Building A New Life In A New City
By Sue Ellson
Eleven years ago, Sue left her hometown of Adelaide and a large extended family to build a life of her own in Melbourne. This is her story…
This month, it will be 11 years since I left my ‘home town’ of Adelaide. At what now seems like the tender age of 28, I left 26 cousins, three siblings, two parents and two parents in law, two grandparents, workmates, friends, neighbours, local shops, a doctor, a dentist and all of that general knowledge of ‘where things are and how to find information.’
Living Away From Family
I left with the idea that I would stay for six months. Regardless of what happened. Now I have been here 11 years. I don’t think about going back, but I do sometimes wonder if I will move on. But then I really enjoy living here.
Since February 1994, my sister has moved to Brisbane, my brother and other sister are in Sydney and my parents have bought a caravan and are preparing for their next big tour of the land down under. Dad was forced into early retirement.
My father-in-law has died and my mother-in-law is in a nursing home. I have missed new arrivals, celebrations and funerals. I have missed the sea, the white sand, the wind on my face, the sailing club, the fresh nectarines from my parent’s backyard. I have given birth to two wonderful children in Melbourne.
Surprisingly, I did not consciously miss the people as much as I had expected. But looking back, I now realise that subconsciously I did. That is why I kept searching for ‘better’ friends, ones that I could really talk to, connect with, share stories of a personal nature without the look of ‘that’s a bit heavy isn’t it?’
Finding and Making Friends
It took a long time to feel that this was my new home. Before everything became ‘automatic’ again. When I knew where to find things in my kitchen cupboard and in my local community. When I could go on ‘auto pilot’ when driving to local venues and not look up a map every time I went out.
To have memorised people’s phone numbers. To have collected a range of yearly rituals – what to do at Easter, Christmas and on birthdays. To visit the local tourist destinations – and realise that I now know more than I ever did about my ‘home’ location. To be able to say that I am ‘a Victorian, originally from South Australia.’
The first year was spent receiving visitors from Adelaide – people checking in to see where I was now. Then it stopped. Because it had been a year since I arrived in Melbourne, everyone I met locally assumed I that I already had friends. It was a very lonely time because the people I was meeting had completely different interests and backgrounds to me – and none of them had moved. If it wasn’t for one person, a newcomer many years ago, I am not sure I would have survived this time. Slowly, connections were made.
It took 10 years to know that this was truly my spiritual home. To know that this was the piece of earth where I belonged for now. Whenever I go away, I feel that the earth’s gravity is ‘different’ and when I return to Melbourne, it goes back to normal. That the air, although not as clear and fresh as I would like, is the air that I breathe.
That the smell when I walk under the gum trees at my local park is Australian and that I live under this amazing blue sky. That I am part of the entire world, but part of right here at the same time. That I am a combination of all the things in my past and right now. There is no need to deny any of it.
I have coined the phrase that ‘travel broadens the mind, but moving broadens the soul.’
My soul has grown, learnt, loved, lost and ached. It has enjoyed moments of utter bliss. It has been disappointed by challenges. But it has always wanted more of an opportunity to live life and learn, to have fun. Would a ‘normal’ life in the same location have done this? Who knows. Is it a sign that I am on the cusp of turning 40 that I have the opportunity to reflect on what has happened?
Moving Creates Opportunities
One thing is for sure, if I hadn’t moved, I never would have started Newcomers Network – and that has provided me with the most amazing opportunities to share a wonderful relationship with my children and an intellectual challenge like no other.
When we went on holiday recently, my daughter felt ‘homesick.’ Up until now, she had seen me as someone who spent a lot of time on the computer.
When I described what she was feeling and how she was fortunate because she was returning home after her stay and that I helped people who didn’t know if or when they would return, she said, ‘now I understand what you do Mum.’ She gave me a big hug and enjoyed the rest of her holiday without mentioning it again. During the same vacation, my son has made arrangements for his next holiday, and he plans to travel on his own!
Newcomers provide me with the opportunity to hear the best and worst, the funniest and the saddest, the mad and outrageous. Time and again I am inspired by the capacity of the human spirit to overcome the grief and loss of moving. From a short distance or a long distance.
I am most excited when I see the proverbial ‘tide change’ for people. When the force and weight of responsibility, fear and low self esteem changes to acceptance, joy and confidence for the future.
It doesn’t look like a ‘happy ever after ending’ – it is just the moment of acknowledgement. That it IS tough to move – and that is okay. Someone else understands. Lots of others have done it and none of what they are feeling is wrong or unusual – even if they wanted to move.
Starting a New Business
It took heart to start Newcomers Network, but the head to continue. If I had not overcome my own challenges, I would be locked into blaming someone for how I feel, becoming a martyr or a victim. I had to deal with things.
It wasn’t easy and I did not have fall back options. But now I am empowered. I can do it for myself and show others how they can do it for themselves. I am proud of my achievements but am still disappointed when things don’t work out the way I would like or expect. I have some amazing friends. I call them my Melbourne family.
When I reflect on some of the things that I cannot do, I remind myself of what I can. I may not be able to support elderly relatives in Adelaide, but I can visit elderly people in Melbourne. I may not like asking for help but when I do, people are happy to assist.
And when I found that I did not have a personal story to publish online this month, I had the opportunity to publish my own. You may never know how important it is to hear someone else’s story or to share your own.
Sometimes, you can just enjoy the pleasure of writing your story for yourself….so that your heart and head get to communicate with one another and so that the moment of acknowledgement and understanding can be revealed in its own sacred way. Welcome, wherever you are and wherever you will be.
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