a journey through space and time

9 Jan

It was weird being back.  People who have lived away from home for more than a year or two will know what that’s like.  But while a lot of people have travelled, not many have stayed away.

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I didn’t mean to stay away, it just kind of happened.

Leaving, and then being away, were really hard at first, then ‘travelling’ turned somehow into ‘working’ and ‘routine normal life’, and I made real friends, and put down tentative roots, and being here was easier than going back.

On my first visit back to Adelaide, after a year away, I brought my makeup kit back to Scotland, so you might say things got kind of serious at that stage.  However, now at the 6-years-away mark, I’m still on PAYG mobile.

It’s a surprisingly complicated thing to talk about; every time in the last six years, when I’ve been asked by an Adelaide friend or relative when I’m coming home, I have to pick my words so carefully.  I like it here, in Scotland.  Which is not to say that I don’t like Adelaide, and that I don’t want to be there, or even that I like Scotland more than Adelaide.  Shock!

What it feels like I am being asked, really, is why we – Adelaide, your friends, your family – aren’t enough to keep you here?  What’s so good about Scotland, with its shitty weather and tiny wages and the fact that it’s not Australia?  It feels like people take it personally, and are offended, that I choose to live in a damp, malnourished bog instead of in their golden land of milk and honey.

As you can see, I also find it impossible to talk about this without slagging both Scotland and Australia off.

It’s not that Scotland is better than Australia or Australia is better than Scotland… it’s all about me, flogstars.  I’m better in Scotland.  I love it here, and I love it in Australia as well, in fact I am very jealous of everyone who lives in Australia, casually BBQing on the beach without a care in the world apart from the poisonous wildlife winding around their ankles.

Here in Scotland I am regarded as a brave but foolhardy soul, choosing to live thousands of miles away from all that is familiar, braced against year-round 90mph winds and driving rain.  The Scots think that if I can put up with all of that, then I must really love them and their country, and right there’s an easy brownie point.  People like to be liked.

There’s something about living somewhere you’re not from.  That concept is plenty of people’s idea of hell, from what I understand.  But it’s great.  As I’m not from here, I can excuse myself from all that is wrong with the place (wasn’t me!), and equally enjoy all that is right with it.  That line of argument weakens with every election that comes and goes, and I think will be completely void after September’s independence referendum.  But anyway, because I have (for now) passed up my right to live and work in Australia, land of sunshine and reliable yearly dominance of World’s Most Liveable Cities lists, my decision to live in Scotland is conscious, deliberate, and dedicated.

So in that way, when a Scottish person asks me, goggle-eyed with disbelief, why I choose to live in Glasgow instead of Adelaide, it’s easier to answer than when I’m asked the same question by an Adelaide friend or relative.  I’m complimenting them and their country, and covertly insulting my own, aren’t I?

Visits back are like re-entering a house that was abandonned mid-morning, years ago.  Evidence of who I was and what I was doing are everywhere, cluttered in boxes at my parents’ house, spoken in questions from loosely-in-touch friends.

While my Australian life has laid dormant for six years now, life in Australia has obviously not.  People have children, different jobs, different relationships with me and each other, different priorities.  When I am plopped right into the middle of it, it is a perhaps eerie reminder for all of us, what it was like – what we were like, what life was like – six years ago when I was still there.  Evidence of the passage of time is often unsettling and seldom welcome, I find.  Maybe I am imagining it, but I can’t be the only one who is terrified at how fast six years can just … go.

It is easy enough, in essence, to pick up where you leave off with most people.  Some (MUM) might say that I am rubbish at keeping in touch.  Most of you reading this are probably real life friends/relatives/acquaintances, and got here through a link on my Facebook.  If we do know each other, maybe we chat online from time to time, maybe you’re one of the tiny handful that I email or post things to or text when I’m pissed.

Maybe you just watch me and we don’t really talk.  The Imogen Maxwell Experience has become quite the multi-media spectacular.  If Facebook, Instagram or this flog are the main picture you have of me, the jetlagged, disorientated, short-tempered, teary and easily startled version before you during my visit to Adelaide must have been somewhat of a letdown.

So how was my Christmas, did I have a good time back home?  What are visits to Adelaide like for me, after 6 years away?  At risk of sounding even more defensive and self-pitying than I already do, they’re bloody hard going.  I’m too jetlagged to try and think of another way to say ’emotional rollercoaster’.

Seeing my friends and family, the perfect weather, the foooooood… it was all wonderful.  Overwhelmingly so.  Yet I felt under a huge amount of pressure.  I felt guilty, and resentful of that guilt.  I had nowhere near as much time or energy as I would have liked.  Feeling these simultaneous extreme highs and lows is exhausting, travelling to the other side of the world to jump straight into almost constant socialising is exhausting, especially after months without a day off.  Being plucked from the comfort of routine and dropped blinking into an opposite climate and schedule, waking up starving hungry at 4am unable to get back to sleep, ready to lie down on the ground and die from fatigue by 3pm, trying hard to slap on your game face while your nearest and dearest just don’t understand why you can’t just smile and enjoy yourself and be grateful.  Feeling misunderstood.  All the tiny details of your former daily life that are familiar and unrecogniseable at the same time.

I started this post to try and articulate what it’s like, these visits home.  I thought writing this post would sort out in my own mind, and help me to explain better to people who don’t know what jetlag feels like, who can’t understand why – when they ask me if I enjoyed my 2 weeks back home – my answer is “…yes?…”  The same people who don’t understand how it is I can be away from my friends and family for so long.

Although I now think it’s really me who needs those answers.

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One Response to “a journey through space and time”

  1. Rufus Standish January 13, 2014 at 3:57 pm #

    I never know quite where to put myself when I return home, and constantly feel that something is expected of me, but I don’t know what. My Christmas/New Year visit was replete with dizzying highs and appalling lows, and I regret bitterly that it might’ve affected the people whom I love. Your account of returning home (a far more arduous journey than mine, to be sure), has moved me, Imo. Your flog is clearly developing more layers than even the most elaborate body painting.

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