“Devastated” doesn’t even begin to describe the way I felt about leaving Sydney. I think Jordan and Josh can attest to this fact: They drove me to the airport that fateful morning and held me as I openly wept onto their shoulders. Jordan, eyebrows crinkled in empathy, continually insisted, “don’t cry – we have so many adventures to look forward to,” referring, of course, to our tentative Europe summer ‘11 plans. Please please please let him be right.
My final ten days in Sydney flew by. Rebecca graciously took me in as a temporary roommate since I had moved out of Creek St before traveling to New Zealand. Living with Rebecca in her sunny, eleventh-story apartment was a dream. We spent our mornings and evenings on the balcony taking in the Sydney skyline and sipping chamomile tea. During our days we made it to the beaches (Bondi AND Manly) and crossed off essentials from our “last-days-in-Sydney” to-do list.
But even though living with Rebecca was a nice break from both the cluttered campervan of NZ and my hustle-bustle times at Creek Street, I soon realized Sydney felt really, really empty. It wasn’t empty like in the beginning when I didn’t know anybody and anything could happen…because, well, it was the end and I knew people but they were gone and everything had happened. I spent the majority of my time with Jordan and Rebecca, respectively, but it truly wasn’t the same without Richard, Shelby, Clo, Preya, Shrey, Silky, my housemates…
Sydney itself deserves credit for the most amazing five months of my life only insomuch as I would not have met the people I did if I had gone anywhere else. My Sydney friends showed me how to indulge – in music, in new experiences, in food…I learned how to feed my own happiness. To do things that thrilled me, challenged me, and made me feel alive.
I jumped off cliffs, swam under waterfalls, and danced to house music in the middle of the day in Jordan’s living room. I created my own mugs and bowls on the pottery wheel, sang in front of an audience at a hotel by the beach, dove the Great Barrier Reef, saw glaciers, a geothermal river, a kangaroo, the Sydney Opera House. I sat in a tree in a late-19th century cemetery for three hours talking about evolution. I sat on a cliff-side boulder at sunset and listened to the waves crash on the rocks at Bondi… I ate Polish, Lebanese, Thai, Chinese, Australian (meat pies, anyone?), French, and Italian foods. I met lots of strangers and turned some of them into friends.
As someone once said, “I feel rich inside.”
I almost stayed in Sydney. On my last night at a small rooftop gathering in the King’s Cross, just as we were about to leave, one of Jordan’s friends, someone whom I’ve met maybe twice, generously offered to cover the costs of postponing my flight. I had to turn down her offer because I had committed to leaving by that point. My bags were packed and my family was expecting me. It was time.
The adjustment hasn’t been too difficult. Staying in LA certainly helped. Not only was my jetlag minimized by the five-hour time difference (or 19 hours, however you want to look at it), but I also got to enjoy summer-like weather conditions akin to Sydney’s. There were palm trees and beaches and trendy hipsters walking the streets, just like in Sydney. It was so good to see my west coast cousins. Marc, Jen, Samantha and I spent the day at the Santa Monica Pier, watched the holiday boat parade at night, recorded my own cover of “Let It Be”, and shopped around Melrose Ave. It was a great weekend and well-timed transition.
Since arriving back in Atlanta, I have driven for the first time in five months. I have eaten Mexican food, used a dishwasher, and drunk water with ice. Believe you me, I am thoroughly enjoying the central heating in my home right now (an amenity lacking in most Australian homes) seeing as how the current temperature outside is about 25 degrees F! I thought all of these things – all of the cultural differences that constitute “normal” in America – would shock me to pieces, but I’m still whole. I feel fine.
So here I am, same latitude, different hemisphere. I’ll miss Sydney and I’ll think about my friends all the time. I will go back some day. But for now there is only direction in which I must travel and that is forward.