One Year Expativersary

expat issues
Today is my first expativersary. One year ago, I got off the plane to start life in Australia with my Partner-in-Crime, who’d arrived a few months ahead of me.

 

To me, the date is significant enough in terms of marking the passage of time, that I put it on my calendar. In terms of life changes, I mark it as memorable as my wedding anniversary.

 

When I look back, I’ve done a lot in a year.

 

-Set up a home from almost nothing.
-Got married.
-Made a community of new friends.
-Paid off my credit cards.
-Traveled pretty extensively.
-Became my own boss and set up a significant project from scratch.

 

It all sounds grand, and much of it has been, no lie. But, it’s been many other things, too.

 

My first three months in Australia (the tourist visa months, pre-settling for good), I remember as being the hardest. We did a lot of exploring, I started to scope out the theatre industry, and I learned my way around Sydney. But, not being able to work, find much volunteering in my industry, or even drive, I fell into a period of deep loneliness and aimlessness. I also remember an intense feeling that I just did not belong here, and even had bouts of sensing that people were looking at me like I was a Martian (of course, they weren’t, but I couldn’t help feeling that way). I wasn’t homesick so much as I was out of place, uncomfortable in my own skin, and sometimes even angry about what I’d left behind and how much I had to learn.

 

Things felt different when I came back in August. It helped that I had a visitor almost right away, so we explored together for the first two weeks. Then, I started to meet more people. And, already knowing how the public transport worked, where a lot of things were, and some of the more technical day to day stuff, I stopped feeling like a space alien.

 

My biggest frustration was not being able to find work. The rejections from my own field, followed by rejections from rather menial jobs, coupled with the hours and days I devoted to combing sites and applying for work really took a toll on my self confidence. I also carried with me a strong feeling that Sydney just wasn’t my city – that I might reside here, but in terms of it being home, it was like an ill-fitting pair of shoes.

 

Finally landing a job, even if it was one I wasn’t all that keen on, at last gave me a place to go everyday, some income of my own, and a feeling of purpose. Even though I only stayed at the job for four months, it was a turning point for me in my sense that this is where I live.

 

About the same time, it was summer, and the whole city came alive with festivals, outdoor events, concerts, and so forth. I started seeing Sydney in a new light, and finding real joy in so many community events helped me settle into my metaphorical loafers in a way that I never thought I would.  More and more, I saw where I fit into the life of the city.

 

Leaving my job and working on my own has been an important part of my journey. For some time, I was so mad that I couldn’t make any inroads in the theatre community that I refused to even go see any theatre (that’s huge for me) because I felt so disenfranchised. But, I’ve found my focus and have started to make strides – even if they do sometimes seem to happen through a lot of baby steps. I think I had to find some sort of niche in my industry to truly feel like this is the place where I have made my home.

 

More and more, I do feel that: that this is home. I just feel normal. There are still plenty of funny or particular cultural things that confuse/annoy/confound me, but I’m surprised less frequently. And, I am losing the need to constantly compare prices/products/expressions/ways of doing things. It’s not gone, but it’s floating away.

 

Now a year gone, the hardest part for me is how distant I am beginning to feel from my family and friends at home. In fact, I have never felt the distance so acutely as I do recently. I feel that I am being lost or forgotten, and maybe I’m losing track of people, too. Not in the sense that I don’t think of them and definitely not that I don’t miss them, but that they’re not in my life every day, or even every week, and I’m not in theirs. The longer I am away, the more I miss my people. I am itchy for visitors or a trip home. Holidays also remain hard, and maybe always will (ask me again next year). Christmas in the middle of summer, Halloween, Thanksgiving, 4th of July, and even my birthday were particularly melancholy days.
On the positive side, I am still constantly awed by what a beautiful city this is, and enjoy some of the big quality of life differences. I can actually afford to go to the doctor thanks to having Medicare (yes, this is a biggie in the life of a perpetual arts worker). I cook more and with better ingredients. I walk more. Traveling to places I never dreamed I’d see is a reality. I have a meaningful spiritual community and some amazing new friendships. My husband and I have been through most of the stressful things a marriage can weather, all in our first year, and I know that we are a real team – partners in crime. I feel more willing to try all manner of new things.

 

One year down, it’s still very much a journey, though one that has settled into a comfortable trek, rather than an uphill slog. Tomorrow, another year begins.

 

I’ll leave you with a some of the most meaningful photos from my year.
First break of morning, from the plane, one year ago.
Bronte. A beautiful day spent with College Friend last August.
College Friend and I, somewhere between Bondi and Bronte.
Picnic on our roof in our Elizabeth Bay apartment.
Finally got a decent night shot of the Bridge. From the Opera House.
Wedding.
Wedding.
Snorkeling the Great Barrier Reef.
Picnic with our friends. One of many lawn sitting days.
Top of Mt. Kosciuszko, Boxing Day.
Surfing on new Year’s Eve.
NYE at our dear friends’ apartment.
Australia Day (my new beloved holiday).
12 Apostles, Great Ocean Road trip.
Vivid Festival.
Fiji.
Jervis Bay, our favorite spot.
Wombats. (maybe the best thing Australia has to offer).

8 thoughts on “One Year Expativersary

  1. Mandy and Drew

    I have been reading your blog for awhile but haven’t commented before now. My husband and I just moved to Australia last month, on a 3 year visa for his job. Thank you so much for posting this. It’s great to see some perspective on the move. I know exactly what you mean when you say that you feel like a Martian! 🙂 That was just what I needed to feel even better about our move. Thanks again and great blog!

  2. C. In Oz

    Mandy – Thanks and welcome to Oz! Your time here is going to fly by, at least my first year has. I’ll look forward to keeping up with your blog, too.

    Jenny – Definitely – we were sort of awed when we thought about all we’d done in a year. Next year, we’re planning an adventure like the one you’re having now, so then it will be a really big adventure! 😉

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