Moving Back To Melbourne From London
Five weeks before her thirtieth birthday, Jenny moved back to Melbourne after living in London for five and a half years. Here is her story…
Living in London
During my time living in London I worked in my dream job for my dream employer, travelled independently to twenty-two countries, bought a flat, met people from every walk of life, visited a different art gallery most weekends, saw live bands whenever I wanted, and made a handful of good friends.
I also became more independent, more self-assured, more knowledgeable about myself and others, and more confident. I didn’t blink an eye about travelling solo – if other people could do it, I could too.
I dressed down in Berlin, donned a head scarf in Marrakech, and wore no make up in Santorini – all the better to fit in. I was always discovering something new and beautiful, and poetry, music, art and politics surrounded me in all the best ways.
Every six months I would tell myself I would return to Melbourne soon, but even though I had set out for London with a month’s pay and half a backpack full of all the wrong clothes, I wasn’t done exploring my new way of life, which was so much larger than my old life in every way.
Emotional Upheavals of Moving Abroad
But there was a darker side to my time in London too: I had never experienced such loneliness. For the same reason that I only bought books, CDs and clothes instead of furniture, I never let myself fall in love with anyone, or get as close as I could to people.
I found the expat community bitchy and competitive, but locals never understood where I had come from. How could they? They only had five year’s of shared history to go on (at most), and didn’t understand the emotional upheavals that moving abroad, even to an English speaking country, involved.
In London, I had never existed prior to the date I touched down. So eventually, I began yearning for the sense of security and belonging that comes from people knowing you: I wanted a man to call my own, the promise of a future explored with someone else, and the opportunity to stand still and smell the flowers. Live music, art and theatre no longer made me feel alive, and so I held my breath and jumped back home to Australia.
The first few days were hideous. My mother had moved to a tiny country town of 800 people whilst I was abroad, and lived in a one-bedroom house. My brothers and sister lived five hours away, and had also moved there while I was away.
I slept on the floor and looked out the window every morning in dread: the scenery didn’t change, all I saw was fields. Locals eyed me suspiciously, and I alternated between anger and tears. I saw my brothers and sister once, for my birthday, and while everyone tried their hardest and we had fun, I struggled to come to terms with what I’d done: this was ‘it.’
Moving Back to Melbourne as an Australian Repatriate
The following week, I stayed in a hostel in Melbourne and pounded the pavement every day until I found an apartment. At last, I had a space to call my own so I could explore the city I’d been born in. I now live a ten-minute walk from the centre of the city in a bohemian suburb full of politically aware university students, European style restaurants, a cinema that shows international art-house films, and a wonderful independent bookshop.
The same week I also got my current job: it’s nowhere near as exciting as what I was doing in London, but it pays well, so if I want to return to London or holiday in Europe, I can. I’m grateful that I now have a routine, but it’s still not enough to stop me from sliding under every now and then.
The strangest thing about coming home is the feeling of vulnerability and fear that curses through me when I don’t know how much a postage stamp costs, or I forget how to get somewhere. Just as it was when I moved to London, the internet has been a godsend in familiarising me with processes.
Similarly too, I’ve immersed myself in Australian politics and culture by way of newspapers, and music by listening to the radio. I’ve tried to ban myself from listening to UK radio stations online, and reading UK newspapers online, but they soothe me, and so I now try to do it only when I am feeling fragile and scared.
Most of all, I knew coming home wouldn’t be easy.
So I’m determined to get through it, to ride out the waves of terror that wash over me when I least expect it, to put the question ‘what have I done?’ aside and to keep on ‘doing’ instead. I have told myself that I must stay in Melbourne for three years and only then can I leave. I dream of teaching English in Tokyo, but I know that to do it now would be counter-productive, and merely delaying my current situation.
The Pain Will Go Away
Whilst right now it’s too painful to look at the photos of my travels, and to think about who I was in London, I know it won’t always be that way. Right now it’s also painful to realise that in most people’s eyes, my years in London don’t count – I’ve returned, and I should be who I was when I left.
Similarly, I can’t talk about London anymore or people think I’m bragging about the most ordinary things, and so I play myself down. But I’m not the same person I was before I left Melbourne. I’m stronger, and I know I can move through anything.
My friends in Melbourne have never left Australia, but moved on and out to the suburbs with new spouses, which is a lonely and confronting situation.
Since moving back to Melbourne from London, I’ve joined the gym to move through stress, purchased a membership to weekly art-house films, joined an online dating website, scheduled in holidays to see family, and finally started buying furniture for my house. Because living non-permanently in the past wasn’t something I enjoyed, so this time I will try my hardest to live like it’s for keeps.
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