A tale as old as time: An Australian takes a gap year to go live in the UK
A glass— okay fine a bottle, of red wine in hand, little cocktail umbrellas so intricately interwoven through my hair, the tang of cold water on my hot sunbathing skin, music on in the background, and surrounded by my best friends; the story of the best day of my life. Oh and did I say pizza? Yeah, lots and lots of pizza.
When I first decided to move overseas, I wasn’t feigned by where I went or for how long I went. All I wanted was to go and leave and to explore the world. I wanted to travel, to meet new people, to rediscover myself, my passion in life and what makes me happy. I wanted to delve deep into different cultures, immerse myself into a different way of life and feel the world around me. Although I wanted all of this, I never expected it to be as life changing as it truly was.
Being overseas gave me a chance to start again. I had just come off the back burner of a horrible year, and it was time for a change. I didn’t know who I was anymore; my sense of humour, my ambition, my personality, and my way of life was rapidly changing and I often felt lost in the midst of it. So, naturally, I moved overseas to the UK. Not a stereotypical Australian rite of passage at all.
When I got there, suddenly I had to build a whole new life for myself. This meant understanding who I was and projecting that into the world. I had to make new friends and develop into a way of life far different to the one I had in Australia. And when you have nothing to lose, no already-existing-friends-who’ve-known-you-for-years-and-might-hate-your-sense-of-humour-and-personality-you’ve-been-hiding-for-years-because-of-your-social-anxiety (phew) then you kind of risk it and be your actual self.
This is the part in this story where I discover myself blah-blah. But really, I did. I discovered who I was and how I wanted to portray myself and live my life while overseas. And it was the most incredible time of my life. I suddenly went from being a sarcastic motherfucker to being a sarcastic motherfucker who loved to talk about sex, shit and the fact that I piss myself when I laugh. It doesn’t seem like the most attractive of topics, but it got me chatting with like minded people, who I eventually made best friends out of, and who I shared some of the most outrageous experiences with, did the wackiest things I probably would never have done at home, and laughed the hardest I’d ever done so.
It’s not a surprise to then say that my time in the UK was hands down, without a doubt, the best fucking time in my whole life. But like all good things, it had to come to an end. And end it did. But it was far from easy. If I could forever trap myself in that little bubble of a day I first described, I would. If I could stay in that sunny, funny and glorious day for the rest of my life, believe me, I would. But I couldn’t. So it was time to come home.
Since I’ve been back, I’ve often wondered if I made the right decision. I’ve sat there and struggled and cried and thought to myself if it was all even worth it seeing though I had to leave everyone and everything I knew afterwards. I couldn’t understand how I could go through such a life changing experience and suddenly go back to Australia without these people and circumstances in my life and just continue as though nothing had happened. It was the cynic in me speaking, suddenly wishing I had never even indulged in the experience in the first place. Like the realisation that the more you eat of your cupcake, the less there is to keep eating.
It was at this point that I was reminded of what one of my best friends I met overseas had told me. He spoke to me of an experience he had with his past girlfriend, where every time she had a coffee she placed a small teaspoon in it while she drank it, and how ever since he’d been with her, he could never drink his coffee without that damned tea spoon in it. Years later, even after they’d broken up, he still drank his coffee with a teaspoon in it. A tale to remind us that even though something may have ended, if even in the slightest way, it has changed your life and become a part of who you are.
And it hit me just how much I’d changed while overseas and how each and every experience, friendship and habit I’d had, even though limited in my ability to interact with them now, had become a part of me. I learnt to be myself, to project my humour and personality into the world, to not be afraid to laugh so hard I pee myself every time, to stand up for myself, to trust those around me, to be confident in my body and not question its ability, to let loose once in awhile, to thirst for adventure and the small thrills in life, to take risks and accept their consequences, to experience and accept rejection, and to love those around me and let myself be loved by them. I finally understood the old saying “tis is better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all.”
These are experiences I cannot take back and memories I can never forget. They are ingrained in me, a part of who I am as a person, and who I’m becoming in the process. And while I’m as comfortable as someone who’s just done anal sitting on the fact that this experience is now over, I have nothing but overwhelming gratitude and love for the time that I did have. I’m learning day by day to practice gratitude for the things I’ve learnt and to allow them to mould me into the person I want to be. And at the end of the day, how lucky am I that I have had something so amazing and special happen in my life that it physically hurts to have to part ways with it? Pretty damn lucky if you ask me.