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I sat down to write something witty and fun about lessons learned from migrating to Australia.
I wanted to share how transformative and eye-opening the experience was. I wanted to share the wisdom gained from moving countries with just your backpack. But today, I don’t have it in me. Today, being in Australia feels like I am on an island all alone. It feels like the weight of the world is on my shoulders and all I have is the strength of my own legs to support it.
There are benefits of living here.
The beaches? Immaculate. Something I learned quickly upon moving here is that beach life is not just for the rich and famous. Australia is mostly populated along the coast and has a population much lower than that of the United States. Peasants (like myself) can live close to (dare I say beachfront property?) and have regular access. Huge bonus.
Meat pies? Sausage rolls? If you know, you know. If you don’t know, there is nothing I can type here that will share that experience. It has to be tasted.
Five weeks of paid holidays? Standard. Public holidays constantly? Duh. Australians like their rest. And they also like to work hard. When the clock is on, work gets done. When it is not, forget about it. Live your life, mate.
Need to go to the doctor? Need to ride in an ambulance? All good, Medicare’s got you covered.
Raising a child as a single parent? No worries. The government will help support you in ways that make sense.
Gun control is a thing, here. It works, apparently.
And the cheese. Did I mention the cheese? As an American, Australian cheese is truly life changing.
There is also something about the air here. I went home briefly for a time in 2019 (back when the world was spinning on its normal axis). When I landed in Sydney upon my return, there was something in the air that just felt lighter. There is a heaviness that sits upon the United States that I couldn’t put my finger on until I left. Being in Australia has a feeling of lightness that allows you to put your shoulders back and breathe deeply.
All of these things are why I am still here. Australia is where I found myself and where my soul feels at home. This land has held me through massive life transitions and transformations. It feels a part of me now.
However, some days are painfully hard. Some days, the weight of being in a country without any family is heart-wrenching. Especially having an (almost) one-year-old. Because of Covid and travel restrictions, my family was not able to come and visit. My mom attempted to get a travel exemption when my son was born, but was denied. The pain of raising a child void of extended family support for the first year is gut-wrenching.
There is a reason that I am here and my family is there. Untangling years of enmeshment and emotional invalidation required carving out space for myself. Space that apparently required moving countries. However, living in Australia has also taught me the meaning and value of family. Would I want to live around my family permanently? No. I don’t want to put myself back around those dynamics. However, space has allowed me to see my family for who they are. I have found ways in my heart to love them for what I see, rather than being bitter and angry for what they are not. Receiving love from them in the way they are able to give it has been healing and humbling.
It has shown me that while I can fall in love with Australia, there is a place in my heart that Australia will never be able to touch. It was the land of Michigan that held me as I grew into an adult. It was the home of my childhood where memories were made, tears were shed, and identity was carved. The land of Michigan holds a painful part of my life, but it is still a part of me. It is a part that I have come to cherish as something that helped make me who I am today.
I can sit on an Australian beach and feel held in the expansiveness of life itself.
But walking into our home in Michigan touches a place in my heart that feels like putting two matching puzzle pieces together.
As I sit here, in Australia, in the age of no international travel, that part of my heart aches. That part of me aches to walk into a room where people know me and who I have been. That when they see me, they don’t just see who I am now—behind their eyes, they hold years of memories where I have existed. That part aches to have a hug from my mom who has always been there, no matter how much I have pushed (and shoved) to get away. That part aches to have breakfast with my dad at a local diner where we drink way too many cups of weak coffee. That part aches to be included and invited, not out of kindness from someone, but because I already belong to the group. They are my people, and I belong.
For all of Australia’s beauty, Australia will never be able to replace my roots.
And right now, I am grieving. I am grieving the impact that Covid has had on my inability to visit my family, or to have them come here. I am grieving time lost and memories that could have been made, but weren’t. Today, I will take my son out to a park. Where the sun is shining and it is almost 70 degrees. Conditions that are hard to complain about. But my heart doesn’t feel the beautiful weather. My heart feels the absence of familiarity and home. I will continue to carry my grief with me, because that has also become a part of me now. A part that weighs heavy with no end in sight.