There's a vast sense of loneliness here, but not in the way one imagines loneliness to be. There is great strength in loneliness. It can trigger a sense of self, a self long forgotten, and the loneliness that resides here, for me at least, suggests a kind of independence. A dance with only the ocean; an ease with the elements. A communication transcendent of the conventional kind. Bodies dance with rhythmic waves, together at times but then crashing, only to retreat behind the high heat of the midday sun. The relationship between yourself and loneliness is an important one. It cements who you are and where you're going.
The memories created by this relationship, the more time you spend in it and on it become embedded in your psyche. You forget anything prior to the dance.
That's how I feel writing this now, a year to the day I traded my London life to return to Sydney. Maybe its this dance that continues to disrupt my efforts to reflect on my time in London. It embarrasses me to say it but there are days I feel a sadness that a major part of my life is on the other side of the world, yet I'm unable to pinpoint what it is that's now missing that I once considered so important. Nothing? everything? it really is a strange phenomenon that perhaps only other expats would understand. Maybe its a sign of growth. Of moving on. Trapped only in mere habits to miss things - but not really missing them. I wouldn't be the only person, nor the last who's struggling to let go of things in the past. Even the bad stuff. We seem to hang onto it like a safety blanket, forgetting to note that the safety is long gone, .... its now just a weighty blanket holding us back from the future we're destined to have.
But yes, there is a kind of loneliness here. Australia forces a sensory of self that holds no prisoners. It's a strange juxtaposition, resting somewhere between a launching pad for the fearless and a refuge for the fearful. You're exposed in your remoteness, yet somehow comforted by the thought of it.
I lived in London for seven years. Almost the entirety of my 20s were spent there; wading through the confusion that is life in well, your 20s. Added to that, I threw myself into the weird and wacky world of fashion, unblinking and unnerved to be ordering a drink on a Tuesday night at no bar in particular, right alongside a naked man, also ordering a drink. Its just fashion, darhhhling.
I left Sydney when I was 22 and returned shortly before I turned 30. I came back to slow down, recharge and spend time with family. Write more, care less. Un-stale myself from the exhausting existence I was living. Yes, I've been back in Sydney a year now - and two months out from my 31st birthday I'd hoped to have been so clear in my convictions that I could write a list of things I've learnt - or habits I've unlearnt over the last 12 months. Sadly, I'm still not all the way there. Not sharp in my knowledge or convinced of my decisions. What I do know however, is that noone is. We try things. We fail things. Some of us try more than others and risk more than others, and ultimately fail more than others but we only end up in the same place. Asking: "What if".
I recently read an article by New York Times columnist Roger Cohen called, "The Vast Realm of 'If'". We ask ourselves, What if we'd started that coconut water business while the market was hot? Marketed that winery in France with the hard-to-find-anywhere-else cheese?
The fact is, we're as much defined by the opportunities we don't take as the ones we do. Unfortunately, we'll never have a scale to measure what near tragedies we escaped - or those we 'just' walked into. Our lives are one big mall of sliding doors, and we celebrate the times we pull off the right exit. 'A promotion, a successful relationship, a fulfilment of a goal.
A friend of mine who lives in London was on holiday in Mexico recently when he took to Facebook to write; "It may sound like a cliche, but one definition of contentment may be walking home in the warm rain, with the sweet smell of street cart tacos, accompanied by the tinny sounds of Pharrell's "beautiful" from a nearby club after dancing with some punjabi's and their inlaws on the otherside of the world!"
Trade the words 'street cart tacos' for 'salty waves crashing' and I find that most of the time, post swim in the ocean - that's exactly how I feel about Sydney. Content.
I don't know where I'll be another year from now but I do know one thing for sure: having a swim in the salty Pacific Ocean dissolves (if only for a moment) even the most difficult of life's woes. We need to just keep swimming.