This City

Almost 8 years ago I did something crazy.

 

I quit my job, broke up my engagement and moved to Sydney, Australia. To this day, I maintain that it was one of the best decisions I have ever made. You see the first time I came over was in 2000. I absolutely did not like most of the people I had come with. But there were days and moments when I was either wandering alone or could pretend they didn’t exist that something about this place took root. It was the city, it was the beach, it was being surrounded by water.

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It could have been anything.

 

It was falling in love and not being able to pinpoint exactly what made it happen.

 

I would have stayed but I had a story to go through in Malaysia. There was University, which I was half way through, and I the conversations that had started with my ex fiancé still had to be completed. So I saw that through.

 

Three months after my engagement ended, heart in shreds I left.

 

Moving to a new city is never easy but people do it all the time. Some people do it with family, some with friends and others following their partners. I could have gone to the UK or where I have family or went to Melbourne or Perth, where there is a larger community of Malaysians, but for some reason, none of those options occurred to me at the time.

 

It made it tougher, but it was the right choice.

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Being on your own after always having family and being surrounded by friends who had known you for years is never easy. It is a whole new way of being, a whole new way of living and a way of learning who you are independent of all these things. My father was one of those people who didn’t really exist without an audience. He always needed someone to be on show for and I was cautious of becoming that so of course, I did this. Don’t even get me started on how the actions of one’s parents can affect the course of one’s life. It’s great as long as you can stop and take note of it.

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2006 through to 2008 were fully experimental. At a young age, I was in a committed relationship so most of my partying was done within the context of that. We didn’t drink much due to my health issues but there was the pot (which my ex loved) and the E (which was more my thing). Can’t drink but drugs are ok?  Only in your early twenties can you operate with such logic.  Side note, this is all in the past. I teach yoga and do not condone the use of drugs.

 

As a Masters’ student, you only have classes three days a week, spend some time in the library, write a lot and socialise even more. I was so lucky in my group of friends. I think I always have been. They were truly good people. Together we learned this city, not just the touristy bits, although we did wear out the floors at Bungalow 8, Cargo and the Argyle quite a bit. We also learned the little nooks, the quiet corners and the beautiful graffiti on the backstreets.

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Then we finished school, my friends left, I got a job and relearned this city again.

 

My friends in University were made up of people who could afford to study here and pay rent. The people I met at work mostly came as backpackers. With them another part of the city opened up to me, the part of people who came without attachment and were ready to fully embrace the decadent and crazy. Somewhere in that craziness I fell in love for the second time in my life and he showed me the city through his eyes. It was the places where he had gone since he was young, the family and the new and foreign culture. For three years I was totally involved.

 

Then that ended. Funnily enough, in a way, that relationship closed a circle of rebounds that started after I ended my engagement. It was awful and it was amazing and then I had to relearn life again.

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So most of my friends had left and then I got so absorbed into his family and friends, and once it ended, it was like I had started life here all over again. It was the only time I thought I might leave for good. My visa at the time was in the air. In my stubbornness, I didn’t even consider being sponsored by an employer as I’d never met one I wanted to stay with that long and I didn’t want a partner visa. At that point, I had to know that if I was staying it was because I was meant to be here. If I was the job would come and if I was meant to fall in love, it too would happen after that.

 

Turns out I was meant to stay. After seven years, my residency was granted.

 

This place in a strange way has my heart. I love the different pockets of society and how people are so different from one place to another. Good coffee is so easy to find and even in the rush, there is always someone taking it slow at a coffee shop, watching the world go by. There are parts that are dark and angry, and then you take the train across the bridge and the sight of it takes your breath away. You look out from Waverley Cemetery and see this beautiful vast ocean.

 

Two nights ago, I walked through the city from Circular Quey to Darling Harbour. It’s crazy how you can be completely invisible and yet still feel like you are a part of something. Occasionally someone will walk with you for a bit and strike up a conversation, but mostly it is solitary. I love it. Sometimes I stop and just look, how the Opera House is really not pretty from close up but if you go across to The Rocks it is amazing, how the old buildings and the new ones somehow just cohabitate next to each other, and how different people just move around in the crowds. There is a breathing energy to this place.

 

This walk is one of my ‘things’, something I’ve never really done with anyone else, but maybe someday I will with a friend, or a lover if I can ever bring myself to brave Sydney’s treacherous dating scene (that’s a whole story on it’s own).

 

Sydney is a play of shadow and light. Occasionally they merge in a kaleidoscope of rainbow colours. It is mine but not really mine. In both the night and day, there is something beautiful about it.

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Lonely City

Sometimes I walk around this city that I’ve adopted, lost in my own universe of thoughts and whatever music is playing in my ear.  I came here for the first time at 20 knowing I would come back.  One broken engagement and a few years later, I did. No friends, no family – Just me, with no anchor and no knowledge of what life would have in store for me. At the time, I did not know if I would leave or stay, but as the years passed, here I am still.

 

Although I came from another crowded city, this one is different.  Here I did not have the foundation of friends I could call when that first winter hit.  Here I did not have a cousin whose home I could hide in during times of heartbreak.  Here in my weakest moments, I learned to find my own strength.  As any singular nomad will tell you, there are times when it gets lonely, but there are also times when being alone gives you the freedom to explore.

 

I have fallen in love in this city, thinking that it was that love that would keep me here.  I fell out of love, but still remained.  There have been lives built on the foundations of this city, and they too have fallen apart, only to be rebuilt into a different kind of existence.  There has been laughter and tears, and through it all, I kept finding myself over and over again.

 

The New Year enters this city in a big way.  Friends, acquaintance, and strangers come together to invite the new, hoping perhaps that this coming year will be the one where dreams come true, where everything just falls into place and they find what they are looking for.  Perhaps they will fall in love on this night.  It is a night of hopes, dreams, aspirations, intentions, and for some, action.  Two strangers meet and endeavour to build a life together.  Two lovers part hoping to find themselves again.

 

For some, a connection is found.  For others, standing in a crowd is when they feel most alone, like a lost child looking in through a window at a family.  For some, plans are made months in advance, while for others, it is the same tradition they have held their entire adult lives, in the comfort and safety of familiar friends.  There are those standing on the harbour, waiting to be rescued and those out to rescue.  Then there are the travellers, the nomads, the gypsies; where no plans are made, where there is absolute trust that where they end up on that day is where they are supposed to be.

 

Every New Year that I have welcomed in this city has been different, and without planning, I know that this year will be different again.  I do not know what it will be, but I know that it will be.

 

As I stand on the Opera House steps over looking the Harbour Bridge, or by Waverley Cemetery looking out at the ocean, my breath is taken away all over again.  I thought love would be what kept me here and I was right.  At 20 I fell in love and although I fell in love with my ex fiancé right after that, this city already had my heart.  This city hides me when I want to hide and lets me be seen when I allow it.  In this city I knew complete and utter loneliness, and it was here that I finally fell apart after a whole lifetime of holding things up.  It is here that I found how being alone allowed me to see that I was never on my own.

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Sometimes it is when you think that you have nobody and you are completely alone that you find your somebodies.  They might not be your blood, but you are united in moments of gold – they are the person who speaks to you on the bus, the stranger who steps into your place of work and ends up sharing their life with you, the friend who just holds you for a while when you’re feeling vulnerable, or the random person who smiles at you on the street.

It could be a moment or a lifetime, but it is these times that remind you that you are never truly alone.