And so, dear readers, I write to you with the news that my Australian adventure is coming to an end through need rather than choice.
A lot has happened since you last stopped by. Despite saying I was ready to leave the city and country by the end of February after my work contract ended, something dramatically simple happened; I changed my mind. Why? Because I fell in love.
Not with a man but a place. Bondi to be specific. I can hear you all now…“Bondi? But it’s one of the most rubbish beaches in all of Australia!” “It’s run-down, full of tourists and it’s super busy.” Yes, yes, yes and yes to all of those statements but the beauty of being me? I have my own mind and sometimes, just occasionally in life, it’s ok not to agree with the majority and stand alone in your madness. I can’t even tell you why I’ve fallen in love with Bondi but I can tell you when.
It was a Sunday; a normal weekend day by any standards. The sun was shining, I had the day off work and I wanted to go to the beach so I grabbed my usual bus, parted with my money and visited the ever faithful beach which always waits for its people. And after a couple of hours of laying alone, reading my book, listening to music and just being peaceful, something hit me like a steel freight train; my love for Bondi. I don’t know where it came from but I suddenly, as though a lightbulb had flashed above me, understood peoples’ love for this part of the world. I’m not talking about tourists but the locals. Ask any local why they love Bondi and quite simply you’ll nearly always get the response – ‘because it’s the best place in the world’. No, it doesn’t explain why but it does explain the sense of passion that this little suburb stirs in people and I felt it begin to stir in me.
I realised that Bondi wasn’t just the beach. It was the people walking around in nothing but boardies and thongs with a surfboard under their arm and a skateboard under their feet. It was the friendships and sense of family you witnessed on North Bondi when everyone had finished their duties for the day and met each other with hugs, kisses and space on the picnic rug to watch the sun set and the surfers catch the last wave of the day. It was the bars, cafes and small restaurants on Hall Street overflowing with casually dressed and relaxed people catching up with each other after a tough day. It was the sense of community that included everyone from the famous Bondi Lifeguards to the locals who work out every day on the beach respecting each other and their oceanic doorstep. I realised that I had fallen in love with it all and I never wanted to leave. And so I took steps not to.
As my work contract was coming to an end, I signed up for three temp agencies as I knew the only way I could survive here was to get a full time job and temping in an office would allow me to do that. It was a risk but I told myself I’d give it until the beginning of March and if I had nothing by then, I would go home. Unfortunately by this point I was sick again. My eyes were yellow once more, I had no energy and I constantly had to run to the toilet thinking I would pass out or be sick. And so, I visited the doctor who took bloods which showed that my liver function tests were high again. Back to the beginning I thought. Except, it turned out that my liver was not the cause of my illness but a symptom itself.
Visiting the doctor for the results of my blood tests, I was told that the next day I would need to go back to organise another ultrasound. If that showed nothing, he wanted me to have a CT scan straight after and if that then showed nothing, he needed me to go to hospital for ‘thorough investigations’. To say I was in a state of shock would have been an understatement but I dutifully did as I was told. I turned up for my urgent ultrasound and after being handed a CT scan form immediately after, I knew they had seen nothing on the first scan. However, after 30 minutes of waiting in the office, I was so emotionally overwhelmed that I walked out, booking the scan for a day later. I was alone, scared and upset with no one to ‘hold my hand’, physically or metaphorically, and I couldn’t process the sudden urgency to it all. After re-checking my blood results and knowing I was headed for the CT I realised that they were checking me for problems with my gallbladder. Sure enough, my detective skills were correct. However, I couldn’t predict what was to happen next.
After attending for my CT scan and waiting to pay for it (all $511.60), a woman came out to say that the radiologist had checked my films and needed me to collect the results later that day before ‘heading straight to your doctors’. Her words hit me out of nowhere. Was it cancer? Was I about to be told I had a life-threatening condition? 6 hours later and I got my results. It was my gallbladder but it was in a condition they had never seen before such was its severity and urged me to have surgery by the end of the week. I couldn’t wrap my head around it. I was scared. Shocked. Confused. Angry. Here were the doctors seemingly screaming in my face how serious the situation was and that I absolutely had to have surgery within the week for fear it would do irreparable damage when all I could think and feel was anger that had they followed this up back in November when I had my first (abnormal looking) ultrasound, my surgery would have been routine and there would have been such little drama, I probably would have had the surgery here whilst my friends were still in the city and I could organise my cousin to look after me. Instead, I have booked my flight home for Monday and land Tuesday with a visit to my doctors and local hospital booked in for Wednesday.
There will be no welcome home party. No time to get over jet lag. No chance to catch up with friends. And that’s a hard pill to swallow. Surgery is available here but with that comes too many ‘what ifs’. If the situation is as bad as they are suggesting, despite the surgery being incredibly common and standard, if I have complications, I could be out for weeks with no income. Similarly, my travel insurance may not cover it (because we all know how much insurance companies like to squirm out of paying) in which case I would be out of pocket to the tune of thousands despite reciprocal medical care with Australia. And lastly, who, given a choice, would ever want to enter a hospital thousands of miles from home for surgery with no one to be there for you? And so, despite my wish to stay, my health has other ideas.
With that, sadly, comes a separate issue. I am about to go home and have treatment in the place which caused my breakdown and gave me post-traumatic stress disorder for 2 years. I swore I would never walk the halls again, be it as an employee or patient and yet, I have no choice; something which is not sitting well in my mind right now. Yes, I have moved on to a degree but even after over 6 months of leaving that place and being the other side of the world, I still ‘see’ my old boss out here though he is a ghost which haunts me, such is the intensity of what I went through.
To people who can’t understand, imagine this:
You are afraid of spiders. To the point where the very thought of them can bring on a panic attack. Now imagine being told that to cure your migraines, you have to sit in a box full of every kind of spider in the world for at least a day. Imagine that and you’ll come close to my fears.
But for now. I will take each step as it comes. For the moment, I can’t process that I’m leaving in 3 days, nevermind what lay waiting for me on the other side. And so I’ll attempt to deal with the demons when they come knocking.
As for leaving Australia, I’m both sad and angry. Many of you and my friends and family have told me that ‘everything happens for a reason‘ and whilst I believe that in the grand scheme of things, for the moment the situation is just too raw to see it as objectively as I need to. For the moment I need to be angry that after fighting for my survival since I arrived, I have been defeated by my own body. And I need to feel sad because despite the temp job offers pouring in, I have no choice but to say goodbye to the place I have found a great deal of love for. I feel like a failure despite my situation being out of my control and when people tell me how strong I have been to have lasted this long, I feel like a fraud knowing all the sad tears I cried when I wrote positive Facebook statuses. Those feelings won’t always last but as I said, for the moment, I need to be allowed to feel whatever it is I need to feel.
I am grieving for the adventure that never quite became; for the expectations I had that were never quite realised; for the love that I felt which was never quite reciprocated.
And yet, I hope that in time I will be able to accept just how strong I have been. I hope I will accept that at times when I have felt like a ship adrift in stormy waters, I became an anchor for others in far worse condition; that I helped them repair their broken vessels enough to return to port. I hope that I can come to realise that despite not feeling strong, I have enabled others to lean on me and they became stronger for it. Despite private tears, I helped two young girls (separately) enjoy their very short time in Australia and even had them come back to Sydney specifically to spend time with me such was their need to have support and friendship and my need to Mother. They left with smiles on their faces instead of tears in their eyes and thanked me because of it; something Australia can never take away from me despite being unable to truly appreciate it presently.
As for what’s next, only the Universe knows that. Maybe I’ll come back out here if my surgery is successful and I have no problems. Maybe I’ll stick to the original plan and stay at home for a few months before heading out to Asia to begin my dive career. Maybe I’ll simply travel for as long as my money lasts. Maybe I’ll head to Africa for a few months. Or maybe I’ll just seek whatever makes my soul feel good again.
You were tougher than I needed you to be, scarier than I had expected and more heartbreaking than I could cope with but I know in time your lessons will be invaluable.
Goodbye my Friend; it’s been a journey.