This feeling I have now…it’s different. It’s like a song being played in an empty auditorium, the final note hanging in the air long after playing has ceased. The echoes of home lingers in my blood, sings through my veins in a longing that is practically magnetic – pulling me back to where I belong.
That is not to say I don’t like London, I do. Especially in moments like the one I had on Tuesday night after I attended the production of Henry V at the Globe Theatre. Walking back to Waterloo station along South Bank was perfection – a balmy summer night with the city all lit up on the banks of the river, it was magical. In moments like those, moments I mostly experience here when I am near the river, I love this city. I love everything it is, its complications and contradictions. All its history and all its pride. It’s flawed and it’s beautiful.
But it was also in that moment that I realised that it wasn’t enough. I love London, but not as much as I miss home.
In comparison, Sydney may lack many things. It’s so much smaller, so much less sophisticated. Its history is negligible, its culture practically insignificant next to a force like London. We don’t have the same level of access to music, fashion, art. We are miles away from anything, no quick trip to Paris for the weekend for us.
But god how I miss it.
I miss the summer. I miss lying in my hammock in the garden, reading and slowly melting. I miss the incessant noise of the cicadas. I miss being able to go to the beach whenever I feel like it, and the feeling of sand between my toes. I miss driving. The late nights speeding along the M5 home, blasting my music way too loudly. And the bush, the smell of eucalyptus heavy in the air. I miss the blistering heat, the humidity that makes moving too much effort and how I’d spend those days on the couch with dad just watching Top Gear. Those days when you think you’ll spontaneously catch fire just by stepping outside. And though it’s kind of wrong, I miss the smell of smoke, blowing in from some bushfire somewhere.
I miss the extremity of nature. The ups and the downs. And I miss the city. I miss catching the train to Town Hall simply because I miss emerging from the tunnel at Circular Quay and seeing the harbour glittering in the sunshine - the way the sun plays across the water and the wind catches the flags on the Harbour Bridge. I miss that feeling I used to get whenever I emerged from that tunnel, that weird swell of pride because, damn, it’s a beautiful city.
And I miss my family. I miss joking around with my dad, though he often drives me insane. I miss the hours-long heart-to-hearts with my mum – Skype is just not quite the same. I miss my dog, oh so much more than I can even explain. I miss going for walks around the lake every evening. I miss just lying in bed with Oreo curled up beside me. I miss her happiness at seeing me whenever I get home. I guess I miss feeling that wanted and needed and loved all the time. And completely superficially, I miss my room, my wardrobe, my books, my dvds, my study, my graphics tablet, my theory notes.
I’ve learnt a lot about myself these past seven months I’ve been gone. As one would expect from travelling, and from being away from home. I’ve learnt that I am a lot more self-sufficient than I anticipated, that I can cope with sharing space with other people a lot better than I thought I would. I’ve learned that I’m not a spoilt princess of an only child, that my parents have raised me well-prepared for things. I’ve learned that I can co-habit with a bunch of boys, that I can handle being completely broke, that I can go hungry and not complain, that I can deal with not getting my own way. I’ve learned that all relationships require work and communication, and that if someone can’t show you that you matter to them, they’re not worth your time. I’ve learned that some friendships are superficial and sometimes what I think is communality is really just affectation.
There are other things, of course. I’ve changed. I’ve grown. And I think, overall, I’ve done well and I am quite proud of myself, silly though it may sound.
In that sense, part of me feels like there isn’t really that much for me back home - there are moments when I don’t want to leave here at all, but in the same turn I don’t really feel like there is much for me here either. I’ve done a lot of self-reflection over the past week and it simply comes down to what I want out of life.
You’d think at almost 25 I would have sorted this out by now, but I haven’t. Though I do I feel like I have gotten closer this year. In basic terms, there are two things I want:
1. A PhDAnd maybe somehow, somewhere along the way, I’ll finally be able to write something that matters to someone. This may seem simplistic, and perhaps that’s true, but it is what it is. You might say it’s being naively whimsical – everyone wants to travel, but it isn’t practical. And that is the crux of my ambition. So-called normality holds no appeal for me. Nothing I say or do is a reflection on anyone else’s life choices; it’s just that it isn’t the right fit for me. That’s all.
2. To travel to world
And people may scoff and dismiss it as nothing, but I’ve always been acutely self-aware and I know in my heart, more certain after this year than I’ve ever been before, that there will be no happiness for me in convention. And isn’t that what life is supposed to be, “the pursuit of happiness”?
It’s sort of terrifying to make the decision to follow this path, to commit to it (Fuck Plan B as Amanda Palmer would say) but I feel like I’m finally strong enough for it. And the fear, the hollow feeling in my stomach that comes from knowing that no one (except my mum) understands, is just something I need to stare down. Because fear cannot rule your life.
So having come to this realisation, I had to ask myself where I need to be…and it’s not here. As much as I enjoy London, as I enjoy being close to people who are important to me, this is not where my destiny is.
Yes, yes, I know it sounds absolutely fucking ridiculous. Destiny. Talk about sounding delusional…not to mention conceited. But bear with me here, cause it’s hard to put words to the chasing of a shadow. I know, I know, there is something out there for me, I just need to allow myself to find it. Happiness, not boredom or submission.
So it makes sense to pursue the first of my goals – a PhD. I can’t stay here, can’t put it off for a year, because the longer I put it off the less likely it is to happen. Life has a way of sweeping us along after all, and time is going alarming quickly for me these days. No, I’d like a PhD before I’m 30. That would be good. And it would be better if I could study in New Zealand because another thing I’ve learned about myself this year is that I’m not really a city girl at all, not the way I thought I was.
My life has sort of emptied out this year but in some strange way it’s also become more defined. And it’s not going to be easy, but I feel like I have to try.
Music: Blood bank - Bon Iver