A reminder that things sometimes do work out as they should

I just have to document what’s happened over the past 48 hours because I feel like if I don’t I will forget and start to think maybe it never really happened this way. 

It’s Friday night now. On Monday, we were pretty down in the dumps. We haven’t been back in Canberra too long, and at that stage it was about a week and a half. But already we’d run into what we thought were barriers stopping us getting work here and building some savings back up. Going to Canada was expensive and coming home too soon made it even more costly. I do believe the decision to come back after a year was not the right one. But all that aside, that’s what we did and we chose to come back to Canberra and not Melbourne because it might afford us more opportunity to work and build back up to being able to afford to buy a house. But those opportunities for stable, well-paid government jobs were proving elusive and we were both wondering if we’d made yet another mistake on a spur of the moment decision. We had managed to rent this kind of nice place, we were gathering furniture and bits and pieces but no one was earning any money and it was all getting just a bit scary. 

At that point I realised I needed to ramp up applying for jobs through recuitment agencies so I sat up late a few nights and fired off half a dozen applications. Mr C had registered with many but my way of registering was not to call them directly. Instead, I’d just apply for the jobs they had advertised and let them come to me. No follow-up call, not even a cover letter. Just an emailed CV. That’s the way I’ve always done it. It may seem a pretty arrogant and even foolish way of doing things as we were getting pretty desperate but that’s what I did anyway. 

I’d set up a meeting last week with an agent and it didn’t sound particularly promising. She was on leave for a few days, not super keen to put me forward for anything, but it was the only lead I had. The same agency was representing Mr C for two jobs, one of which he hoped he’d get but hadn’t even heard about an interview. It was a long weekend but we had no idea Monday was a public holiday until we went to Vinnies and discovered it was closed. I crept out of the car and shamefully rifled through some of the piles of donated goods blocking the closed door and we got some new bowls and casserole dishes. It felt like a low point. 

So yesterday rocked round and I met with the agent at 9am. I felt frumpy and less than confident but it was a pleasant chat and although I thought she was genuinely nice, I didn’t expect her to find me any suitable roles. My CV, for one, is full of holes, short term contracts mixed with some freelance work and study here and there, big gaps where I was in baby land, just not as impressive as it once was. I realised just how much technology has advanced since I last worked full time in the digital sphere and I felt a little unsure when I left the meeting. But little did I know, the Universe had earmarked this day as “massive crazy change” day. 

I took out my phone to text Mr C to say I was on my way back home but he’d already texted me. He had an interview at 11:30! Better get home! He doesn’t know the city or where to park yet so we drove him. As we dropped him off, I got a call. The agent had two jobs she wanted to put me forward for. Of course I agreed to both, and she told me she may be in touch about one short term contract later in the day as they needed someone to start Tuesday (as Monday is another public holiday). I drove the kids to the shopping centre and we hung out in Big W toy department while we waited for Mr C. I felt like the worst parent on the planet as I was on my phone virtually the whole time. The onslaught had begun! I checked my email for an update on the potential job interviews to find a message from another agent wanting to represent me for a role paying another half as much again as the base hourly rate I’d hoped for. I played it cool and agreed to let him put me forward even though the job was asking for technical knowledge that I don’t quite have. 

Mr C appeared and immediately told me they’d virtually offered him the job on the spot! We got home and as Mr C chatted to his agent about how his interview went, I got a call from mine. She told me she’d sent my CV across to the short term role and they thought I was great and wanted to interview me that afternoon as the job would be starting Tuesday! Oh, and with a handover on the Friday. I agreed shakily to a 4:30pm interview. 

All went well. I turned up on time to a lovely building tucked away in a quiet corner of the university campus surrounded by bush land and views of lake and mountains. There, I met the guy I’d be filling in for and working with when he returned. It was to be a six week job and yes, handover tomorrow. I had to tell him I didn’t know how I’d arrange daycare at such short notice and he told me they had been unable to find anyone suitable and that I, as their last resort, was perfect for the job. I had to accept. 

Mr C was just as stunned as I was when I told him, especially when I found out the pay was a bit more than expected. He was simultaneously stressing out as he’d heard nothing to confirm he had his job despite the verbal offer at interview. We drank wine that night anyway. I just knew it’d be fine. 

And it was. About 16 hours after my recruitment agent confirmed written approval for me to commence, the same happened for Mr C. And that was it. 24 hours prior we’d been shitting ourselves at the prospect of destitution and now we were employed. Surely a miracle, definitely a relief. We ate fish and chips from our local takeaway shop (absolutely awesome and not expensive), and we felt normal again. What a crazy time! Organising daycare at short notice was hard but I did it. We met with the lady and the kids start on Wednesday, when Mr C starts his job. I can’t believe it. This Canberra thing might just be the right decision after all!

Advertisements

Life in the rainy city

That’s what Melbourne has always been known as, this city of four seasons in one day where it just rains at random. After three months here I’ve seen a tiny bit of that but nothing like what I expected. Having been here a number of times before, I’ve certainly experienced what people talk about, with a prime example being Christmas time in about 2004 where it was drizzling and 18 degrees on Boxing Day and then about 35 and scorching sun the following day. Unlike most people, Mr Chewbacca and I have been really looking forward to the rain and cold and were actually quite disappointed with Melbourne’s efforts on both fronts to begin with. Now it’s starting to cool down a bit and it’s lovely.

Somehow I’m managing to keep really busy. I think it’s got something to do with having a full on toddler but it’s also because I’ve really been making an effort to get involved with as many parenting and play groups as I can. I’ve just started taking Dude to a formal playgroup once a week which, although he had some crazy meltdowns the first time, he declared he loves, so we’ll look forward to next time. It’s a Steiner playgroup which is quite a bit different from any other formal one I’ve taken him to. When I say formal, I mean one that has a trained leader who involves the children with songs and activities, usually with a cost attached, and a schedule adhered to for the two hours. I was in two minds about this group, as I’m still not totally sure how Steinerised I want the Dude’s education to be and whether it’s really what would suit him. Mr C isn’t too impressed with anything Steiner, although to be fair he hasn’t really looked into it and just knows bits and pieces. There are some weird aspects that, even though it’s what my early education was focused on, I’m not sure whether I am too keen on the Dude being exposed, but what I do like is the rhythm, the wholesomeness and the wholistic approach to learning and creativity. Anyway, it’s been interesting, and now the Dude is enjoying it I think we’ll at least continue for this term and then see how we go.

I’ve made most of my connections via social media, facebook mainly, which I don’t feel totally comfortable with but I am grateful to have that tool to make my transition much easier.We have one weekly playgroup that we really love and Dude seems to get along well with most other kids he meets, or if he doesn’t connect he just plays by himself. I’ve also finally become a fully fledged member of the Australian Breastfeeding Association who do some awesome things for women and babies. But secretly the reason I became a member was so I could go to meetings and not feel like I was taking advantage not being a paid member. Plus I figure given I’ve been breastfeeding for almost three years now and will soon be taking on a whole new person to feed, I should acknowledge that in some positive way. Actually scrap all that, the main reason I joined was because I know I’m going to find like-minded people through the ABA. That’s not to say everyone who is involved with the organisation is ‘alternative’ or a natural parent or whatever. Far from this. There are members who exclusively formula feed or mix feed or haven’t yet had a baby to feed. The most fantastic thing about this organisation is the philosophy behind it which is clearly solidly backed up by leadership. I know from years of working with bureaucracies that without good leaders who live the organisation’s values on a daily basis, it’s misery and bedlam to work there. The ABA welcomes everyone with open arms, everyone is kind and open and genuine. Being a really awkward introvert, I find it so hard to slot into pre-formed social circles and especially given I’ve got some values that don’t always gel with the mainstream, meeting new people and feeling a part of something is a big challenge. I went to my second ABA meeting last week and it was absolutely freaking fantastic. I was there nearly the full two hours and really enjoyed it so much. I didn’t want to leave! And neither did the Dude.

Aside from the various playgroups and meet ups I’ve been immersing myself in, I’ve managed to catch up a fair bit with my closest friends here in Melbourne and that’s been great. It certainly does help knowing a couple of people. The other spare time I have has been taken up by appointments relating to the pregnancy. Doctor referrals, scans, midwife appointments, prenatal yoga… That has been good as it’s helped me get a feel for not only the geography of the city and surrounds (due to driving all over the place) but also the feel of the people in this city. I know I’m probably biased but I swear there is this lovely, kind, generous, open vibe here in Melbourne. Yeah, you get dickheads, don’t get me wrong (our neighbours and the freaky people across the road are in that category), but generally speaking I’ve had nothing but great experiences dealing with the people of Melbourne.

I must go off on a tangent here briefly and mention the incredible referral appointment I had with my doctor yesterday. Yes, I’m now referring to him as MY doctor. Now for anyone who knows me, you’ll know I have never once used this phrase in my entire life. I’ve never ‘had’ a doctor and usually only go to them when I really need a prescription, which isn’t very often as most things can be healed at home without paying out for pharmaceuticals and guesswork. But this guy, wow, I’m bowled over by him! The first time I went to him was upon recommendation from the midwifery practice I’m using to have this baby. I knew he must be fairly open-minded as he practises out of the midwifery clinic sometimes and signs lots of referrals for homebirths. We got talking briefly about breastfeeding and he actually commended me on having stuck with breastfeeding this long, despite my aversions. I was quite impressed! This time, I went for another referral for something a little more difficult to explain and he was so kind and understanding and said it was an absolute privilege for him to be able to refer me and that he was humbled that I’d been able to talk to him about the issue! I told him I wouldn’t feel very comfortable speaking to the majority of doctors I’ve met in the past but that he is different and I feel comfortable with him. He actually gave me a hug and was quite emotional about it! I was amazed and really quite elated. There are great doctors out there, they do exist!

Anyway, the most wonderful thing about being here in Melbourne, even though there is a lot more work to do in order to feel totally at home, is this feeling of genuine love for the place. There have been moments, one at the museum the other week, where I just stop for a moment and look up at the buildings and soak in the vibe and I genuinely like living here. I don’t know when I’ve ever had that feeling. Or at least if I have, it’s been a long time.  Probably since living in London. I did try to give Sydney a chance, really I did, but my heart just wasn’t in it and I never felt any connection to the place. I don’t know that I feel a huge connection to Melbourne, as I’m realising more and more that I am really not connected to Australia in general, but what I do feel is an appreciation of where I am. I’m glad to be here. There is a lot of goodness to soak up in Melbourne and I’m really looking forward to continuing to soak it up for however long I am here.

A fresh start

So it’s been about three months since I last posted anything here. There are a variety of reasons for this, but the main one is that I’ve just been way too busy to even log on and write, let alone publish anything! So here’s a brief recap of the last three months:

  • We packed up our entire house in Canberra and after a very long day getting it all on the truck, cleaning and fitting all our remaining stuff into the car, we made our way to Melbourne to stay with some lovely friends way out on Mornington Peninsula while we hunted for a rental in the northern suburbs.
  • We got pregnant. Yep, that’s right, there’s another dude or dudette currently cooking away, due at the end of August. We’ve found our midwife at the lovely MAMA midwifery practice, and I’ve started yoga and I’m on the hunt for a good meditation/relaxation recording. It’s been a fairly easy pregnancy so far, with only one serious vomit incident resulting in paying $150 to get our car detailed. Aside from when drunk and not remembering, I’d say that’s the most I’ve ever thrown up in my life!
  • It only took a couple of weeks of driving the hour or so between our friends’ place and the area we were looking in Melbs for us to find something and we moved in early Feb. It’s only two bedrooms but fairly roomy, brand new and under 10km from the city about 15 mins walk from the tram. We like it, although yet again we’ve managed to end up with a barking dog next door. Granted, it’s not as annoying as the one in Sydney which I had fantasies about poisoning (oh god that sounds horrible doesn’t it, but seriously, this thing was a total menace! Actually the owners were the ones needing a good lesson…) but the owners don’t seem to care when it barks pointlessly, which is crap.
  • Dude is weaning. He is still having boobie but things have really shifted in that area, particularly since I told him that the milk might not be there or might change and that the new baby will have boobie and we need to ‘save’ the milk for the baby. This was my vague attempt at getting him to cut down as I’m increasingly over breastfeeding. He is three in May and although I know plenty of people who’ve fed children longer than that and I think it’s awesome to feed as long as you and the baby want, I personally am just really keen for a break. I’ve never enjoyed breastfeeding particularly, never experienced the bond or hormonal rush that other mums describe, and although I discovered a new fondness for it when Dude turned two, I still feel very touch-sensitive and would like to find other ways of comforting and relaxing him. Suffice it to say, daddy is suddenly all the rage and has to endure numerous readings of mindless, repetitive material, mainly by Dr Seuss, until Dude is satisfied and goes off to sleep.
  • Now that we’re in Melbs, we’re trying to settle, but it’s just SO hard! I’ve never felt so strange about being anywhere, and I think it’s because I planned to really settle here and it’s proving a little difficult. I don’t know if it’s Mr Chewbacca’s influence or me changing, but I’m finding it terribly hard to love my country of birth. Australia just means nothing to me culturally, and there’s so much about living in this country that has no cultural significance for me; in fact it is downright annoying! It’s early days here, and no matter what we plan to stick it out for a few years at least. I just can’t wait to find some friends and regularity here.

There’s been plenty more happening, but it’s all rather mundane and boring involving trips to Centrelink, buying clothes, looking for jobs and negotiating weird Melbourne traffic, so not really worth mentioning!

This third move in Australia is a huge achievement for us, more so for me actually, as I’ve had it in my head that Melbourne is the place for me since coming here for the first time nearly 20 years ago. It’s also a final move for us; if this doesn’t work, that’s it, we’ll be heading back over to the northern hemisphere, the UK, outer London probably. And to do that would not only cost a fair bit of money, it would need to be a really certain final move. We’d never move back here. So Melbourne, you’ve got a lot of work to do to get us really loving this country!

An unexpected change in the plan

Okay, let’s face it, there wasn’t really a ‘plan’, per se, more of a general hope on my part and perhaps a bit of dread on the part of Mr Chewbacca. But we certainly didn’t expect to be moving so soon, especially interstate, and not even to Melbourne! The big move to Canberra, back to my old stomping ground, is happening in two weeks! No need to read any further, but if you want to know the story…

Let’s begin, well, somewhere logical. Things have been a bit strange for us recently. How do I explain it? I began typing out the whole story, but deleted it as I was up to 450 words and hadn’t even gotten to the actual change of plan yet. Basically, through a weird turn of events, we ended up without an income between us, buying a brand new car. We got up on a Saturday morning, early, as is inevitable with a two-year-old, and I spontaneously said, ‘let’s do a road trip to Canberra’. We wanted to give our new car a run and we hadn’t been to Canberra since before the Dude was born. So we booked a cheap hotel in the city and off we went for a night.

It was great being there again after so long, and I realised there were so many places I wanted to take my boys. It’s a great city for children, so much to do and so easy to get around (due to lack of traffic, not availability of public transport!) and we had a great time just enjoying the clean, cool air, walking under the autumn trees, playing at the park, eating pancakes. It felt comfortable. In fact we both breathed a huge sigh of relief as we drove down Northbourne Avenue into the simple, clean, empty, order of it all. Pre-child, I felt trapped and bored by it all, but it was a totally different experience as a family. Despite all the goodness, as we drove home on the Sunday afternoon, I said to Mr C that I am absolutely certain that the move to Melbourne is the way forward and although living in Canberra might be nice enough, it’s not where we need to be, and he agreed. It was so nice to have that confirmation.

Fast forward a few weeks and Mr C had come so close to getting a number of jobs but still nothing! I had begun to apply for a few jobs, but half-heartedly. Leaving the Dude would be hard and having to travel in Sydney for work even harder. God I can’t describe how much I hate Sydney! And the city is a complete toilet! I would seriously be happy never to have to see it ever again in my life. There is nothing there for me.

About two weeks ago, I got an email; the tenants who’d been living in our house in Canberra for nearly six years were moving out in a month! Within a few minutes, after completely freaking out, we realised that paying rent and the mortgage would be an impossibility, given we had no income as it was. We’d previously had an agent go through the place (it’s been rented privately this whole time, I got lucky with some lovely tenants) and he’d indicated it would need some serious smartening up before it could be rented out again. It had been renovated a bit before I bought it, but that was nearly eight years ago now. No doubt it was looking tired. We realised that renovating and paying the mortgage and our rent too was impossible and crazy. I think it was Mr C who jokingly suggested we move to Canberra and live in the place while we fix it up. I think I knew from that moment that we’d actually be doing it, but I couldn’t just say it; Mr C takes time to deal with changes like this.

After a couple of days of speaking to friends, getting some perspective, and finding ways to stop freaking out, we agreed: we’ll move to Canberra. And with that, we were excited! Of course, since then, the reality of our decision has set in. We’ll be hiring a truck and doing it ourselves – hopefully this time it won’t be covered in graffiti and six hours late (long story there) – and we have had to recruit some friends to help load and unload. In addition, we’ve discovered, as I feared, that Mr C is unlikely to get a job in Canberra because he isn’t eligible for citizenship until January. So although he’s applying, I am kind of on deck to get something. Which isn’t totally scary. I’ve applied for a few and still have more to apply for, and I actually had a phone interview, which was a surprise. I don’t think I was successful as it was two weeks ago now and I’ve not heard. But still, there is hope if I can get an interview despite not really having worked for two years.

What is totally fantastic about this move, aside from getting out of Sydney which is like a dream come true, is that the Dude will get to have a bit of time in Canberra, kid utopia and we’ll get to enjoy the second half of winter properly. No more humidity, no more mould, no more 20 degrees in the middle of winter! And despite our excitement, we are still focusing on our eventual move to Melbourne in six months. Just in time for Mr C’s 40th… I’m going to have to come up with something good to make it perfect!

The big move

So now our big overseas trip is over, we’re planning our even bigger move to Melbourne. This kind of thing is so hard to plan, given neither of us have lived there before and we’re really on one income so Mr Chewbacca finding a job is imperative. It’s all a bit chicken and egg really. To complicate matters further, Mr C’s job might be changing a fair bit, which is a fantastic opportunity for him but might mean he needs to put in the hard yards for a while here in Sydney and build up some experience before he can apply for something in the same vein in Melbourne and expect to get a look in. We’ll find out at the end of the week what the verdict is there. In the mean time, we’ve also got a friend’s wedding in Thailand in October, and although I wasn’t totally sure about going – spending all that money, dragging the Dude to Thailand – Mr C made a very good point: this might be our last holiday for a few years, given we’re planning the big move and making a new baby later this year. Okay, so that might not all pan out, but still he has a point. Plus the wedding is going to be freaking awesome, because our friends don’t do anything by halves.

Perfection
Perfection

And then there are the bigger elements of a decision like moving to another city. It’s not just whether we’ll be happy there or not, it’s more that Melbourne is a last ditch attempt to settle in Australia. Just this morning, before work, I was watching an episode of Who Do You Think You Are (the American one, not the best) and Brooke Shields went to France to discover her royal ancestry. I watched the amazing shots of Paris, the city, the life, the history, and then the even more incredible footage where they drove out to the countryside to find the 300-year-old farm house of some ancestor, a huge stone building sitting in the middle of an exquisite forest, thick snow on the ground, grey birch trees’ delicate branches like the fingers of a ballet dancer reaching elegantly into the soft white sky. As usual, when I see footage like this, or read Soulemama‘s blog or look at some photos I took while living overseas, I felt the tears begin to well up hot behind my eyes. Nothing brings that surge of emotion into my heart like the Northern Hemisphere. I love Australia in a way, some of the landscape is stunning, and the space is just fantastic; but it doesn’t make my heart soar like a European winter. I definitely feel more at home in places where proper winter happens (ie. south east, and not Sydney). Here, the winter is, to use a typical Aussie expression, piss weak. It gets down to about 12 or so, maybe a little cooler overnight, and sometimes there’s a bit of a half-arsed frost. You need a heater and a jumper and jacket. But you don’t really need gloves and you don’t need central heating. It’s only cold for a couple of months. Canberra, at least, gets much colder, into the minuses, and frosts are common, as are frozen pipes, woolly hats and gloves, and wood fires. But it only snows regularly in the snow fields, which are a good couple of hours from Canberra in NSW and Melbourne in Victoria.

Just last night we finished watching The Sopranos, all six seasons. Both Mr C and I would sigh in almost every episode at the sight of the natural landscape shown. The trees, autumn leaves, snowy fields, black forests, bright grey skies, huge Georgian houses with rambling verandahs, attics, French windows, peaked roofs, wooden panelling, wood stoves… We both have a connection to that kind of world. A world where it snows in winter, you can get lost in a pile of leaves in autumn, and summers are spent on a big wraparound deck. This world of the northern hemisphere is nearly impossible to find here in Australia. In fact, yes, it’s not possible. You can build the house, of course, but you won’t get the weather, and even if you did get snow, it’s not ingrained in the culture here like it is over there. So our move to Melbourne will be done with a little hesitation and hope. We both wonder whether we’ll be able to settle there, and we both hope we can get some sort of resolution and feel at home. But I think both of us are a little apprehensive. The pull to the northern hemisphere is pretty strong. It’s certainly been with me my whole life, even though I was born and grew up in Australia. And for Mr C, it’s his home.

An amazing image I captured on my phone after a wintery afternoon at the Christmas Markets in Hyde Park (London) sometime near the end of 2008
An amazing image I captured on my phone after a wintery afternoon at the Christmas Markets in Hyde Park (London) sometime near the end of 2008

So that’s the consensus: if Melbourne doesn’t work, and we’ll give it a few years, as we did Sydney, it’s back to the UK for us. Something about that possibility doesn’t seem quite right either. There are some drawbacks about living over there and I always begin to think about living elsewhere in Europe, which we could do given we’ve all got British passports. And that’s when I think that home really is where the heart is so we could be happy anywhere, providing we are all together and have opportunities to make life good. I don’t want to end up regretting not following my heart in later years, but by the same token I don’t want to uproot my family and never feel settled because I didn’t really make an effort. Which is why I will be putting every bit of my heart and soul into settling in Melbourne. Now it’s just a waiting game, waiting for our mortgage to be refinanced, waiting for Mr C’s job to be sorted out, waiting  until we have the money to move. It’s been done before a million times, but I can’t help feeling like it’s the hardest thing in the world.