I learned to juggle on the edge of the desert. On the days when the frost didn’t thaw until it was already too late. Until then I’d never considered the desert freezing over. I’d never believed I would one day be able to juggle. I started with nothing. To this day I find the simple act of catching difficult. It would have been easier to say no, not to learn. Save face, accept failure without first trying. You are not truly juggling until you can cycle through more than six throws and catches. Before then, you are playing a game of catch with yourself. This is not the beginning. The first time you catch the third ball you have already come a long way. This is what it feels like to come home.
I expected it to feel more like losing to the final boss. Out of lives. Do not continue. The game is well and truly over. Some days it does. Leafing through notebooks. Re-reading drafts. I’ve been looking for something. Desperate to find a place from where I can begin, again. I knew it was going to happen.
I watched the sun descend over North Melbourne. Spring offered its best impression of summer. The light captured my eyes as the grey buildings turned to gold. I moved to and from the bedroom, noting the the spread of colours over the balcony. Blue chased the candy floss pink clouds across the sky. The horizon burned orange, then red. The blue became lavender, red turned to cream, before the darkness claimed the night. Has saying goodbye ever been harder? The end date of my visa drew ever nearer. I spent days under the mistaken impression doing nothing would make the time pass slower. If I waited long enough, something might happen. The time might be right, I might not have to leave. Days turned to weeks. Nothing changed. Shouldn’t I have been making the most of my final days? Over the past two years, Melbourne established itself as my home away from home. I lived, worked, breathed the city. My time there wasn’t even close to perfect. When is it ever? The journey became less about traveling and more about living. I had no burning urges to go anywhere, to see anything. I was comfortable, at home, and I didn’t want to leave. All three balls dropped to the floor. I should have caught at least one.
I met Elena six weeks after I arrived in Melbourne. One thing led to another and we lived together for the rest of my stay in Australia. Elena is one of the most creative, stubborn, patient, talkative, caring people I have ever met. In 18 months living with another person, you get to know them as well as you know yourself. The struggle was real. She likes towels folded into thirds, I like the inner tube of a toilet roll to be put in the recycling bin. I am a morning person, she is a night owl. I like to take photos, she likes to ruin them. Elena and I shared good times and bad. My return home, the distance between us, our unknown futures, and the differences of our pasts all combined to break us apart. From the death of a pet gerbil, my spectrum of pain reached the heartache at the end of an adult relationship. The sadness was equal to knowing the decision was the best for both of us. For a while this made being at home worse than ever. I was exactly where I didn’t want to be, feeling exactly how I didn’t want to feel. There were days when I thought nothing had changed. After two years everything was exactly as I’d left it. Self-pity creeped in. I refused responsibility, blamed others, I was unwilling to face the next chapter of my story. I beat myself up with the sticks of “what if” and the stones of “maybe.” I’ve been guilty of looking back on a life lost, rather than a life lived. There are still times, and will be for a while, when sadness makes an unexpected call.
There are many tricks to learn in juggling. I have mastered but a few. The first and most important of all the tricks comes at the beginning. You have to know that you will drop balls. You will drop them tirelessly for weeks, months, and years. The dropping never stops. This is not a failure. This is the path to success. You have to concentrate on catching. The little victories. The moment when it all comes together you are juggling for the first time will be followed, almost certainly, with a lapse in concentration and the balls hitting the floor. It is too easy to focus on the negatives. You must be disciplined. You must have patience, but most of all you must drop more balls.
Nothing is permanent. Relationships rise and fall, feelings pass from hand to hand. The distance growing in between. How often do I remind myself of my privilege? Entry into Australia came at a small cost and gave me the freedom to work, live and explore. I only need look back over the archives of this blog to see just how much I’ve achieved. Leaving Melbourne brought me face to face with the strongest feelings of loss yet, and I was going home. There was a safe and welcoming place waiting for me on my departure. To have spent my time overseas with the love of another, and to be adopted by her family were further privileges. Ones I’d never expected. In time every glance over my shoulder will be greeted with warm, pleasant memories of the good times. The reality is the past two years have been the most enjoyable and the most challenging so far. The time has come to start again, one catch at a time.