Tuesday PM, 23/02/2016
And so ends my last complete day in Sydney – full of laughs, sunshine, good food, hugs and rushed goodbyes. Bags packed. Strategy for sneaking an extra 5kg over the baggage allowance devised (have mercy, Singapore Air).
Before this summer, I’d been impatient to leave for ICS (in-country study) since time immemorial.
I’d long grown weary of the grind here: working the same jobs for years, slogging my way through countless internships that had no substantive prospect of a career at the end, waking each day at 7am and cramming my hours with as many mindless responsibilities as possible before crashing at night. It was busy-ness without a purpose, busy-ness only for the sake of itself.
Sure, marks were good (are they ever not when you’re doing a BA at UTS), work was breezy, I was comfortable and had great friends. But it felt like I hadn’t moved forward in a long time, hadn’t you know, switched shit up. It felt like there was nothing more for me in this city, at least not at this time.
Shanghai represented an opportunity to leave a lot of the physical and emotional drain of 2015 behind and start something new from the ground up – all that was unknown was at least exciting. By the time this summer rolled around, I had never been more keen to just get out of the city. My then-boyfriend had moved far, far, far, away, signalling the end of our confusing but more than lovely relationship and I was suitably, uh, devo. If nothing else, the intensity of leaving home and starting a new, foreign life would be an A+ distraction from what would otherwise be a long, unproductive period of lying face down in my pillow making whimpering noises and listening to Mac DeMarco all week, punctuated by drinking like Mac DeMarco all weekend.
But I still had two-and-a-half long, balmy months to pass, so the self-pity stopped (mostly) and my entire existence morphed into project MAKE SUMMER LIT 2K16. I often wish I could go back in time and smack my 14 and 18-year-old selves, the ones who thought misery and internal dysfunction “made me interesting”, as did sitting alone on the kerb chain-smoking and thinking about how pointless and empty everything was. They were fucking fools. Introspection is definitely a minimum requirement to being a quality human being, but too much of it will end you. At some point, we all just have to get on and enjoy what’s still out there.
And so we switch back on. It started with three weeks running around Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand eating six meals a day because everything tastes so good and is like $2 (meanwhile I spent $19 on a “green breakfast salad” today, fuckin Bondi), reading in our dorms, dancing in the street, doing some irresponsible and frankly out of character shit with new friends while becoming even closer with the old. I grew about 800 new freckles, gained a massive scar on my right foot and my friends have a whole album’s worth of photos of me blacked out in a Siem Reap hospital but that’s a price I’d happily pay again for what a beautiful time it was.
And then we came home and Sydney just started to emanate this glorious, exquisite, honestly rude glow. Everything is more lovely when you know it’s soon to be gone. Gainful, full-time-ish employment felt like such an honour and privilege, coupled with the knowledge that you’re good at what you do, no matter how low-level it is. Coming home gratifyingly exhausted, cooking tomorrow’s lunch, going for a run, creating routines. Running into professional/personal trouble and laughing about it over Messina and fries late at night on the floor of my apartment with a friend, drained from a week working at the hospital, another driving all the way down from Newcastle just to spend time together. Weekends filled with road trips, floating in the ocean, live music, going out like we’re still 18, new friends I don’t want to say goodbye to yet, old friends I don’t want to say goodbye to yet. OK this is starting to sound like a terrible Coca-Cola ad montage but you feel me. Of course, the sadness and disappointment from the start of it all was, and is, still in me – but if anything it sharpened the loveliness of everything that was both still here and yet to be found, and this previously-undiscovered vulnerability drew me closer to all those by my side.
Today I woke up at around 6.30am and couldn’t get back to sleep. I was meeting some friends in the area for breakfast later anyway so decided to head out to North Bondi and be near the early-morning sea one last time. Has the sand always been this soft? I must’ve looked pretty ridiculous in a knee length dress, lying directly on the sand face-up, starfish, staring straight into the sky, alone. Shiny Eastern suburbs people in their ahctive-wahr jogging around me, probably wondering is that Asian chick dead or…whatever, I got reps to finish. The perfect blue sky hurt my eyes a little. The sand was still cool, the sea loud.
Sydney, you make it so hard to leave.