Last weekend – the 1st April – marked 10 years since we left the UK for a new adventure in the sun. If it wasn’t for the fact that the children have doubled in size and gone from primary school kids to adults I’d have trouble believing it, but in other respects our previous life seems like a very distant memory.
As a family of four, although we were sad to be leaving our family and friends, we were certain we would not be returning home. We wanted to make a new life, start again, challenge ourselves – and anyone who knows me well knows that this sort of thing excites me. So even though I knew leaving everything that was familiar to me was a risk – for many reasons – I was still keen to do it. It would be easy to mistake me for one of those people who believes that if you change everything externally – your home, your job, your country – then internal things will change too. Like your relationship. However, I wasn’t stupid enough to think this might be the case, and I figured that if I ended up divorced then Australia was as good a place to do it as anywhere.
After all, everything seems better when the sun is shining, doesn’t it?
In the event, just when I thought that miraculously distance, some good weather and beautiful beaches had done it’s job, everything fell apart in spectacular fashion, and it turned out that the sun didn’t make a whole load of difference.
At first I wanted to go home. I was desperate to go home. I was lonely, and frightened and heartbroken. But the idea of returning home – packing up and making such a momentous decision on my own – was overwhelming. I’d never made a decision of that magnitude on my own. And I knew that taking the children to other side of the world, where they would rarely see their father was not in their best interests. Inexplicably, even though at times I hated his guts and would happily have stuck a fork in him, somehow I couldn’t bring myself to do that to him.
The longer we didn’t go home for, the harder it got. The children cemented their friendships and got to critical moments in their schooling. I started a career which I enjoyed and in which I was successful. Eventually, I too started making new friends and developing a life removed from and separate to my old life. We bought a dog.
But the pull to return never went away. I didn’t sell the house in the New Forest. And every time I visited I became convinced that going back would be – conversely – the way forwards. My family* want us to. And we miss them so much. My friends want us to. And we miss them so much. When I’m there I think that’s what I want too – it would be so easy to be there, in my house, with my best friends round the corner and my family not too far away. It’s confusing. It’s all so familiar.
So why haven’t I done it?
Well…this weekend I decided that we should celebrate these 10 years in Sydney. We came for a new life and we certainly got that. We came for a better life, and in many respects my life is indeed better. We came for a challenge – and we got that in bucket loads. I’m finally at a place where I feel proud of what I’ve achieved. Things didn’t turn out how I expected, but I’ve raised independent, resilient, smart, awesome young adults. I’ve established a career in a new country. I’ve made a new home and new friends. And I’m a new person – stronger, more confident, more independent**. I have become myself.
It’s been a hard lesson and a long road, but I’ve learnt how to be me…
The children and I spent our decade anniversary evening surrounded by friends in the most iconic of Sydney spots, in the shadow of the Opera House. I had so much fun and I felt blessed to have such wonderful people in my life. I realized that I am not lonely. My life is full. I have my moments – of course – but life is good.
And I think I have to recognize that the reason I haven’t gone back is because I don’t want to.
Because I’m already home.
*except my dad. And I suspect that’s because he wants to live here himself
**with better shoes and hair