The first weekend we arrived in Sydney, surrounded by packing boxes in our difficult to find, expensive, sterile rental in Pyrmont, we decided to go to the movies. After a 15 minutes drive into the inner west we spent 60 minutes looking for a car park, before turning back toward home. As I got out of the car, I burst into tears exclaiming “why did we move here?”
That was 8 1/2 years ago.
We never planned on staying. This was to be a brief stop on the way to greener pastures, in New York or London. But life has a way of getting in the way of dreams, and there have been job changes and new lives created. Sadly, the idea of living in another country is slipping away from us.
I never expected to love any of Sydney. But I do love much of Surry Hills. We found our place in this difficult city. The food, the ease of living, the diversity of people and the circle of friends we’ve found has created a home for us.
But I also want to go back to my real home.
We’ve been discussing the idea for a year. Family challenges have sped up the discussion, and finally we have set a tentative date for a return to Melbourne, the end of 2015.
The moment it was agreed I felt a huge sense of relief. A feeling that a weight was lifted.
But also I doubted the decision immediately. How could I leave this amazing place? Where I walk my dog along the harbour most mornings. Where I walk to my place of study and place of work. Where we eat in amazing restaurants, and have everything we need right on our doorstep. Where I have found a new career, and opportunity to teach in my chosen field.
Maybe this was a mistake?
I began to doubt.
We’ve begun to tell people. Some family and some friends. Our Melbourne based friends expressed joy, our Sydney based ones have said we won’t go ahead with it. I feel we are subconsciously cementing the plan by saying it out loud.
Last week I caught up with a friend from university who I hadn’t seen in 15 years. It was a great experience, one of those people who never changes, always a delight. In telling her about my life here, the people that surround me every day I was reminded again how different Melbourne and Sydney are. Or at least the streets that I have inhabited.
Here I live in a place where plastic surgery is commonplace, where Botox is a given. For both genders. While fitness and outdoor activity is encouraged, it is not done for wellness, but for vanity, supplemented with diet pills and fake tan injections. Being in the middle of a close community there is good, and bad, behaviour, only exacerbated by social media. Over the years we’ve lived here this place has made me doubt myself, my confidence has taken beatings, physically, intellectually, professionally and emotionally.
One of the places that changed our lives here was Harmony Park. In Harmony Park we met a close knit group of residents, most with dogs, some with kids, who became our ‘tribe’. Not always perfect, but I’ve spent many afternoons over the past 5 years laughing with my neighbours. I know they are the people I could call when in need.
Over the past 6 months the park has become popular for skateboarders. Technically illegal, they congregated, destroyed the barriers, damaged the park, abused the park patrons verbally, sometimes physically, left alcohol and broken glass and created a hostile environment. The City of Sydney did what they could, but it was a futile effort. Now they are considering relaxing the skateboarding restrictions, an administrative admission that they have lost this battle.
Community action groups are forming, emails and Facebook posts hurtle through cyberspace. No good can come of it. Sadly, this has created strong divisions among those who previously enjoyed the park, removing the welcoming nature that brought us all together.
For me is has taken away any doubt I’ve had about returning to Melbourne. I feel lucky to have had some good years here, but I also feel the ‘veil’ has been lifted that briefly clouded my vision. Sydney is not for me.
Time is running out….