The other day, I was in full nesting mode and decided to clean out a desk full of clutter to organize things for the baby’s arrival.
I started digging through paperwork, wedding cards, scattered checkbooks and bank ledgers. When I hit the bottom drawer, I found under a collection of VHS tapes and undeveloped rolls of film the giant goodbye card from my job in Australia. I’d forgotten I’d kept it.
When I left my job back in May, I didn’t really leave it. I left the physical office, but I’ve continued, to this day, to work for them remotely. It was an uncommon arrangement in my company, especially to have someone working all the way from the States. But due to the nature in which Brendan and I were leaving the country, my manager invited me to stay on in a contractual capacity.
Keeping my Australian job allowed me to keep one foot in my old country. As I tried to acclimate to life back in America, part of me was happy to still have a tie to Oz. I still felt like I was partially there despite being so far away, even as correspondence with my Sydney friends began to trickle, the initial buzz of our departure slowly wearing off, and I got used to ordering tall lattes instead of flat whites and saying shrimp instead of prawn.
It’s been great to work for my company for this long for several reasons. It’s given me a full two years in one role — the longest I’ve ever stayed in one position in my entire work life. I’ve gotten to continue working with people I generally like. I’ve gotten to maintain a competitive income, one likely higher than what I would have been able to command at a similar role in New York, at least initially. And I’ve learned a whole lot more that I needed to learn.
But staying at my company has also prevented me from letting go of Australia. With each page turn of the calender, I realized that I wasn’t moving on. In fact, I was getting angry and sad. I didn’t know if I liked America anymore. I didn’t even know if I liked some of my friends. Everything seemed better back in Australia — the economy, the climate, the people. New York City was gritty and dirty. Sydney was much more easy going and clean. I’d quickly forgotten that, in Sydney, I’d missed the very facets of the East Coast I was hating.
I mentioned a few weeks ago to Brendan and a close friend that I felt like a cycle was coming to an end for me — a cycle that started back in 2009 when all the things happened that turned out to be catalysts for my move to Australia. Cycles don’t always end at clear-cut points. I also believe in a grieving process for things, not just death. Leaving a country you’d come to call home is like breaking up with a long-term partner, even if it was your choice to leave.
As I opened the goodbye card from my work mates and started to read the nice, funny messages, I was finally, after nine months, hit with a sense of closure. I was past the denial and anger phases. It was time to move on, and I was, at last, ready. A new time is starting in my life, and I have to fully give myself over to it. No, America is not Australia, and part of me will always miss Sydney and the friends I had there. It’s a snapshot in time that can never be recaptured. But America is where I am right now, and it deserves a chance. I need to start being fully present here and stop wishing for what’s passed.
I read all the messages, tears coming about midway through, and then snapped a few photos of the card with my iPhone — just in case I need a pick-me-up on a down day. I closed the card, looked at the cover one last time and threw it away.