I have moved back to my hometown of Ballarat after moving interstate to Perth in Western Australia. To drive from Ballarat to Perth would cover 3,314.1km (2059.2 miles). They are on exact opposite sides of the country. I have a really strong bond with my family and my best friends so it was a pretty life changing move.
I’ve learned so much from making that move and from coming back. Plenty of it has been about life and about my hometown but mostly it has been about myself. I recently had a long discussion with a friend I’ve had since high school (hello darling Erin!) and she told me that one of things she admired about me even then was my courage. This surprised me a lot, because I don’t remember myself being particularly courageous.
After discussing with her and thinking about it, I looked back with my adult eyes on the life I had when we had first known each other. My defining feelings were fear, being anxious, feeling like I didn’t belong and feeling out of my depth all the time. Now looking back, I can see what she meant. I shaved my head (stupid idea) and had to live with it. I changed what school program I was in and then I changed schools. I then changed subjects halfway through at the new school. It’s no wonder I felt so much fear. Change is terrifying. I think remembering that fear I had is important, because I still got up every day. I still lived with my decisions. I still lived. That ability to act in spite of fear is courage.
Looking back at that now I see so many parallels with the last three years of my life. I had my dream job, in a brilliant team at a great workplace. I was living in a perfect little cottage that was all my own. I grew basil and tomatoes in pots out the front. I kept my bicycle in my kitchen. I listened to Edith Piaf. I binge watched Doctor Who. I got drunk on wine with my darling lady neighbour. I studied hard for uni. I got HDs on my assignments. I drove a red BMW with a sunroof. I drove around with the sunroof open even in winter. I started style blogging for this blog. I played in two bands, one of which was a group of kick ass ladies.
After making the decision to move to Perth, I had to give up everything. I ended my tenancy at my perfect house. I quit my dream job. I let my plants die with the season. I put my bicycle in my parent’s garage. I had a garage sale and sold almost all my belongings. I sold my car. I left my bands. I packed two pallets worth of items and sent them to Perth. All I chose to live with were my favourite chair, my favourite books and about 1/3 of my clothes.
Being in another city was hard. I didn’t know my way around. It was too hot for life. My only friend’s I knew through my partner, and we barely knew each other. I wanted to get a job at one of the universities over there, but had no luck. Finally I was offered position in a different retail store. That was the best moment for me, getting that job. I had been stuck in a house by myself with no routine for a month, terribly sad and lonely, missing the life I had given up and ready for a new one.
I used my money from my first pay to buy myself a bicycle. A red one. It was cheap, but it got me to work easily and it was red like my old BMW. I worked really hard at trying to make my own friends, and I made a few. Three are still very dear to me, and one is above and beyond (she just came to visit me from London and I’m hoping to return the favour). I bonded well with my partner’s friends, and every time they made me laugh or smile or eat Mexican food it overshadowed the feeling of homesickness.
Even though I got comfortable there, it wasn’t easy. I loved it, and yet my old life kept reaching out to me. My old life had more direct pathways to my heart than my current one did. There were little things that would make me feel sadness. Things like one of my old colleagues that I recruited and trained becoming the Team Leader in one of my old departments. I found that out after a particularly not fun day working retail. It snowed in my hometown. I found that out at work when the Ballarat store emailed all the Australian stores with photos of the snow settling on the manicured lawn out the front of the town hall. My sister and her beautiful husband, calling me to tell me that they had miscarried. My best friends sending me photos of their cat. My town, getting great coffee spots and having amazing events. Things I wish I could have been there for.
But through all of that, I loved Perth. I love being there. I loved the people. I knew that if I gave it more time I could really get settled there. I could really fall in love with it. I could get more friends. I would get a better job. Winter would come eventually. I would get used to the heat. All of the possibilities were cut short when my partner and I found out our long-term plan to move to Ballarat had been fast tracked by other life circumstances. We uprooted ourselves and moved back across the country.
When I got back I thought I would see everything shiny and new and perfect and beautiful and amazing. But I didn’t. My town seemed small now, and in need a new coat of paint. It also wasn’t as I remembered it. The city had grown. There were new suburbs, new shops, new intersections, new people, and new cafes. So much was unrecognisable.
I found myself missing the sound of my bus, and the rock of the train. I missed the smell of the shop at work and the sunset at Cottesloe beach. I missed the submarine at Fremantle and the freshly made marshmallow at Bread In Common. I missed my friends. I missed the smell of cinnamon and star anise at Boucla. I missed sitting on the stairs of our renovated church hall apartment and playing my guitar. I missed sitting on the balcony and drinking wine while looking out at the city.
Even after giving up all that. Even after giving up everything. I am now working in another dream job, a better one, with the best team ever meeting amazing people, being excited to go to work. It’s things like this that remind me that to hold on to something new, you must first let go of something you have now. You must also be ok with that feeling of holding on to nothing. Ok with that fear. Having the courage to let go in spite of it.
So I guess this is the point of this post. To acknowledge a feeling I’ve been carrying with me ever since. Somehow, I feel like I’ve lost two places. Like I love both and belong to neither. Like all the things I own could be whittled down to a single suitcase, because I have moved so much that ownership of ‘things’ seems fluid to me. Like I could measure my life by the moments I sat and studied the exact way the eyes of people I love have lit up when they have laughed. Like home is something you carry with you.
So to modify Taylor Swift slightly:
I lost my sense of home. But I found myself. And somehow, that is everything.
Dress: c/o Dolly and Dotty
Earrings: The Peach Box
Brooch: c/o Bok Bok B'Gerk
Nappy bag: Louis Vuitton
Baby: *technically* not mine. My sister's.
Location: City of Ballarat Summer Sundays
This darling dress is fully lined with the softest cotton I think I've ever felt. Because of the lining it makes it an ideal transition dress between seasons (spring to summer or summer to autumn for example). If you live in a mild climate, you could be darling all summer in it too. It also comes with two belts. I chose to wear the contrasting one for the shoot to go with the collar, but it comes with a matching print belt as well.