I felt like a goldfish in a bowl, tears swelling in my eyes and leaking out with every smile. There on the other side of the glass was almost everything in the world that mattered to me – my mum, my two sisters, my two best friends and my two nieces. The sounds around me were muffled and it was like I was the only one in the international departures lounge connecting silently through the glass with my loved ones whose touch I felt last at the customs gate.
This trip has been a long time coming. Three years ago I thought I wanted to move to London with my then boyfriend. Start a life together, despite our relationship being relatively new. I thought this was it. But no plans were made, it was only ever an idea. About a year ago, I found myself stuck in a rut, single, spending very little time with family and friends and feeling very alone in a city where perhaps I could have found comfort if only I asked. My internal struggles were not reflected in my work as I continued to push and be everything to everyone wherever possible. Only my mum really shared the severe ups and downs I was riding. Something had to change as I found myself knowing who I wanted to be but struggling to be her. After meeting an interstate colleague who was on assignment from the Netherlands I was inspired – he introduced me to the idea of having an international experience in Amsterdam. I could still live abroad without being accompanied by a significant other and I could do it where half of my genetics originated, allowing me to continue building my career abroad while having an opportunity to find myself and become the person I know I can be, if only I had the space to do it. The prospect was exciting, but I wasn’t quite ready to jump in. The cogs really started really in December when I agreed to connect with my Dutch counterparts through my interstate colleague. First was a couple of interviews, then tests, the more interviews, then before I knew it I was signing a contract and preparing to say ‘seeya later’ to my Aussie life.
Some might call it running away. But I don’t. This experience isn’t about running from anything, because the one thing I would be running from is myself and that just wouldn’t make sense as I’m taking me with me! And now, today as I sit on a plane to Dubai, the first leg of my journey, I feel level and content, with greater clarity than I have had in such a long time. Perhaps preparing for my journey was where I was meant to have a lot of my learnings. I have been truly humbled by the good wishes I’ve received and the farewell celebrations which have been attended by my nearest and dearest. This experience has really showed me who matters the most in my life and who deserves my love and attention. That’s not to say my love and attention are a prize, but as humans sometimes we find it hard to realise that these things are finite resources and the more thinly we spread ourselves the less good we do for those closest to us. I have learned this in the last couple of weeks and I’m going to do my best to remember this lesson! You can’t be everything to everyone, no matter how much you try.
I feel so blessed. The stars have aligned over the last few months. First securing the job in Amsterdam, building a connection with my dad’s cousin who is my only known family connection in the Netherlands, and thanks to her hard work and research already having somewhere to call home in the Netherlands before I even step on the plane, and my visa was approved quickly. Further, all of my interstate work travel earned me Silver frequent flyer status which gave me a heap more baggage to take on the plane, and as far as packaging up what I am leaving behind, a new housemate moved into the share house who had ample kitchen goods to replace those I was removing, my landlord has been great about me leaving a few things in storage and my mum has been a superstar facilitating moving my things back home to the country for storage. I feel like all of this is all bigger than me, this plan has been in place for a while. And there is no other place I am meant to be right now other than sitting on this plane.
Reflecting on the planned and random encounters I have had over the last couple of weeks since finishing work in Australia, and the events in the months preceding which have built on the story, my heart is so full. I don’t remember ever feeling this way. People I haven’t spoken to in years have reached out to wish me well and catch up before I leave, I’ve had wonderful dinners cooked especially for me and I’ve had a few fabulous nights out (and in!) drinking a little too much but having a great time. It’s like the walls have dropped away and I have experienced more life in the past month than I have in the past three years, despite all the crazy sorting, packing, de-cluttering, moving and reorganising and delegating going on concurrently. Sorry mum for being so last minute, but we got there. What would I do without you!?
Saying goodbye is really hard. I’ve made a choice to take myself away from everyone whom I love in this world, but I know this is what I needed to do. And I will be back. The echos of “we love you Annie!” vibrating down the customs corridor continue in my heart. Let the journey begin!