A world citizen may provide value to society by using knowledge acquired across cultural contexts.
Written 13 October
I fly out of here in one month.
The passage of time has been a strange one over here.
One month in to the trip and I had already dealt with jetlag, depression, loneliness, found friends from various countries, figured out the basics of Australian culture and society, reconnected with a friend from back home, and had countless adventures.
At three months that list was even more impressive. I had celebrated holidays, wandered cities, hiked the Overland Track, gotten job offers, made true friends, and generally fallen into the world down here.
At six months my mom came over to visit. I walked her around a few cities, talking for the better part of three weeks straight about Australian culture, the mentality, the language differences, the style, the food, the music. I showed her around my favorite bars and restaurants, I took her to see some of the musos I had gotten to know. I showed her Australia like it was my home.
At eight months I was freaking out. Coming up on the end of my stint in Sydney and at Luna Park (the best job I’ve ever had) I was looking towards the last four months of my time here and towards all of the things that I hadn’t done or seen. It started to become a blur. I sank into it: stress, depression, anxiety. So much to see, no way to see it all, and no guarantees of travel companions to share it with.
But as I left Sydney and found a full car of compatriots I started to breathe easier. Even though two of them turned out to be bad experiences, I was moving and able to survive it. Once I had spent the time in Brisbane sorting out a tentative schedule of the remaining months I could sleep well again. Yes it was putting a day by day plan to the remaining quarter of a year. And I knew that it would be revised and changed and flat-out ignored at points. But the accuracy of the plan didn’t matter. That a plan existed was all I needed.
At three months from the end I hardly noticed the date. The same held true at two months out. I wasn’t coming up on a deadline. I wasn’t approaching the terminus of my time in Oz. Well, I was, and am, but I was too busy actually living it and being in the moment to worry about the future. Each town was a new adventure. Each person met was another potential friend, or conversationalist, or quirky character to take a role in a story I told somewhere down the line. I wasn’t stressed or worried. I was gleefully gliding along.
It was about six weeks out from departure that it first reared its head again. Sadness. A profound sense of loss.
I was at the Shack, the Riverland home of my adopted family. I’d be heading to Bathurst in a few days where I would see Steve again. But Cathy wasn’t coming. And I wasn’t going to be heading back to Adelaide. This would be it. The last time I would see Cathy this year. Probably for a few years. Possibly ever.
I have friends in Melbourne. I will see them before my flight leaves. I have friends in Sydney. I would be hitting Sydney a week later to drop Sam off and take care of car things. And I’ve met people in various cities from various countries who shared a space in time with me that had a coherent end. But those were all known quantities at the time. This was a goodbye for an undetermined amount of time to a person whom I had lived with for a month, who I consider a good friend.
The same feeling recurred the following weekend as I said goodbye and a thank you that couldn’t really be put into words to Steve. Same deal. No idea when the next time we will cross paths will be. Or as The Alan Parsons Project said in Time, “Who knows when we shall meet again, if ever.”*
Here I am now in Sydney. The time is growing shorter. Only a month until I get on a plane to leave the Lucky Country. And I’m happy.
There is certainly a feeling of impending departure. I know that I will soon be saying goodbyes to friends here that I won’t see again for a long time. Most of them I won’t ever see again. Academically I know this, and yet I’m not overly sad because I hadn’t planned to end up back here. These are face to face times I didn’t think I would have so they are bonuses already. But I will have to say my goodbyes soon enough. It is something I’m already mentally preparing for. I know it is coming. It is why I plan to spend the next month partially in wind-down / wrap-up mode. Sort pictures. Write. Make sure the journal is up to date. Mentally sort out as much as I can about what I wanted out of this trip and what I got. I’ve done big trips before and I know if I leave these things till I get home they won’t get done. Do them now while it is fresh and conclude the trip. Bleed-over from one phase of life to the next just muddies both.
So I’m not afraid of the end that is coming. I am not relishing it either. It is an unchangeable fact. I must simply make the most of my time here in the remaining month. Get a job if possible to make a little extra. Sort pictures. And spend time with those I can, those who I want to fill my time with. Start to wind down this little Down Under experiment.
Only a month left. So much time.