The Sunday before last marked seven years living in Australia. It’s a milestone I never thought I’d reach. I’ve now lived more of my adult life in Sydney than any other city, and on the one hand, I’ve never felt more content: my beautiful beachside apartment is the place I call home; my friends here are like family, I live with my boyfriend and my ever-growing collection of books, I’ve fostered an inherent love for the sea and the sand and the saltwater and the sun; I simply can’t imagine doing life anywhere else.
But I’ve also never felt more rejected by a country that I have loved for so long. In the face of endless visa anguish that has been a heavy load to bear since the beginning of the year; in fact, since the beginning of my time in Australia, I have to remind myself daily that beautiful place I get to call home has been a source of more joy than pain; more happiness than tears.
If I concentrate hard enough, I can almost taste the day I landed here all those years ago, following a boy I had known for six days – naive, hopeful; a dreamer. It was a move that has enriched my life beyond measure – of that there’s no doubt – but the past seven years have also been laced with pain and heartbreak and homesickness, as I try (and fail) to navigate Australia’s ever-loathsome visa system to try and make this country my permanent home.
I’ve had to make peace with the fact that this may be my last Aussie anniversary: the fact of the matter is, I’m running out of visa options, and I’m bone-tired with the bureaucracy of lawyers, and the daily stress that comes with not knowing how much longer I’ll get to live here. I honestly can’t imagine leaving, nor doing any other way; but I do know there is beauty to be found everywhere – and if my fate isn’t to stay in Bondi – I have faith that I’ll find a new slice of paradise to call home.
I think daily about what life might look like if I were to move back to London; where I might live, how I might slot back into life in the UK, and sometimes I try and list the things I dislike about Australia, almost as if readying myself for what sometimes feels like the inevitable. I’ll walk down to the beach; past the ghosts of the friends that have come and gone; some back to the UK, others back to America or Europe and I often envy their choices and wish that I were less steadfast in my resolve to stay in a country that often feels like a toxic relationship I can’t bring myself to leave. My life in Australia feels like a tapestry of the people I’ve loved and the places I’ve made memories, even if only for a heartbeat.
Yesterday I walked down to the beach, and felt a deep sense of melancholy the whole way. Everything I had tried to tell myself I wouldn’t miss about Bondi suddenly wrapped up in a layer of charm under the hazy, late-afternoon September sun. I sat on the sand, and looked out at the same sparkling azure of the ocean that had me bewitched more than seven years ago.
I don’t know what the future holds – none of us do. I might be here for another six months; maybe I’ll make it to my eight-year Aussie anniversary, maybe, maybe one day I’ll get my so desperately longed-for permanent residency.
But until then, I’ll keep looking for the extraordinary in the ordinary; I’ll continue to pursue pockets of joy throughout the day. I will hope that my failures are the foundations of my future, wherever, and however, it plays out.
And until then, Australia – the bad and beautiful boyfriend I simply can’t imagine life without – will continue to have my heart. Today, tomorrow, always.