Over the course of the last six years, I’ve met many an expat unsure of the date they arrived in Australia. It’s a notion that baffles me; because for me, the date of my Australian anniversary is as memorable as my birthday, as significant as Christmas, and I can’t imagine it ever being otherwise. I always try to do something to celebrate the occasion, and have marked each anniversary with a blog post looking back on the past year. For my first Australian anniversary I went on a solo sojourn to Byron; for my second, I was – perhaps ironically – alone in LA, sitting outside a Starbucks in Studio City, drinking a sugary chai latte as the sun set over the Hollywood Hills in the distance. For my third anniversary I was in Rose Bay; my fourth I had just landed back in Sydney after a month-long stint in London in the wake of a break up. Last year – my fifth anniversary – I went for a commemorative lunch with one of my best friend’s Sarah to celebrate a milestone I thought I might never make.
Today, I met my friend Ella for a sunrise swim. I woke up when it was still dark, and my street was silent, save for the early morning bird song. I sat in my sunroom, and I thought about everything that had happened over the last year, before leaving to walk towards the ocean as dawn began to break. By the time I met my friend Ella shortly before 6am, the sky was lit with streaks of pastel pink and peach, and the crash of waves rippled in the distance.
We walked to the most northern part of the beach, undressed, and ran into the ocean; a place that has been my constant solace since moving to Australia all those years ago. Afterwards we walked to the rocks in North Bondi to watch the bright morning sun glisten over the water, and I said a silent prayer of thanks that I’m still here, in the place I have loved for so long.
I always get really emotional on my anniversaries down under; and I always pause to consider that which I have loved; that which I have lost, and that which I have learnt over the past twelve months.
And so, this much I know for sure after six years away from home: that I have friends whose worth is more precious than gold, that the healing power of the ocean is endless; that to me, Australia is the most beautiful country on earth. That no two sunrises ever look the same; that I will never, ever bore of everything mother nature has to offer, that one day soon I will see my family again, and the wait will be worth it.
In Ernest Hemingway’s The Sun Also Rises, Jake Barnes says of life ‘I did not care what it was all about. All I wanted to know was how to live it.’ Sydney has taught me to live life, to seek awe and wonder in the every day, to choose faith over fear, to find ease in uncertainty, and just how short and precious life really is.
A lot has happened over the course of the six years since I first landed in Sydney. Some of the best times of my life, and some of the most brutal. I’m grateful for each heart break, each wrong turn; each curve in the road and how they have changed me. I would not have missed the experience for anything.
Australia: now, then, and always.