It’s hard to get my head around the season. After a February spent in the southern hemisphere, I’d got used to being warm and not wearing a coat. Sniffling away the residue of my cold, I can’t shake that wistful ache and the fact that I am missing Australia.
I never planned to like Australia the first time I went. It was going to be, I imagined, just a bit too conventional for me. Yet somehow my time there was such a formative one that the stupid country has got itself well and truly lodged in my heart.
It wasn’t just the climate, the big sky, and the ocean. It was the many strangers who became friends and welcomed me into their homes and their lives. It was the generosity of those friends I now call my family who stretched my understanding of hospitality. It was the hours spent with Sudanese women which kick-started a glimmer of calling and of vision. It was the love of my friends towards the alien and stranger that taught me about living radically counter-culturally and joyfully. It was where this Pommy Chick finally felt happy about being English and thrived as the foreigner. It was where I looked up at the stars on a warm aussie evening and felt like I was in the right place at the right time.
I was a bit scared to go back for a holiday. Scared that my heart would re-break itself. Scared that buried regrets would resurface and I’d have a bit of a life wobble.
I needn’t have worried. From the time I stepped off the plane, I was back at home. Apart from the obligatory Sydney Harbour trips and the spontaneous visit to the Phillip Island penguins, I didn’t do a great job at being a tourist. My time was spent just being. Enjoying being in the same room as my friends, chatting, shopping, making cheesecake, playing with the children, washing up, walking by the sea, drinking coffee, having brunch, pottering around. Regular life with some quality people. It was so normal that I forgot that I was normally elsewhere.
Yes, I am missing Australia. Not because I don’t have those friendships here, but because there’s something about the distance, the enormity of the journey, and the uncertainty of when the next time will be, that makes time with those friends so precious.
And I am missing the way I am when living overseas – the confidence, the joy, the challenge and the deep-seated feeling that this is what I was made for. Has that reminder unsettled me? As I looked around me in Sydney, I could see that we’ve all got a bit older; people have moved, changed jobs, got married, had kids. Perhaps I’m not where I’d planned to be and perhaps the questions are still there and, yes, I sometimes cry and have tantrums about it. But it was a chance for me to see that life has moved forward for me too and that the sense of calling which came about through my first stay in Australia has been refined over the intervening years. I suppose that during that time I’ve got better at being me while learning what it means to wait, to trust and to be content.
Unfortunately, that doesn’t stop the fact that my heart is hurting, that I miss my friends, and that I feel cold in England. Bring on the spring!