Why you should live in Australia like I did
When it was time to leave Australia I didn't feel the way I thought I would.
A couple of days earlier, I had packed my things into the back of the car, my suitcases not as light as I would have liked them to be after my disheartening game of elimination. But sorting through my clothes I felt the same pattern in the way I looked at my life: separating my wants from needs. What did I want in my future, but what did I really need? I was being forced to decide.
But it was time to say good bye. The clouds split as though a jackknife had been dragged through them, its glint left behind as gold shooting down to the ground. The marshes of birds echoed a bittersweet song that I felt through my body as the wheels of my car began to roll. The rain fell to the ground in uneven patterns, the rain - I said - for me.
I love the rain but you don't get a ton in Australia where I lived. Most days are reserved for the blazing sun that doesn't spare even the person with the darkest skin. You feel like a kid as you walk the sidewalks, your freckles emerging in waves across your skin. You are part of this bright ecosystem; each day replaces the last to be better than before, but things still go in circles, and sometimes they manage to go bad.
I was unprepared for winter, a funny thing to experience if you're Canadian. I wore sandals as I walked across the grass, feeling each blade tickle the sides of my feet, frost melting and dispersing across my skin. You can't fathom to yourself how just a couple of months separates the sweltering heat from the cold, warmth being drawn out of your lungs into wisps of breath that disappear in the air.
And that was kind of like my life in Australia, seeing the world from two polar opposite ends, just like the weather. I loved each side, the colder months that allowed rain to fall from the skies as I twirled in the driveway feeling the fist sized raindrops part upon my head. And the warmer months when there was comfort knowing I'd almost always wake up to the sun.
I remember meeting someone who influenced me greatly, concerned at my disposition in the face of adversity - the dangerous stuff that you wind up entertaining anyway, because you're still young. He was the kind of person who says you should always be there to be yourself, that you don't need to wear all that makeup, that you should smile even if you think yours is too big.
He made me realize that the radical freedom I had gained in this esoteric land was far from what I'd initially imagined my life to be. Until then I had been so vigilant in giving nothing of myself away.
And I remember meeting my beautiful friend, Sam, whose brain ran as fast as my own. I was struck by the serendipity of the situation - you hear about meeting people you instantly understand, but I didn't think that would ever happen to me. We were delirious in our beautifully chaotic musings - nothing was too much, and nothing could be enough for our capacity to see the world unlike anyone else.
I was afraid to talk about existentialism because I didn't know what it meant for myself outside of the definition I found bolded in the dictionary. For a long time I just saw it as a noun - the italics seemed redundant. I considered discussing it for a while but toying with words you don't understand is like playing with fire.
But Australia was the first time I didn't see the world as a part of me, but myself, instead, as part of the world. That meant I was a lot smaller than I once thought I was, but it also meant I had the opportunity to see myself as contributing to something much bigger.
It was the first time that I let myself unapologetically feel. It was the first time that I let things in my life be real. And it was also the first time that I realized death didn't mean anything because that merely marked the end of my life, the life in which I would do all the beautiful living.
But back to myself in the car after my year in Australia. I felt confident driving along the narrow lanes of the highway, my CDs blasting 90s music through the speakers of the bright red car I had rented to make it through my last two remaining months in Australia. I was alone and there was victory in knowing these last moments were my own to experience.
I winced at the sky, its splinters and foils of gold still glinting as I moved forward, the rain quietly hitting the windshield while I thought about what it really means to let go. I flew on a plane not too long after that, through that beautiful masterpiece in the sky that I tried to paint myself, tracing my fingers along the small window.
If you feel lost like I did and you don't know what to do then I think that you should go to Australia like I did. But just know that you won't truly understand it for a while. Afterwards, you will smile widely at the memories oscillating through your mind; you will still taste and feel the beautiful parts, the crimson parts, the confusing parts, all of which made you so resilient in retrospect.
You will find something in Australia, but not until you go back home.