve brought home twisties and spirals to rival Frawley’s beach house collections from our childhood.
Bonus: My three favourite podcasts lately really really help me to feel inspired — and connected back home: They’re currently Ted Radio Hour, The Goodlife Project and Masters of Scale.
A few highlights of my time Down Under have been thanks to my visitors and our bravery toward interstate travel. As far north as Port Douglas & as far south as the 12 Apostles, I've driven the Great Ocean Road and traversed the oceans around Whitsundays. I've landed in Cairns, Brisbane and Melbourne. I've been to Hamilton (twice!), Byron Bay and even Auckland. I've been to my first festival, first campsite and first back-to-back yacht parties!
Recently, I've explored suburbs and trails in my own backyard. Marking my first local excursion by car (rather than plane), I properly explored the Blue Mountains with the gals I met in GGI: "Girls Gone International." We got an AirBnB comfortably designed for eight, and made brekky and coffees and snack-dinners for cozy nights in. After moderate hiking around iconic mountain formations like the Three Sisters, we read tarot cards and danced to a disco-lit karaoke machine. By coincidence or the countess reasons I mentioned (or some other turn of the Universe’s knowing), I also embarked upon my first-ever solo retreat and vacation this month. Three days and two nights in a salty lakeside town up the New South Wales did me right. But that is a story for next time.
As it turns out, these feelings and bouts of nostalgia and gratitude are NORMAL! Expected, even! I’ve passed landmarks and a bend in the road, and I’m not a sappy spastic for reflecting on it. Some tell me the first year is the hardest; I know from experience that the second mile is easier than the first. I’ve been away from my former stomping ground and settling into my new one for long enough that I’ve missed things, truly longed for them and also sprouted new synapses for my current sitch. I’ve visited home, returned back, celebrated from afar and experienced great loss.
I’m grieving not just what was but who I was before. Meanwhile, I’m healing and growing into someone new.
Let the growth continue.
Abroad Down Under