We got an apartment in West Harlem in less than a week and Brendan started work two days after we moved in. We found our local bar/snack spot and grocery store that afternoon. That first night, my good friend Nicole came over and sat drinking wine with us at our kitchen table in one of our two donated dining room chairs as I curled up in the window sill. I’d discovered Harlem through her, after she’d moved to the city to attend grad school at Columbia five years earlier.
In the year before I moved to Australia, as I struggled with what to do with my life after a major breakup and dissatisfaction with my job and my current location, she had her own personal struggles. Friends since freshman year of college, we dealt with our demons by hanging out in the city together nearly once a month, often simply snuggled up on her couch devoring Chinese while re-watching the season finale of Dawson’s Creek. I’d been to New York City dozens of times before that, for shows, for sightseeing, for clubbing, for boozing and, at one point, I thought, love. It was always so dizzyingly chaotic and exciting. But I learned to love those quiet times my good friend and I leaned on each other, a talk and a takeaway pizza cocooning us in a calmer, more certain world amidst the craziness of the city and our circumstances in life.
Right before I got laid off from my job in June 2009, I’d started really plotting my escape from Philadelphia. I’d started the dreaming long before that, but it was the first time I was actually looking into what would be feasible as soon as possible. The options I’d considered were my mother’s house, London, Australia and New York City. My sister and I talked about possibly renting a small apartment in the city. I had several friends in the area, and I still would have been close to my family. I also had a few career opportunities knocking about.
It wasn’t meant to be, at the time. But it is now – we officially moved in almost four years to the day I got laid off, just shy of the four-year anniversary of this blog.
So much of the backstory of how I came to be on a plane to a country I’d never visited and where I knew no one has been left out over the last four years. This wasn’t necessarily intentional. I just got so caught up in my Australian adventure that I didn’t think that lead-up warranted as much attention. And besides, I’d been so eager to leave it behind. But readers and others have approached me in the last few months asking about that story, and what I plan to focus on for this blog as I am no longer an expat and have put major travel plans on the backburner for now.
Over the next few months (Years? Who knows), on this blog and perhaps via other formats, I’ll share how I came to move to Australia, along with what it’s like to move back. I hope these stories help people. I hope they give whoever reads them insight into themselves and dare them to live their dreams, or simply reassure them that happiness is possible, even in the darkest days. Because I lived out some of my mine a 20-minute walk from where I’m now living out some of my brightest.