Sometimes you have to do things to find out whether or not they work. Not consider them, not plan for their possible occurrence, not lie awake in bed turning them over and over in your head, directing a short film of ‘what would happen if …’ until you fall asleep. But do them. Pack a big rental van full of your stuff and drive it across the country, make a new home in a new town and wait and see if it works. If a job comes, if a social life follows, if living with someone is as happy and smooth and fulfilling an experience as you hoped for.
Sometimes, no, often, things do work out. What you did, that change you drove across a country to make happen, was a good thing. It showed you many new things about a place, taught you many new things about yourself, about a relationship. It strengthened that relationship. It strengthened you.
And then sometimes, that change, that choice, sets something else in motion. It prods a slumbering something into a state of wakefulness and this something is demanding and unpleasant and goes by the name of homesickness. And it’s waking up and stretching and making itself quite present at the same time as other little things aren’t working out as planned. A job doesn’t come, a social network doesn’t follow, both of these distractions a known remedy against the ache of missing the familiar.
We cannot know exactly how everything is going to work out before we do it. We just have to do it and see what happens.
Moving here was the right thing to do for a lot of reasons. The last 3 and a half months have been as wonderful as they have difficult. Difficult because teaching work didn’t come, difficult because, given time and an unfamiliar context within which to think about it, I realised how much I miss home. My Mum, my Dad, my friends. My language, my places, my independence, independence that comes from being confident in a place, in a context. Able to drive, able to make oneself perfectly understood by strangers, able to sit down in a restaurant at a table of ten and engage one’s neighbour in witty, worthwhile conversation. Not being dependent on visas and foreigner offices. Not being a foreigner. I cried every time I watched a scene on TV that involved a group of girls and a bottle of wine. I conducted experiments on myself to see how quickly I could make myself cry by saying the words ‘I miss my Mum’. I cried a lot and most of the time, I didn’t really know why.
Bored and lonely in a small town near the Czech border, I realised, somewhere along the way, I had lost my lust, in the German sense of the word. I was tired. I still had big plans, I still had a list of countries the length of both my legs joined together that I wanted to visit, but my batteries were flat. Two years isn’t a particularly long time, in the grand scheme of things. Two years isn’t going to be a long time in my grand scheme of things, now that I have finally reconciled myself with the idea, the knowledge, that I will be splitting my time between two sides of the world for an indefinite period of time. But, for me, it is long enough to go without seeing my family and friends. Long enough to go without being home. It is a period of time in which enough can happen, enough curveballs can be thrown, enough can change, that the comfort of home is needed for balance and reassurance. And from where I was standing, tired and homesick, desperate for my Mum, I couldn’t fathom the idea of a future so far from home, a future the move to Weiden was the first sign of commitment to. The idea was too overwhelming. And not being able to fathom a future in this country made me cry for the otherwise beautiful relationship that was keeping me here.
Around this time of mass crying, I wrote this. And a lot of people told me some very clever things. My Mum said, when I told her I was having trouble wrapping my mind around being so far from home for an indefinite time, ‘all of these things you are realising, they are all part of the journey of your life – and while the choices will always be difficult, they are part of it too.’ And she was right – my journey, my choices. I had choices. Nothing was a given, nothing is ever a given, unless we choose to make it so. A reader said, ‘every place you live in peels away a layer and shows you something about yourself.’ And I thought about summers in Santorini, living and working in Münster, moving to Weiden, and I thought about everything the past two years had peeled away, everything they had set in motion. I thought about my choice to move to Weiden, how it was the right one because it peeled away layers that needed to be shed so I could see what I needed to see to make the next choice in this ongoing, mapless journey; that if Germany, through my relationship, was going to be as big a part of my future as Australia, I had to go home for a while. I had to clear my head. Recharge my batteries. Get my lust back. I had to make an almost selfish choice to save my own peace of mind, to keep my own life on track, to keep myself together and in a better position to take on the implications and consequences of my German future.
So, at the end of July, it’s back to Sydney for me. Not for too long – long enough to be ready to leave it again. I think a good twelve months will have me longing for Europe once more, ready to get back in the saddle, ready to be a foreigner again. I need to work, take advantage of creative opportunities, look at further education options. I need to celebrate my Dad’s 60th birthday, my cousins’s engagement. I need to see my friend’s baby, be a bridesmaid. I need to have another Christmas at the house I grew up in, before it sells, a warm Christmas, surrounded by family. I need to tell my 92 year old Pa about my trip to Kupferzell, have cups of tea with my Nana. I need to hang out on the couch with my 13 year old dog, I don’t know how much longer we’ll have him for. I need to spend time with my Mum and Dad, my brother and sister, my friends. I need to do all of these things, fatten myself up, replenish my reserves, ready myself for the uncertainty of what will follow – another year in Weiden and then, who knows? Not SG’s job, that’s for sure, and they’re the only bloody compass we have.
I am trying to decide whether I see this as a new adventure or a regroup. Whether this is me launching my ship into new waters, or nosing it home to rest a while and plot the next journey. I know going home will bring a lot of new things, on top of the comfortable old. I know there are new things to be seen and done, new people to meet, new experiences to be had. I know going home will present new opportunities to be grabbed – and I suspect all of this newness will likely stem from having been away for the past couple of years. I have new things to offer, new things I want to try, new skills to put to the test. So I suppose it will be a bit of both. A return to the old and familiar will be as much a new adventure as it will be a welcome return. In the context of my current German life, packing another bag and getting on a plane to return to Sydney for a while, have a long distance relationship, leave behind this life I have grown very accustomed to, is another change. Another big life change that will set in motion another slew of possibilities, changes, occurrences.
And I want to take you all with me. I want you to excuse the break in German programming for a while, and come to my home city, see my country. I plan on opening up A Big Life to whatever Australia has to throw at it, seeing my home through the kind of eyes I have been seeing the rest of the world for the past two years. I want you to stick your toes in the sand with me and stand beneath Australia’s great, expansive sky. Eat our food, swim in our beaches, see our art, learn about our culture. I need you all to stick around for this next part of the ride.
SG will join me for six weeks in December and have his first warm Christmas with my extremely loud family and witness the madness that is Sydney on NYE. I will get to show him my home, give him the chance to finally say, ‘oh, this is why she is like she is’ (likely upon hearing the phenomenon that is all the women in my extended family laughing simultaneously). And then, of course, I will be back. Back to my life here, my relationship, my apartment, my wardrobe, my 15 teacups. Back to snowy Christmases, heavy jackets and schnitzel.
And yes, I cry every time I think about saying goodbye to SG at the airport. You just can’t win.