I’ve written just 2 posts since I arrived in Australia 3 months ago; this will be my third and I confess that I have missed writing greatly. You may wonder what the hold up has been; after all, I’m in an entirely different continent experiencing a vast range of different situations and emotions. I have a job, a place to live and a great group of friends; all things I could be telling you about and yet I hit writer’s block so hard it rendered me wordless. However, now that I’ve made a couple of big decisions, I feel like my thoughts and emotions are feeling clear enough to make sense of them so I’m going to try and put them down in writing…
And so to the big decision I need to tell you;
I’m going home in a few weeks and I’m not coming back to Australia to live and work.
Considering my rough travel plans were indefinite it’s a huge change but life changes and I’m changing with it for now. You see, the Australian dream was just that; a dream. One which very quickly turned into reality and unfortunately for me, reality became a bit of a nightmare and one that I am happily leaving behind.
I have felt numb, lost and confused since the moment I arrived, always hoping that one day everything would simply click into place and I would begin my new, happy life; that day never arrived. I have no idea why Australia has not worked out for me but I am happy to shout it from the rooftops that it hasn’t. Why? Because life isn’t a uniform; not everything we wear will suit everyone and likewise, not every place visited will elicit the same emotions for everyone. I have struggled to be honest to my friends when everyone assumed that from the moment I arrived, I would be happy and be leading the life I so desperately craved when nothing was or felt further from the truth despite the positive Facebook statuses I portrayed.
I knew I wasn’t homesick and yes, everything was unfamiliar but simultaneously, I know myself well enough (and I’m truly blessed that I do) to know when something isn’t right. Unfortunately, I ignored what I was feeling deep down and listened to everyone else so I told myself that I was just struggling because I was so far from home for the first time but I wasn’t being honest with myself.
The plan had been to live and work here in Australia for approximately two years but I knew within a few weeks that I had no intention for staying for the second year and just after that, I began to realise that I couldn’t even bear the thought of a whole year. Panic set in. If I wasn’t going to stay here, what was I going to do? Trying to live and work here has made me reconsider if I want to attempt to do the same in New Zealand. That then threw up so many directions and paths I could take that instead of feeling empowered by the freedom of choice, I felt imprisoned by it; I had no idea which way to turn or path to take. And then I realised that I was, after feeling so dejected and beaten by Australia, in no mood to even travel in Australia never mind Asia and beyond. And so, I have made the extremely difficult but necessary decision to go home and suddenly I feel better for it. I have yet to book my flight home but simply knowing that I will be soon is enough to lighten my mood.
I have had some amazing times in the past few months and yet they haven’t FELT amazing; just okay. I climbed the Harbour Bridge as part of my induction at work and whilst many people dream of doing it their entire lives, once I was up there, I felt numb and thought ‘well this is nice but can I go now’?. I knew then that feeling so flat over something so magical was a tell tale sign that ‘things weren’t right’. Of course I’ve had good days where I’ve laughed until I have cried but sadly they have been few and far between and I miss them more and more which is why I feel I need to seek the familiarity and comfort of home to realign myself before setting off again.
There are many reasons for me leaving. First and foremost, like many people when they come to Australia, it’s all about the money. I saved £10,000 in total for my trip telling myself that I would set up my new life in Australia for £5000, no more, and leave the other 5,000 for my further travels around Asia with diving etc. Well, that £5000 has come and gone after I spent 7 weeks trying to find a job and I can do no more than try and live off my small part-time wage which only just covers my rent and a bit of food.
Money has tended to throw up two questions from friends and family when I’ve broached the subject of going home:
- Why don’t you look for another job?
- Why don’t you move houses or move location completely?
To answer question number 1, I’ll tell you some home truths about Australia; almost everywhere requires experience in the job field you are going for, many, MANY companies don’t like hiring people on working holiday visas and after applying for almost 80 jobs a week when searching, it’s more than a little soul-destroying, frustrating and stressful to try and begin your new life which is why I have stayed in my current part-time job because it’s at least some money coming in and my colleagues are amazing. I can’t bare to go through so much stress again looking for a full time job particularly when I know in my heart that I don’t want to stay here.
To answer question number 2, there are a few reasons for not moving. Firstly, I live in a great area – sandwiched between the city and the beaches – and I have a room to myself, only sharing the house with 2 other women. As my housemates work long hours, I hardly see them meaning I have free-run of the house, I have a backgarden to sunbathe in, I’m on a quiet street and I live 5 minutes from a shopping mall and amenities. I’m 27 years old; if I wanted to pay just $140 a week in rent and share with 7 other people, I would have stayed in a hostel. Secondly, I have far too many friends to lean on and support me to move away completely; I may not have enough money but I certainly have enough friends and they are, at times, the only thing that has kept me here as long as I have done.
People told me to move out of the city. ‘Sydney’s so expensive’. ‘You’re more likely to find a job in Brisbane’. ‘Why don’t you just travel through Australia’. Everyone suddenly had an opinion on what I should do and each thought their opinion was better than the next persons’. They were all wrong. Some spoke from past experience, some were just trying to encourage me and some didn’t have a clue but thought they were the authority on my life.
Yes, Sydney is the most expensive place in Australia and one of the most expensive places in the world right now but I have a good set of friends here and feeling as lost and depressed as I have done, the last thing I wanted to do was to leave that all that support behind at a time when I needed it the most and so I stayed and for that reason, I’m extremely glad that I did. When I have needed people the most, even if it’s a text or phone call to say hi, I have been grateful that I made the decision not to leave knowing that they are just a short train or bus ride away from me.
I also wasn’t expecting some serious health problems to come knocking on my door (another reason I am glad I stayed with my friends). After getting over a bad cold for 10 days, I thought I had food poisoning as I didn’t feel well but I realised it must be a side effect of the medication I had started the day before for my eczema when my urine suddenly turned brown. The next thing I know, I’m telling my doctor about the overnight urine colour change and all my other symptoms and he replied with ‘you have liver damage’. Not the news you expect to hear when you don’t drink, take drugs or even smoke.
Two days after my tests, I received a call from my doctor in which he spoke 7 words you never want to hear: ‘I am very worried about your test results’. A base line liver function test should be 30; the doctor said he expected mine to be two or three times higher than that; neither of us quite expected to see my results sitting at well over 1400 after taking just 2 pills! Before I even knew what was happening, I had more blood and urine tests and was informed that I was doing ‘nothing but going straight for an ultrasound scan’; if he didn’t like the results I would be in hospital by the end of the day. Thankfully my ultrasound came back as clear but 2 days later, I woke up to discover that my skin, and more frighteningly, my eyes were bright yellow; I was now suffering jaundice.
The worst part of my illness was that I could do nothing but ride it out; alone. I wasn’t allowed to take any medication for my eczema, no anti-nausea pills, no paracetamol for my headaches, nothing to stop the itching and weird chemical smell my skin now had, nothing to give me the energy I so desperately needed as I continued to have to work; the one time I wanted to take something to help and I wasn’t allowed anything. I couldn’t drink alcohol or eat fatty foods (and still can’t) and the seriousness of my situation began to dawn on me. When you hear that an organ is failing to work properly, suddenly an illness takes on an entirely different level of worry and one that I wasn’t expecting (though thankfully the liver has the great ability to heal itself). I am pleased to say that I’m over the worst of it and on the mend but it simply added to my frustrations; I couldn’t even afford some of the specialised tests my doctor asked of me. Unfortunately, my liver problems lead to others; due to chronic high levels of stress since I arrived, not only did my eczema really start to hurt but my skin began to lose its pigment on my chest and back and my hair began to fall out. Getting ill was the catalyst for realising and accepting my need to go home. My Australian dream had turned into a nightmare and I no longer had the desire to fight through it for an outcome I no longer felt I wanted.
To the people who think I am wasting an amazing opportunity by leaving, have not given Australia a chance or not tried hard enough (including some friends and family), I say two extremely passionate and honest words; get f*cked. The beauty of being me is that I am not you; I am me and I’m not trying to be anyone or anything else. You’ve not lived my life or had my experiences, thoughts and feelings. You have no idea what I have been through in my life and what I continue to go through currently. The irony of any of the above statements is that they probably come from the small minority of you that would never even have the courage to attempt what I have done in the first place. If I can survive until the end of my work contract at the end of February, I will have tried a new life for 5.5 months whilst becoming very ill; when was the last time you turned your life upside down and started from scratch by yourself?
As Dr Seuss once said: Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind 🙂
Maybe Australia hasn’t worked out because I didn’t come out in the best frame of mind (despite my hopes for it) or the fact that I wasn’t expecting (like everyone else I have spoken to) the ridiculously hard fight to start a new life. Maybe I needed Lady Luck on my side or maybe I should have left Sydney the moment I realised it wasn’t working. It’s all ifs, buts and maybes. I have made my decisions based on several factors and now, after finally being honest with myself, I realise I have made the right decision to go home. I will come back to Australia at some point to travel; it just isn’t the right time for me at the moment.
And so, the plan for now? To go home, spend time with friends and family, eat my favourite foods, wear my favourite clothes and generally get my head together. I hope to find some work for a few weeks or months but in that time I will make a real plan for Asia, Indonesia and all the other wonderful places I wish to visit as well as dive and then head back out to this side of the world in a much clearer state of mind and heart in just a few months time.
Despite needing to leave home so desperately last October, I so desperately need home right now.
“Perhaps getting on the plane was all you needed to achieve.”