When you move away from home, you’re taking a risk, putting all your faith in your own abilities to keep yourself alive. Trusting that everything you’ve done up until this point is adequate to substantiate yourself henceforth. And using big words to prove it.
“Mum. What would you say to me possibly moving out?”
“Um, well, I don’t know hon. I’d never given it much thought. Where were you thinking of moving?”
“Uh, you know, just a casual three hours away – to Wollongong. Sarah’s roommate is moving out, and she asked if I’d want to take her place.”
“When would you move?”
“In two weeks.”
Two weeks go fast when you’re reducing your life into cardboard boxes that fit in the back of your little hatchback. Finishing up at work. Having farewell drinks with all the people you’ve become acquainted with. Things go all beautifully foggy, like when they covered the camera lens with Vaseline in the romantic scenes of old movies. You wonder if you’re making a terrible mistake. But then you realise that everything’s going so well, because you’re finally taking the time to notice everything. You know it’s ending. That’s when you make the most of it.
The first months of living away from home are the hardest. You remember Newcastle as those final two weeks, at its peak. You spend days just sitting at home, slowly unpacking the boxes, questioning everything. You call your mum more than you have in your whole life, in the space of three weeks.
“Did I make a big mistake? Surely it’ll get better. The degree only goes for three years, time flies when you hate your life, right?”
That imagined meet-cute of moving into a new town and meeting a boy doesn’t go quite as you’d hope.
“Hey there, I don’t think I’ve seen you at church before. My name’s Jude,” says the attractive guy who was seating two seats away from you that you spent the whole sermon trying to see his left hand.
“Hi. Nope, I avoid places where I might have to have deep emotional discussions with someone like the plague. I’m Tilly.”
“Oh. Right. Um, cool. So what do you do with yourself?”
“Working. Starting university again soon, which I’m looking forward to. Give my existence some purpose.”
“What are you going to do at uni?”
“Writing and English Lit.”
“Writing hey. That’s cool. So you must be heaps into poetry and rom-coms and feelings and that kind of stuff.”
“Not quite. I’m pretty anti-anything that requires having a heart. Missed out on that one.” You laugh. He doesn’t. You realise you should probably phase in that kind of humour. Oh well, better luck next time.
But after a while, things start to pick up. You get a job that you love, working with people you’re actually quite fond of. Where you don’t have to think of an excuse every time they ask you to go for a beer. Your church is filled with people who are genuine and kind, offering to shout dinner so you don’t miss a potential husband-finding opportunity. You have dinners with friends, spend evenings playing monopoly deal. Traditions of Thai night. In-jokes. Your housemates learn your particulars.
“Two capfuls of milk in the tea yeah? And do you need a refill on that hot water bottle and some more Panadol?”
“You really need to man up and see a doctor.”
And then, one day, you’ll realise Wollongong has become your home. While Newcastle will always be the place you come from, your hometown, it isn’t it anymore. Nearly everything you love is here now. Because there’s something so gratifying about building a life for yourself. Knowing that you’ve cultivated the friendships, paid the bills, kept yourself alive. Your mum will call you and ask when you’re coming to visit. And while you miss your family, and your beautiful best friend who you call every other week, and so many lovely people you grew up with and went to church with, you know it isn’t where you belong anymore. Here is. Where you’re your own entity. And it’s the most lovely feeling in the world.