So yeah, if you’ve been reading the blog over the course of the last year or so you’ll have followed my journey of first buying a one-way ticket to a country halfway across the world from my own in order to avoid the responsibility of searching and interviewing for grad jobs, to having a crazy stressful yet profoundly eye-opening experience in Sydney, Australia, to now being back in the always-freezing-but-eternally-beautiful country that is Scotland.
It’s been a rollercoaster to say the least, and not even one of those rollercoasters that you come off of and immediately join the queue again to have another go. More like one of those rollercoasters you have a wee bit of fun on and scream your head off but leave the coaster car feeling slightly uncomfortable and unsure whether or not your greasy theme park lunch is going to make an unwelcome reappearance.
I’ve had a couple of weeks back in wee Scotland to reflect on my time abroad, and how it differed from the other two times I’ve attempted to live in another country- and I’ve come to two main conclusions…
- Distance does make the heart grow fonder.
- I do get sunburnt.
I did, of course, learn other things during the six months I was abroad, but I’ll go into those later.
Before I left Scotland, my mother and I didn’t really have a relationship. We would text every once in a while, and update each other on the main things happening in each other’s lives, and go out for lunch or dinner together to celebrate special occasions- Mother’s Day and birthdays etc- but there wasn’t any feeling of wanting to speak to each other, or needing to be in contact. The only person I was regularly in contact with (in terms of family) was my brother, and a lot of that consisted of me telling him it was high time he got a job (he still doesn’t have one) and nagging him to study (I will update you on the progress of this nagging once his exam results come out).
But when I went to Australia it was different. My mum and I spoke to each other at least every other day. I found myself wanting to talk to her when I was feeling like things just weren’t going according to the plans I’d made, and, during my stint as an au pair, if anything amusing or weird happened with the kids, I’d WhatsApp her as soon as it happened. AND I asked her for advice when the youngest kid was getting potty trained, and I can tell you right now I have never in my whole (almost) 24 years of life asked my mother for advice.
And this has continued with my coming home. We had a good wee time together in Hong Kong, and I’m seeing her this Sunday for lunch. Granted, it is a Mother’s Day lunch, but this time I actually do want to see her, rather than just going to the lunch because I have to. Maybe being 10,000 miles apart was what we needed to give us a kick in the head and make us realise how important we are to each other and to start mending our relationship.
On top of this, I genuinely feel Mr OneBigStressball and I strengthened our relationship away. I learned what commitment is. Commitment when you’re together is making time to see each other for date nights. It’s being physically there for each other as much as possible and being able to hold each other whenever you feel. Commitment when you’re physically together means having someone to come home to vent to and cry to, and it’s a mutual feeling.
When you’re apart, commitment means something entirely different. Feelings are heightened, messages through Facebook Messenger can be misconstrued so so easily, and communication is even more valuable than normal. When you have 10,000 miles and 11 hours between you, commitment is making sure you text the other person keeping them updated on your day/night (if you’re on a night out). It’s letting them know you’re thinking about them even if it’s a random time of the day, and it’s being there for them at all hours of the day and making yourself emotionally available so they know they can turn to you no matter what. It’s hard. We had so many stupid arguments, and some disagreements that lasted more than a day (unusual for me as I don’t like to sleep on an argument) and jealousy definitely took form as a horrid green eyed monster that was ever-present in our lives and showed its bitter side.
But, at the end of the day, it’s worth it.
I came home to the most welcoming arms. I am now living with the kindest, most supportive person I know, and we both know what no matter what argument we have now, it’ll never compare to having to spend 6 months apart, and we’ll be able to sort it out.
With regards to friendships and un-romantic relationships, I’ve learned that you can’t be friends with everyone. I have always been a person who can be friendly and civil with most people, and have hardly come across anyone that I can’t tolerate, or get along with for that matter… I just like people! Last year though, I had my first major encounter with someone who betrayed my trust in the worst possible way after I’d gone to her and confided in her with my struggles with battling an eating disorder that was destroying my life. I think from then it made me a whole lot more wary of other people, and made me less trusting than I ever have been with who I talk to and who I confide in.
In Australia, I made a few friends that I will continue to be friends with in the future- Mairi, a fellow Scot who helped me through the toughest times I had down under- but I also came across people that I’ve hung out with a couple of times but wouldn’t be devastated if I never say their faces again. Brutal? Maybe, but that’s life.
I’ve just become more careful around others. Putting up a small barrier means I’m able to create relationships but I’ve learned to not allow myself to be put in a position where people can easily take advantage of or hurt me, and I’m going to thank myself for that in the future when I’ve completely rid myself of toxic friendships and am only friends with people I value and love. Being away has also made me value my friendships here in Scotland more. I miss having friends round at my house, watching old music channels* and drinking wine. And I’m happy to be back in Scotland where I can be close to those I love, and can crack open a bottle of vino whenever I want with them.
I can get sunburnt.
All I will say about this is that I think I’ve been properly burnt about twice in my life, so wasn’t too diligent about suncream in Australia. But, a few weekends ago I spent a few hours at Manly beach in Sydney, and, even though I did have suncream on, I got burnt to fuck. I looked lovely and tan for a few days, but then the peeling started and the water blisters formed. It was gross.
What else did I learn down under? I do not want to work with children (in childcare anyway) as a job. Children are annoying, I don’t have the patience, and also I have found myself completely and utterly incapable of being able to handle any sort of bodily fluid, I just have to walk away because otherwise I’ll vomit over the mess I have to clean up and make it 3460932 times worse.
I’ve also learned that, to be able to have a good adventure, you have to f****** PLAN.
I arrived in Sydney with no more of a plan other than to arrive at my au pair home, and $400 AUD. If any of you have been to Sydney you’ll know that $400 does not go far at all. It’s probably enough to get you through a few days of living, but that’s it.
If you want to go and live abroad I’d suggest you plan in advance and actually save some money before you head off on your flight. It helps.
In Aus I also learned how to be stingy as anything. But that is obviously connected to the last point I made about taking money with you.
Australia is a beautiful country, with its beaches and expanses of bushland. There was something to photograph everyday, and I was taken aback constantly at how gorgeous my surroundings were.
Hidden in those surroundings though, were all the animals in the world that want to kill you. I was taught to stay away from funnel web spiders, (those fuckers will kill you so quickly you won’t even know what happened), to be careful of a mad swooping bird, and not to touch anything I didn’t know the exact name and species of. Moths were the size of birds, and the amount of times I had to kill a cockroach with my slipper was ridiculous. Then there was maggot-gate, but I don’t want to talk about that.
What. The. Heck?
In Scotland, the scariest thing there is is probably the fat moths that come in during summer, or maybe the woodlice that roam about your kitchen if it’s humid and damp, but that’s literally it, and they’re tiny. I’ll take a woodlouse over a funnel web any day, thanks.
In Brisbane, I was taught (from being shat on by a koala) that koalas poo around 200 times a day, and kangaroos pack some mean abs.
I also learned that I would 100% prefer being hot than cold. I mean, 40 degree (celsius) days were brutal, but, since coming back to Scotland and being thrown straight into snow days and ridiculously low temperatures, I can honestly say to anyone that I’d rather be sweating my tits off than shivering in cold and being terrified of slipping on ice and breaking an ankle. Now that I think about it, I don’t think I have been properly and comfortably warm since I got home. Dressing gowns are my best mate and I sleep with a blanket and a duvet. **
On a more serious note, and on a topic on which I’ll go into more detail in the future, during my time in Australia I learned how truly difficult it is to live in an environment that is dominated by Alzheimer’s.
Caring for an older gentleman and his wife (who was his primary carer) was one of the most difficult things I have ever done in my life. More so than the process of leaving my loved ones behind in search of a new life elsewhere, because of how utterly consuming it is. Living day in, day out, with someone suffering a disease that destroys the most innate and basic part of you is something you can’t even describe to someone else. Yeah, you see how the disease affects the person who has it, but then as a carer you also see how it affects the people around them. The stress that the his wife was going through was just something I had never come across before, and it was hard to even begin to decipher where I could begin helping her lessen the burden of everyday life.
Of course, there were days where the disease affected me and the way I could do my job, in the sense that the person I was caring for would lash out at me, or call me by the wrong name, or forget that I was supposed to be in his house and start yelling at me for ‘trespassing’, but in the grand scheme of things, what I was feeling could not have even come near what his wife was experiencing, slowly losing her husband of over 50 years to a cruel and humiliating disease.
That, and being away from friends and family, was probably the most difficult thing I experience during my time abroad. My own grandmother has Alzheimer’s and it was upsetting to live what my auntie (who lives and looks after her) lives through each day, and even more upsetting to think that so many people in the world have to deal with caring and looking after their family members who suffer from Alzheimer’s, when in reality all they’re doing is watching their loved ones deteriorate mentally and physically right in front of their eyes.
In the end, I couldn’t quite hack it. A mixture of both me missing home and not enjoying myself as much as I wanted to, and the fact that the gentleman I was caring for was deteriorating so rapidly and his family were starting to look for possible care homes for him to move into, meant that I booked a ticket home 3 months earlier than I had planned to do.
I guess the main thing that I learned while I was away is that not every adventure you go on in life is going to turn out the way you want it to. Perhaps if I’d planned my time more and saved up a lot more money I would have had a better time, but I didn’t. Hindsight is 20/20; you can’t change the past, and all those cliches.
But, as Adele says, ‘At least I can say I’ve tried.’
I took the time out that I needed. I didn’t go all stereotypical and ‘find myself’- on the contrary I found myself back in Scotland, knee deep in snow and shivering non stop- but now, I’m in a place where I am happy, with people who love me and who I love more than anything. I’ve come back to the reality of adult life with a new sense of direction and motivation, and to be honest, at least I can say to myself that I’ve ticked off a place on my bucket list and I’ve held a koala in my arms, so there’s no need to take any more unnecessary 20 hour flights in the future!
Sydney was certainly something else, and though it was an adventure, it was a different kind of adventure to the one I was looking for, but I did it, and I’ve made a friend for life from it, so I’ve got that to take from my experience! Would I go back? Not to live, no, but perhaps when I’m older and have done everything else on my bucket list and want a cheeky holiday in the sun, but not right now.
*The music channel Magic always has pure bangers and throwback music and is v entertaining.
**I have a thing called a Slanket and would recommend it to everyone and anyone because it is my favourite thing in the world.