Around this time ten years ago, I packed as many clothes, shoes and handbags as possible into a big red suitcase in preparation of moving to a city I not yet seen. I distinctly remember the moment when, upon arriving at my destination, I heaved the case out of the boot of the taxi. My body was enveloped with hot humid air and my glasses fogged up, blurring my view of the city lights. I remember the moment so clearly because in my own interpretation of my personal history, this was the moment I felt my life had truly begun.
I moved to Hong Kong on the 03/03/03, a date I had chosen as it seemed auspicious and I had a vague idea that numeric auspiciousness would be a wise start in a city like Hong Kong. Now ten years later I find myself again packing my life up into a suitcase (a black one this time) and the fact that I will start my new job, again in a far away foreign land on the 01/03/13, has not passed unnoticed by me.
Since leaving Australia in 2003, I have returned numerous times, for short and long stays. Most times when I come back I have some idea of how long it will be for. Most times when I leave I have no idea how long it will be for. Often my ideas about how long things will be for, have been just that – ideas. Life has a tendency to do that, take you in different directions, if you let it.
I’ve been lucky to have a steady home base. I return always to the house I was born in. My parents have lived in the same small terrace house in an inner city suburb of Sydney for more than 35 years. The area has changed significantly over the years. When I was growing up we had a couple of punks living next door. Now the suburb has been gentrified. What used to be our local corner shop is now a posh café with staff that don’t bother hiding their aversion to serving you.
The first few times I returned home I felt a bit strange. It felt so intensely familiar, there were so many memories infused within the small radius of Sydney where I spent my first 25 years. But my connection to Sydney was no longer seamless. It had been broken. I had left. I was actively creating new memories somewhere else. This dichotomy of relishing the familiar while not feeling connected can initially be jarring. I’m used to it now.
Things change of course. But most of the simple things that I take delight in remain the same. I still feel exhilarated when the bus turns the corner and I catch a glimpse of Bondi Beach in all her glory. I still love how rejuvenated I feel after walking around Centennial Park. I still love when my girlfriends of twenty years get together and I take pride in the wonderful strong and complex women we have become. I still love pottering around the house with my parents, reading the paper, chuckling at their eccentricities.
Frequently my visits to Sydney have been times of transition – from one country, job or period of travel to the next. It’s balancing act to remain present while the excitement for the pending departure and start of the next adventure grows. Suddenly now I find myself a week out from leaving again. Each moment takes on a heightened intensity. Things become more precious towards the end.
Spending time with my sister and my new nephew has been the overriding joy of this particular visit. That little cutie has captured my heart! I’m not feeling as cavalier as usual when I think I getting on the plane next week to fly to Dubai. But I am ready for the next challenge, to start anew, to build a life away from home. The time I have had back in Sydney will forever be treasured and I am grateful for that.