One of those catch-up posts

I am kind of obsessive about record-keeping, but in a quite eccentric way. I like to write dates on everything. Even little post-it notes I write with story ideas, I’ll put a date on there. I’ve always done it. The problem is that I don’t always keep up with my documenting everything, so while I keep records, I don’t always get to complete them. And that’s what’s happened with this blog recently.

The last time I posted was in April and now it’s September. I have at least half a dozen part-complete posts sitting in my drafts. And although the things I was documenting in those have passed, I absolutely must finish and publish them. So I’m going to do what I did when we first went to Canada. I’m going to publish them in order, dating them when they occurred, and try and catch up to now.

One of the reasons I’ve been hesitant in posting stuff, aside from having no time or reliable internet connection, is that the stuff that’s happened since deciding to come back to Australia has been a bit hush-hush. Not to say it’s a secret as such, more just that we’ve been a bit wild and crazy with our decision-making and we didn’t really want to broadcast stuff to the world. It’s just what we do.

So, stay tuned, if you like, for updates since that time we saw the Mennonites playing volleyball somewhere outside of St Josephs, Ontario, and we’ll go from there. The updates will contain many child-related anecdotes, stories about rush decisions (what’s new?!), and document the pain of adjustment as a result of yet another move when, in actual fact, I’d decided I was completely over moving and wanted a house like six years ago. Funny how some decisions impact immediately on your life and others just seem to fall by the wayside.

The right path

How do you know when you’re on the ‘right’ path? I feel like I used to know, before I got distracted by life. It’s like, in my teenage years and 20s I used to have huge amounts of time to ponder and think over things. Too much time really. An ex-boyfriend (who, when he was my boyfriend, wouldn’t commit enough to my liking and I desperately wanted him to buy me some jewellery to symbolise our commitment) once bought me a birthday present, I think when I was about 22. It was a silver ID bracelet and he’d had it engraved. On the front it had my name and on the back was “No Thinking Zone”. I think we’d been dating a year or so and he wasn’t really intellectually the right person for me but he easily saw my issue back then. I was thinking too much, going over every little thing, obsessing.

Oh if only I had the time to obsess now! Something happened, I think, around the time that first serious relationship started to break down, and life started to become full. I resisted, of course, and it was only because that boyfriend announced he was leaving for a stint in London that I pig-headedly pushed my way forward and ended up leaving for my own London adventure a few months before him. I resisted it all the way, was convinced I would be there for about six months, and I wasn’t going there to party it up like all the other antipodeans. Oh no, I was just going for, um, the experience, whatever that was… And I’d be back in six months anyway. I didn’t need to let my hair down and be stupid on the other side of the world to find out who I was. I was going to fix my relationship, get married, and settle down in Canberra. Or Melbourne. That was me eight years ago. I would sit and think things over, imagine myself in various scenarios, get a feeling, and know the right path. I don’t think that’s what I did with my decision to go to London, although I know for certain it was the right choice. I became a completely different person, a much better person, after living in London. And I met Mr Chewbacca, which is one of the best things that could have happened to me.

With my decision to step into a new life in London, I forfeited this process of assessing my future plans. I began to be spontaneous, and ended up doing a lot of things I would never have considered previously as a result. Some things I can’t say I’m particularly proud of, and I don’t know how positively they contributed to who I am now, but I’m here to tell the tale (not in a public forum though!) and I don’t regret anything. I do miss that clarity, however, those moments of contemplation which allowed me to see the right path. I haven’t got the time now, to sit and think and plan, and so much has happened, life and circumstances have descended upon me in layer upon layer of possible deviations from the right path so that there is now no going back. I can’t sort back through each layer, meticulously choosing my path at every turn. Too much has happened.

So now I am on the path I’m on. I’m here, in Canada, a country I never even envisaged visiting let alone living in, and I’m doing an MA at one of the top universities in North America. As a family, we’ve taken a huge risk coming here. A risk for what? Because we didn’t know for sure if Australia was the right place for us. We couldn’t handle any more 40 degree endless summers. We wanted snow and beautiful trees and piles of leaves and traditions at the ‘right’ time of year, to be in a place that feels like it’s a little more in touch with the world. The course I’m doing is certainly leading me in the right direction and it’s fantastic to be studying again, especially with a level of maturity that allows me to apply myself fully to the material and achieve good results. But it will be ending all too soon.

Many MA programs are two years but this one is unfortunately just one year. I love this university, I am so privileged to be taught by some exceptional academics. I seriously want to do a PhD. But there’s one problem: this university is in Toronto, in the city. I don’t want to live in the city. In fact although I live 40km out of the city, that’s still too close. I can’t wait to move. But if I wanted to do further study I’d have to stay close enough to commute.

I got some clarity around what we might do next yesterday and I know what our options are in terms of staying on in Canada once I’ve graduated next year in June. Unfortunately, none of those options is clearly the right one. We haven’t been here long enough to decide whether to go back home or stay on permanently, another year testing things out at least seems the right thing, but that’s not an easy thing to do. These decisions are depressing me! I wish it wasn’t so complicated, and so much about money!

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I listen to my Aussie music, stuff I never listened to when I was at home, and I actually miss home, I miss it for the first time since London. I don’t believe in regrets, they are a waste of time, everything happens exactly as it should. But there are so many things that, if I’d just thought at the time with some clarity, taken a few moments to sit and really make the decisions without rushing, I’d have gone a different way and things would be better. At least that’s what I tell myself. I’ll never know, there’s no such thing as Sliding Doors. Right now, we’ve got some serious thinking to do and big decisions loom yet again. Wasn’t it meant to be easier than this? Didn’t I plan to settle down and enjoy simple family life when I left London?

Clifftops to suburbs: moving away

Recently, instead of Rocky Raccoon, which got a little tiresome after some eight million repetitions, I’ve been singing Bjork to the Dude when I want to calm him. Specifically The Anchor Song. “I live by the ocean… And during the night… I dive into it… Down to the bottom… Underneath all currents… And drop my anchor. And this is where I’m staying. This is my home.”

What a simple yet brilliantly expressed sentiment from the awesome Icelandic goddess! I would think about how relevant it is, given we really do live by the ocean, with the clifftops overlooking the Pacific just across the road. And the Dude was born here, it’s his home, the only one he’s ever known. But we knew the day was soon coming when we’d have to move. We planned it for first thing in the new year, and we saw only one house, which we applied for just before Christmas. After some dodgy behaviour and lies from the real estate agent, we were informed we’d been approved. And I promptly had a meltdown.

I’m sure I’ve mentioned before that Sydney does my head in, and the idea of moving but not moving away was a bit much for me. I cried. I couldn’t keep up the pretence any more, being positive so as not to subject Mr Chewbacca to my pointless negativity. But I had to let it out. Once I was done, after he’d left the conversation in frustration and there was a tense silence, I stopped him walking past me through the house and just said, “ring the agent, tell them we’ll take it.”

We had to move, as the Dude sat up just before Christmas and was crawling a few weeks later. Our one bedroom flat was just too small. I went for more walks than usual when we agreed to take the new house. Never again would I have a clifftop walk and multi million dollar views across the road from my house. I took the Dude to the beach at Clovelly for the first time, in fact it was the first time I’d ever been there too. I went down the hill and got gelato, because I could. And I packed boxes.

By contrast, our new place is three bedrooms, an actual house, with a huge empty back yard (yes, it has a hills hoist, how could it not?), and no storage space. And it’s in the suburbs. This is not the arse end of Sydney. There are worse places here, but it is true suburbia. Needless to say, I was very apprehensive. The security aspect worried me a bit, and the prospect of extra hot summers was not thrilling. No ocean breezes to cool things down, no beach up the road. Although there is a river and reserve nearby.

The move itself actually did happen last Saturday. And if it hadn’t been for good friends, we would have been totally screwed. Even in a small flat, we managed to accumulate a lot of stuff over two years living there. We decided to let our landlord organise the removalist for only $40 an hour, as opposed to $110 if we did it ourselves. And it would have been fine except it rained like buggery the morning of the move. So the removalist didn’t show. After our landlord yelled at him in Chinese for 15 minutes, he agreed to come, but didn’t turn up til 4pm! Poor Mr Chewbacca had to pack everything left up by himself and help load the truck, although thankfully a good friend was there to help. And the reason I wasn’t there to help, aside from having a very unimpressed eight month old to deal with, was because I had to go and sign the lease which Mr Chewbacca had already signed as Surly Biatch (as our real estate agent will henceforth be known) wouldn’t allow him to pick up the keys until I signed the lease too. I will no doubt rant at some more appropriate moment about Surly Biatch and her evil agency, but suffice it to say, she has an attitude problem, she’s rude, she’s ignorant, and she’s out to screw us over if given the chance. No, I do not trust real estate agents at all, especially rental property managers. They are like those aliens from V, flawlessly fake on the outside and evil slimy vicious monsters with no capacity for empathy underneath.

So I was the first one in the new place, closely followed by the jolly foxtel man. At least we’d have something to watch on TV, even if we had no furniture… I plopped the Dude down on the floor of his new bedroom, changed his nappy and let him have a crawl around. Soon our good friends with their monstrosity of a truck (named appropriately after a somewhat twee but consistently tough Greek mythological hero) rocked up with some essentials, and the girlfriend and I set ourselves up in their camping chairs in our empty lounge room, sipped from our water bottles, and had a good long chat while the Dude played and grizzled around us, and her boyfriend headed straight back to the Clifftop Mansion to help Mr Chewbacca.

Soon another lot of close friends rocked up with two couches and a coffee table in a borrowed trailer they’d kindly been storing for us. As they began bring them in, the neighbours (on the poor house side – yes, there are poor little fibro cottages on one side of us and an ugly ultra modern block of concrete render on the other) offered them a hand, which was really nice, says a lot for the kind of people we’ve got near us. Slowly the house began to fill with furniture and life. The husband of the couple who brought the couches set to putting away all our groceries and arranging things in the kitchen. Soon the guys from Harvey Norman rocked up with our bed, washer and fridge. They kindly installed the latter two, but the bed remained in pieces until my dear enthusiastic friend and Mr Chewbacca put it together later that evening.

What a dream to have a full size fridge! And new mattress! Soon Mr Chewbacca arrived with our friend and was promptly followed by a small Chinese man and his wife driving a truck which looked like it’d been abandoned in the back streets of St Mary’s with a big neon sign pointing to it saying ‘graffiti here’. But nevertheless it was our stuff, finally, about 6pm, 5 hours later than expected. With six adults and two kids helping take stuff into the house and Chinese guy and wife unpacking the truck, we were done in about 20 minutes. We randomly stood around outside chatting for no reason whatsoever.

I almost forgot something. We are going to be on a show in the UK about people going to live in Australia and just what happens, so camera guy was hanging around most of the day and interviewing Mr Chewbacca about stuff. He asked me what I thought when he noticed me standing by the truck directing people. I was shocking, kept looking at the camera rather than him, talked boring crap and was just generally stiff and nervous. I was surprised actually as I thought I’d be all charismatic and funny and interesting but yeah, shit. I’ll be shocked if they use any footage of me actually.

Beers were acquired, unpacking begun, food enjoyed, chats had, until our friends had to get home. Mr Chewbacca and I, despite being shattered, stayed up til 1am doing bits and pieces and debriefing. That first night was warm and restless, especially as the Dude’s cot wasn’t up yet so I had to sleep with my arm around him to stop him falling out of bed. Which he managed to do on the second night anyway! He’s fine, went straight back to sleep between us (not taking any more chances!) and now his cot is back in its sidecart position. I also managed to get him quite badly sunburnt on Monday so now the poor little guy has blisters on his arm and leg! I am terrible.

All in all, what seemed a nightmare move ended up okay. We’re here. It doesn’t suck too much. The suburbs are just okay. We’re rocking them. Just like Quiet Riot did.