I have less than four weeks left in Australia, the country where I've been studying abroad since mid-July. In the months since I've been here I've grown accustomed to high prices, a gap in the ozone layer, and driving on the opposite side of the road. I've gotten used to mornings filled with crows that sound like crying cats and vegemite on toast. I've had the privilege of unprecedented freedom at the price of incredible uncertainty. There were times when I thought to myself, "why the hell did I come here?" There were time when I couldn't catch my breath because I was crying so hard. I missed my friends, I missed my family and I missed my dog. Sometimes I couldn't even figure out why I was so upset. All I wanted was to hop in my car, take a long drive with the windows down, and listen to a painfully existential Spotify playlist. I was lonely.
But there were times where I felt completely in my element. Like when I was driving down Albany Highway surrounded by nothing but the bush and my best friend in the passenger seat. Or every Monday while interning at Carson Street Primary School, helping out with music class and bonding with some of the coolest teachers I've ever met. Or a Friday night out at The Court, an LGBTIQ club in the city, sipping a tequila sunrise and dancing like a lunatic to "Hollaback Girl." Or on the morning of the Marriage Equality Survey results. Or wine tasting in Margaret River. Or playing basketball with the kids at the Youth Centre in Laverton. Or sitting in King's Park reading my favorite book. I look back on these moments and I think about how weird it's going to be when I'm not in Australia.
There are a lot of daunting things ahead when I get home beyond just re-learning traffic patterns and remembering to leave a tip at restaurants. I have to move in to my new house. I have to start preparing for my senior thesis. I have to start researching graduate school programs. I have to pass the hardest course for my major. I have to prepare for psychology comprehensive exams. I have to find a new job. I have to wrestle with the fact that I've been disconnected from my best friends for months. I have to prepare for the fact that home might not feel the same anymore. I have to be ready, somehow, to feel out of place all over again.
No one prepares you for packing up your life and moving across the world. In the same vein, no one prepares you for going back and seeing everything you've ever known through changed eyes. Because as much as I'd like to say I can just slip back into my previous reality, that's not true. It's going to be a process. I'm going to have to be patient with myself and with the people around me.
Through seeking professional care and through the help of my friends, I've gotten a lot better over the years at handling big life transitions. However, I'm seeing some of my unhealthy coping mechanisms coming back. I'm binge eating in the middle of the night and beating myself up afterwards. I'm listening to songs on repeat that I know will make me upset. I'm pouring my drinks stronger than they should be. I'm keeping things in that I know I should open up about. But despite all of that, I'm a few short weeks away from being able to say that I did it. I moved all the way across the world and lived, rather, thrived, for five months. I did well in all my classes. I got out and explored. I made friends. I had a successful internship. I had great volunteer experiences. All of this was worth the sacrifices.
On that fourteen hour flight from Melbourne to Los Angeles I know I'll be mentally preparing myself for all of the ambivalence. There are a lot of big things coming up for me, and of course they're looming in the back of my mind. But for now I'm going to try to focus on the small things. Like hugging my mom at the airport. Like watching Netflix on the couch with my dog. Like getting coffee with my best friends, and doing everything in my power to not feel like a hot mess for a little while.