A new way of being Australian

So it’s looking like we might be returning to Australia once my course is done. I finish at the end of April but I will likely need to stick around for graduation which will be May or June I think. We can legally stay until October so at least there’s a bit of leeway.

As I’ve alluded to previously, this whole journey, from the moment we decided to try Canada to now, has been fraught with obstacles, problems, challenges and frustrations. It’s been Murphy’s law the whole way through, and that’s putting it mildly. The Universe has been doing its best to show us the easy path to this point but we chose the hard one. No regrets. Worries, problems, stresses in the immediate, yes, but no regrets. I know with 100 per cent certainty that my Masters is going to lead to something special. And we will be alright.

 

this is how i remember Eric Bana. the quintessential bogan

What I wanted to write about is how I’m coming to terms with my Australian identity. It’s a major theme of this blog actually, and it may even warrant a rebranding as it’s emerging as the central theme. It also relates closely to my academic research interests and is part of what my (eventual) PhD thesis will discuss: finding where I belong and my culture.

I’m a mixture of European blood and I’ve struggled my whole life with an inability to identify with being Austalian. I’d actually go so far as to say I’ve had this underlying irrational disdain for Austalia and all things Aussie. I always looked down on it, was bothered by the lack of rich history or refinement that I perceived Europe to be about. This is all just my narrative though, a fairy story. After all, “the past is just a story we tell ourselves”. Australia has heaps of history and some exceptionally brilliant people. Everywhere has its pluses and minuses.

 

that quote is from the film “Her”. if you haven’t seen it, go look on Netflix now, it’s brilliant

Since beginning to come to terms with going back, I’m acutely aware of my new journey. I’m on a quest to find peace with my Aussie identity. This isn’t something I’ve been able to try seriously before. I was too busy rejecting Australia. I don’t really know for sure why I was always so vehemently anti-Australia, there’s more to be said about that, but suffice it to say now I’m officially beginning my mission to become an Australophile (I just invented that rather clunky word – I bet there’s a proper one I don’t know).

Maybe it’s slowly been creeping up since becoming a parent but there’s been this process of mellowing out, an increase in self-confidence perhaps, and not just an urge to settle down but an actual process of settling, wherever I am. I think it’s more accurate to say that the transition to family life has created a harmony or contentedness in me and it’s not just a new phase, it’s me now so no matter where I am, I’m living it. It’s showing in my marriage too. We’ve never been happier, despite how insane our lives have been since embarking on this move. And all I want to do is live that, the happy family life, full of routines and parenting highs and lows, searching out simpler ways to just be together and embrace our true selves. Gosh, it sounds so airy fairy! I don’t mean for it to be like that!

I guess what I’m saying is that it’s a revelation for me to find myself like this and I have this move to thank for it, partly anyway. I am finally able to see Australia as home and that is something pretty special.

Melbourne contrasts

Over the last six months or so I’ve felt completely unemotional about Melbourne and then really sentimental about it. It’s been years since I’ve considered myself anywhere close to settling down in a place that’s really home. Melbourne was meant to be that, home.

I’d wanted to live here since my best friend and I came on the bus from Canberra at 16. It was about nine hours of stuffy cramped lurching and trying to resist using the on-board facilities for fear of passing out from the stench. We stayed at the YMCA in the city. Lord knows what the hell our parents were thinking letting us stay overnight alone in a strange city at that age. We shopped in Bourke Street mall and then spent much of the afternoon traipsing around Toorak (or was it Brighton?) trying to decipher which house might be Tommy Emmanuel’s based on a few glimpses of the driveway my friend got during an episode of Burke’s Backyard. (Gimme a home among the gum trees…) We speculated that we may well be walking past Darryl Sommers’ or Bert Newton’s place. And then we went home. Even then, 20 years ago, I knew Melbourne had something special to offer. I loved it. I wanted to move here as soon as I moved out of home when I was 18. Which didn’t happen of course. I was nearly 25 by the time I left home and by then my main focus was on my boyfriend.

Fast forward to 2009 and I was on a boat in London with a different boyfriend, a more serious one. The Tattershall Castle I think it was, one of those boats permanently moored along the Embankment with the whole thing decked out as a bar and nightclub. My boyfriend had just reluctantly agreed to move to Melbourne. I celebrated by doing shots with a new friend who happened to be from Melbourne.
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Why didn’t I just go with it? Why did I relent and say, “okay fine, no, let’s go to Sydney. You’re moving across the other side of the world for me. We’ll go where you want.” Why?!

Because of that decision, we aren’t totally happy where we live. That boyfriend and I are now married with two kids. But we can’t settle down because we don’t feel totally at home here. Why not?
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It’s strange but it comes down to climate for the most part. The older I get, the less tolerant of the heat I am. Seriously, if it never got hotter than about 27 I’d be totally happy. These summers of months of 30-something days are just not my bag. Same with Mr Chewbacca. And I want snow! Every winter! And green, proper green, not this washed out, tired, gumtree grey-brown excuse for green.
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So what has changed? I’m not totally sure but I think I have. I never felt particularly comfortable being an Australian but I’m realising more now that I don’t belong here, despite the familiarity. I completely hate this feeling of not belonging, of not having a home, but try as I might there are just so many things about this country that just don’t fit me. I think if I’d moved to Melbourne when I was 18 or in my early 20s things would have turned out very differently. I would have done my stint here and known sooner where I belong.

I also hate not being settled. I want a home for our family now. But I have to be true to myself and aim for the best. How can I build a home when I don’t feel I belong here? And when I say “here” I mean Australia.

Melbourne, I’d like to scoop you up and plonk you down somewhere in the northern hemisphere where there’s snow in winter, mild summers and deciduous trees. I want your village hubs, your great cafés and shops, your eclectic mix of people, your many forms of transport, your grid system, your amenities and opportunities and your friendly drivers. I’ll even take your beaches.

Nomenclature

If you’ve read this blog more than once (not holding my breath here), you’d have noticed with confusion and probably an eye roll than I keep changing the name.

Names to date:
Curiosikat’s blog – back when I didn’t get blogging yet.
Lepidoptera – the Latin name or genus or something like that for moths. Cos I am scared of ’em. Yeah, lame.
Venatrix – means ‘huntress’ in Latin. Nuff said. Lame-o-rama.
Kat is curious – cos I’m curious. But I’m actually not so that sucks.
Can’t remember the others but, you guessed it, they were lame. Or as my mum put it when I asked her opinion about Venatrix, “slightly contrived”. And this is from a woman with a physical inability to be critical. Uh huh.

Names I’ve been thinking about:
Curiouser and curiouser – Alice in Wonderland reference of course and the whole reason I came up with Curiosikat back in 2008 when I started this blog malarky. Okay as a screen name but been done to death otherwise.
Down the rabbit hole, Through the looking glass and a bunch of other Alice crap – it’s my favourite book. But it appears to be a lot of other people’s favourite too. So yeah, been done.
Yggdrasil – the World Tree from Norse mythology because I have a random obsession with Scandinavia. But too weird and just… contrived.
Isabelle Bently – the pseudonym I always gave myself as a child.
Vassilisa the Beautiful – character from a Russian folktale my mum used to read to me. Sounds similar to my name… Actually no it doesn’t. I just thought of it and liked it.

I can’t remember all the different things I’ve come up with. What’s most important is that this is the last time I change it. It’s just getting silly now. And if I ever hope to gain some followers I need to be consistent at least with my name.

So… I’ve been toying with the idea of using my full name in the title. Because Kat is obviously just my nickname. I guess it all comes down to facing my fears about ‘people’ finding and reading this and knowing who I am. People in real life, friends and family. I know a few friends do read bits, or at least that’s what they tell me, but they are people I’ve given the address to. Not other people; who may have been mentioned, albeit briefly and never by name, in the occasional post. It’s not like I’ve said bad stuff but I just wouldn’t want to upset anyone.

My full name is pretty distinctive, especially in Australia (it’s not an English name). If someone googled me, they might be led here. Which isn’t that bad I guess. At the moment if you Google me you get some articles I wrote for magazines (nothing exciting, a government publication), some documentary film reviews, and heaps of discussion forum posts on genealogy forums. The spelling of my name is not too unique in Europe but in Australia I think it is a bit. So I can imagine googling my name from Australia may eventually bring up this blog. Then again, it’s possibly a bit arrogant of me to say that, as I know how google’s indexing works and I’d be lucky to get a spot on the first page of results. But I’m still a little nervous.

So. I’ve got to do it. I just think my first name really works. And other people do it, right? But they don’t write such personal stuff. Except Eden. But I can’t expect to ever be in that league. Actually most bloggers do share their real names. But most don’t share their secrets. Or do they? I think that’s a topic for another post.

For now, I’m going to think about it some more. I’ll be sure to explain in a short post if and when I do change it so at least anyone interested can work out what’s going on. Unlike the last 56 times. Sorry about that. Chief.

Who, me?

Yay, Eden is doing Fresh Horses again! It’s a meme. Whatever. If you don’t know what the hell I’m on about, go here. Or just ignore this first bit and keep reading. Or click away. Actually no, don’t, I’ll try to keep this one short… Who am I kidding, I don’t know how to do that.

Who am I? Such a hard question. I find it hard to define the essential me that differs from my roles. Mother, wife, daughter, friend… Yeah I’m those things but they don’t define who I am.

I was always shy. Not timid, just reserved and self-conscious. I never said a word to any stranger, wouldn’t even look someone in the eye if I didn’t know them. Except one day, about age three, some woman walking past said, “hello little girl.” Apparently I looked her straight in the eye and said, “you’re a tomato.” As you do. Made perfect sense to me at the time. And that kind of defines me in a way. I keep my head down and do my own thing most of the time but I know what I think and will give an opinion at intervals. And when I do, it can be extreme!

People don’t believe me when I say I’m shy but it’s true. I felt so different as a kid. I truly believed there was no one in the world like me; no one who really got me. I always marvelled at others who seemingly sailed through life, enjoying just being. I felt out of place and often overlooked. I was neurotic, still am. I’d watch others and judge: why is he walking pigeon-toed? Why is she slouching? Don’t they realise what their bodies are doing?

In high school I had physical anxiety at the prospect of socialising. I’d get off the phone with my best friend, having just agreed to some spontaneous outing later that night, and immediately feel pain in my stomach as I frantically reeled through ideas for getting out of it. Tell her I can’t; just don’t turn up; get sick; make an excuse…

I am a perfectionist. I’m hugely judgmental of myself. I’m a procrastinator. I’m lazy. I’m indulgent. I’m patient. I love ice cream. Especially gelato and Ben & Jerry’s. I’m overweight. My weight is the biggest and longest-standing issue in my life. I have an extraordinarily strong body and constitution. I’m lucky for that.

I’m great with languages, so much so that I ended up with a degree in Italian only because it was easy. I used to work in government even though I vowed never to as I thought that was for average people; and I am anything but average. I can be snobby, but it’s not so much a class thing as an intelligence thing. I can’t be bothered with stupid people who float through life without any self-awareness. Harsh, right? Yeah, I can be harsh. But for some reason people still like me.

I value feeling at home in a place over the people who are around me. I have a bizarre fascination with Scandinavia. I’m pretty sure I was Norwegian in another life. I love ice and snow and cool crisp air. I love European trees, autumn leaves, wood fires, wooden houses with attics and Persian carpets and heavy old furniture. I love my comfort.

Eden says she’s good at starting fresh, drawing a line in the sand. I’m shit at that. Actually I’ll clarify that: I’m good at declaring a line has been drawn and that this is the beginning of a whole new phase. As for actually following through, forget it, never happens. That is one thing about myself that I really hate, that lack of discipline and motivation. But it dominates and I can’t rid myself of it. Probably the only time I’ve successfully ‘changed’ is when I went to live in London. I ended a long term relationship, slept with some randoms, got beer from the offie at 3am, took drugs, took risks, went on blind dates, smoked, manipulated men with sex, drank a lot of coffee, earnt good money and met my husband. Sounds dodgy but it was liberating. I don’t regret any of it. Except the time I went home with an ugly Greek guy who lived in Kingston upon Thames. And maybe the time I had taken so much coke I couldn’t get to sleep even though it was like 7am so I stood on an icy balcony and looked out over the apartment complex and breathed in the cold air and smoked and wondered if the few people I saw could guess I was coked up the yin yang. That was the last time, I vowed. And I guess I did draw a line at that point.

I really don’t know who I am. But I do feel glad to be it. I feel excited at the prospect of finally being at home; I know it exists, I’m close. Can’t wait to get away from bloody Sydney. I’m glad to be married to a man currently sitting watching rugby and occasionally looking over at me and eating his shortbread seductively; and then sticking up his middle finger when I laugh at him. I am glad to be the mother of this heavy 13-month-old currently draped across me, boobie firmly in mouth, sound asleep, little mouth fluttering at interval. I’m a writer and I’ll keep writing until I have nothing left. Maybe then I’ll know who I am. Probably at the end. It’s one of those journey versus destination things, right?

Oh, and I am allergic to honey. True story.

Edenland's Fresh Horses Brigade

Who am I?

This is something that always plagues me whenever I blog. In fact I hesitated about starting a blog for ages simply because of this. I really don’t want to reveal my identity on my blog, yet I have this (perhaps self-indulgent) urge to spill my guts.  I guess it’s kind of like any social media, we want to tell the world what we’re doing, who we are, and the world is interested because people are interesting; voyeurism is interesting.

What I’ve really struggled with, though, is the fact that I don’t have much to do with my family, on both sides, and I don’t really want them reading anything I write. That’s not to say they can’t, but I just want nothing to do with them, so thinking they might read my blog is kind of concerning.  Let’s get this straight: these are not normal people.  I tend not to hold grudges, it’s not just about that; these are people who have serious psychological issues, people who have been really nasty to me for no good reason, people who I can never forgive, people whose presence in my life offers nothing but stress and unhappiness.  These are the people I would move to the other side of the world to avoid.  And these people generally have no lives and like to gossip.  Not that I could give a crap whether they talk about me or what they say, but it’s more that it makes me really angry that they dare to try and invade my space even though they know I want nothing to do with them and they are the cause of that.

All that aside, I’m still not entirely comfortable with telling the interwebs about the details of my life; not because I am closeted or secretive, far from it, but because what if some psycho dickhead reads it and does some research and finds out where I live and comes to kill me or something?  I read some fabulous blogs of lovely people who identify themselves by name and with photos.  You can easily work out roughly where they live and I reckon if you were a real weirdo you could hang out at the local shops and follow them home… and I dunno, murder them or something.  But thinking about it, what good does knowing someone’s name and what they look like do you?  If you’re going to stalk and murder someone, couldn’t you just do that, without having to stalk them online first?  So what am I so worried about?

Anyway, the whole point of this post is to say that I like talking about myself a lot but I will mainly avoid identifying myself via this blog, at least for the moment.  Maybe when I get more into the swing of regularly posting and feeling like I know what my blog is about, and maybe if I get a following (yeah right) then I will reconsider.  But for the moment, I am Curiosikat, I am mother of the Dude, wife to husband.  My husband and I text in Yoda speak (spaghetti for dinner, I will make), the Dude won’t sleep for more than half an hour by himself, I don’t have enough money, we live somewhere I hate, but we manage.

Pregnancy and nesting

So I’m now 27 weeks along and feeling just fine. It’s certainly been an interesting ride so far.  Baby’s head is sitting firmly in my pelvis (not a pleasant feeling on the bladder) and feet and hands are moving almost constantly. Which is good, it’s what’s meant to be happening apparently. Despite being overweight, I’m healthy, blood pressure is normal, baby’s heart rate is normal and I feel good.  Being pregnant hasn’t been hard yet, but I suspect as I venture into this third trimester I’ll start to feel a bit heavy.

I’m having the baby at home, not in a hospital, which has been my wish from before I even wanted to be pregnant (or had someone to get me pregnant!) and I’m really excited about it all. At first I was a bit apprehensive about giving birth in our loungeroom, as we live in a tiny one bedroom flat under a big mansion, so it’s not like I can dedicate a room as the birthing room, and baby won’t have his or her own room (not that it’s needed anyway early on). We’d talked about moving out to somewhere with two bedrooms before baby arrived, and I thought this was the plan until a couple of months ago my husband mentioned casually how he’d been telling people I was having the baby in our lounge in our current flat.  I was surprised to hear this!  Turns out he’d worked it all out in his own head but had forgotten to mention it to me.  He said he thought it made sense – we live in one of the best suburbs in Sydney, right up on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean.  It’s so beautiful that tourists come here from everywhere just to walk around across the road from our house, and it’s the perfect place – calm, natural, quiet, awe-inspiring – to bring a baby into the world and for him or her to spend the first few months of life.  He commented yesterday that the lounge is such a peaceful room, not too bright but not too dark, large enough to fit a big pool in, wooden floors to help deal with any, erm, spills, and just a generally serene place, perfect for the arrival of our first baby.  I soon realised that he was right and that we didn’t need to move.

And that brings me to the nesting part of this post.  I still can’t get used to Sydney as my home.  I don’t want to, the truth be told.  I don’t want to be a part of this place.  It’s like it bores into my soul, or strips something out of me every time I drive through the city.  Just being in Sydney often makes me feel like my life is at an end!  I feel hopeless here.  We’ve made some lovely friends, good people, whose company I enjoy; but at some level it feels a bit like we’re trying too hard.  It’s like Jerry Seinfeld says, you get to a point in your life where you have your friends, and you don’t need or want any more; you’ve only got a certain number of ‘slots’ to fill and those are all filled.  I guess I’m also unique in this sense because I don’t ‘need’ friends as such, or at least I don’t have to socialise to feel complete.  Socialising for me is an effort.  Don’t get me wrong, I usually enjoy it once I’m doing it, but sometimes I just want me time, alone time.  My husband is the opposite, and although he loves doing his own thing or just spending time with me, he really needs lots of people around him and lots of stuff happening constantly.  He’s an extrovert and I’m an introvert, in the simplest sense.

I’m really over complaining about Sydney; I don’t like it, end of story, and I will never feel at home here.  I want to move to Melbourne.  At least the city has no negative affiliations for me, I can start fresh there, and I do have some good friends there who I’d like to see more often.  More than anything, it’s about starting fresh and settling down properly, instead of this forced ‘plonking’ I’ve done in Sydney.  I’m only here because husband wanted to come here, and I figured it wasn’t fair of me to make him move to a city that he, at the time, hated; he’s coming to live on the other side of the world with me, so I should at least give him the choice of city.  Oh how I wish I hadn’t relented!

I’ll never forget that moment I chose my Sydney fate.  We’d had a few drinks, more than a few really, having come from an annual rugby club dinner at the Houses of Parliament (London), and we were partying the night away at the after party which was on one of those permanently moored boats along the Embankment – Tattersall Castle?  Or was it Queen Mary or whatever that other one is called…? I can’t remember.  It was somewhere close to midnight, and we happened to coordinate our air (read: cigarette) breaks up on the deck outside.  I wore a cheap, black cocktail dress I’d bought off eBay for 30 pounds and I was hot and sweaty from dancing downstairs in the nightclub.

“Okay. Let’s go to Melbourne then.”  He looked at me with the most forlorn look on his face.  I couldn’t believe what I was hearing and asked him to repeat it, which he did.  My reaction wasn’t what he or I expected; it was delayed, and not because I was utterly overjoyed at the prospect of moving to a city I’d wanted to live in for a good ten years.  I couldn’t handle allowing him to make that sacrifice for me, to move to a city that, four years prior, he’d experienced as cold, unfriendly, and generally boring, when he knew Sydney a little, and had found it so friendly, warm, sunny, full of fun and beaches and pubs and his favourite rugby.  I finally hugged him and said “thank you”.  But I couldn’t feel happy; I felt deflated, like it was a bit of an anti-climax.  And he was clearly miserable.

We went back downstairs and I told a friend from Melbourne that the decision had been made; needless to say she was very happy, as was her Kiwi boyfriend who was going to be moving down around the same time as us and knew no one in the city.

I really wish I’d ignored my man’s misery and ploughed ahead with the plan of Melbourne; but how would we have booked a wedding venue when neither of us really knew the city?  How could we have moved there any way?  We’d have had to organise every aspect of our wedding in the four months between arriving in January and getting married in April, and that’s ignoring the fact we’d need to find a place to live and get jobs.  Could it have been done?  I can’t answer that, because we never attempted it.  Maybe there’s a parallel universe somewhere with a version of me living in Melbourne, buying a house there, decorating a room for this baby, planting vegies in the garden, working as a freelance editor for some awesome publishing house… Or maybe that other version of me is just as miserable as this one, knowing that Australia is the wrong place to be.  Coming home has made me question why we ever did it, why we left London.  I know it was because I wanted to bring my children up and settle down somewhere more family-friendly, slower-paced, with better weather and more social freedom.  But that idealistic picture I had of Australia is slowly becoming eroded, as I realise more and more just how behind we are here, and how maybe being here doesn’t suit me as I thought.  Maybe that realisation I had at 18 that I was actually Australian and not European is being turned on its head, and once again I struggle with my cultural and social identity.  Time will tell…