Never in my life had I imagined living in Australia until it was suddenly proposed in late 2010. Now that our time living there has come to a close (for now, anyway), I can’t imagine not having lived there.
Our experience in Aus changed me deep down in ways that I never imagined it would, and I am deeply grateful for the lessons I learned there.
When I look at myself now compared to how I was when we left California, I see a stronger, more self-assured woman, partner and mother. Never before have I had so little concern for what others think of me. I recall clearly the feeling I experienced so many times in my life, of feeling nearly naked in a new setting – unsure of myself, feeling a hitch in my step as I walked, believing completely that everyone was staring at me, sweating with insecurity, nervously playing with my hair, replaying conversations over and over in my head after-the-fact, beating myself up over what I had or hadn’t said. Over my time in Australia, these experiences dissipated, and now that I am here in another new place, I find that I simply never feel that way. For the first time in my life, I found a place in my heart where I am truly comfortable in my own skin. For this alone I am grateful to Australia!
I also see a stronger wife and mother than I was before. Being in unfamiliar territory but having to take care of our family brought the four (now five) of us closer than ever. Dh and I relied only upon each other for everything, with no outside help (or influence). This made us stronger people, parents, partners. I look back at situations we had initially in Australia and how I handled them, and how I’ve handled similar situations more recently. Yes, I definitely became a Tiger Mama, and I’m good with that! It took some extreme situations, but I absolutely realize that no one else is going to look out for my family the way I will.
The other massive change I see in myself is my now deeply-held belief that anything truly is possible. I have always dreamed big, and I’ve achieved some pretty cool dreams, but in recent years there’s been a rather depressing part of me that meets new ideas with an initial “can’t be done” attitude. I think it stems from my time in the overly stressful environment of big law firms, where as a litigator everything I dealt with was the falling out of some situation where no one expected it to end badly; everything I handled was a problem of some kind, not a possibility of great things to come.
Our time in Australia gave me a very different perspective. For one thing, I saw the US and its business successes and failures from outside the snow globe, and it all looks much clearer from out there. Plus, I met people who had done all kinds of amazing things. We have friends who have migrated halfway around the world in search of a better life for their children, who have escaped incredibly dangerous cities, some who came to Aus on rafts. We know a family who own their home, have children in school and jobs that depend on them, who one day packed it all up in their Winnebago and spent six months traveling around Australia. Their world didn’t fall apart because they took an adventure! I have a stronger conviction than I’ve ever had that we can accomplish whatever we please, so long as we put our minds to it. I no longer feel a victim subject to the whims of a world beyond my control, nor do I feel in my own ventures that I am knocking on a door desperately hoping that someone will buy my chocolate bar. We each write our own stories, and I’m writing a different one now than I ever pictured before – a much cooler one!
When I look at myself then and now, I also see how much less burdened I am by possessions. We purged and purged and purged before heading over, and for a year and a half we barely acquired anything beyond basics (like a couch, a grill, a TV). When we left, we purged even further. Now that our 2/3 of a container of goods is on its way here, we think about things like “oh, we don’t have…..” and my inclination is to NOT buy whatever it is. I love owning less than I have in my entire adult life. Rather than feel less fortunate because I don’t have something, I feel unburdened, uncluttered. As we get ready to put a home together again, I balk at buying furniture or anything we don’t really NEED.
Finally, despite the initial stresses, and boy were there some doozies, somewhere along the line I found myself really adopting the Australian attitude of “no worries.” Things that used to really irk me and eat up much of my time and energy simply don’t anymore. I actually reached a point now where I see others wasting their precious energy of matters of no consequence, and I wish I could transport them to Australia just long enough for a better mindset to set in.
My biggest fear in leaving Australia is a fear that I will lose these great gains. I want to maintain the strength and certainty I’ve found in myself, as well as my perspective on the importance of things, my belief in possibility. We did a bit of souvenir shopping before we left Sydney, and as we get a home where we can display our items, I hope that they will remind me each day to sit back, sip the cappuccino, imagine the waves breaking, and shout out “Aussie Aussie Aussie! Oi oi oi!”