May 28, 2011

14,000 things to be happy about

Settling down here hasn’t been easy – and that comes from someone who wasn’t expecting a fairytale to begin with. Still, I have to say I wasn’t prepared for how difficult it would be. A lot of the time it was like I was watching myself from a distance, with a growing sense of alarm as I floundered about in this new life, but unable to do anything to help myself out.

The first month was great: after months and months of waiting, I was finally here in Sydney. As with all new chapters, I felt awash with inspiration and hope, reveling in a fresh sense of freedom without all its worrying limitations. My parents were taking care of me until I got back on my feet, I had a great new apartment and after three long years, I was finally spending more time with my sisters. Summer was giving the weather its best shot before its imminent departure, so I spent many a morning rambling around either my neighbourhood or my sister’s in shorts and a tank top to stave off the heat (which actually reminded me a lot of home save for the lack of feeling like I’d be run out of town for wearing shorts anywhere other than the confines of my house or some remote beach). Life was good.

But soon, Summer waned, taking with it the warm security of the phrase “…but I just got here”. There was nothing for it but to start looking for work. And anyone who has been in my position (and by this I mean looking for that first job out of Sri Lanka) will sympathize because it is the single most demoralizing experience – ever. It is abominably cruel that we are meant to remain sprightly and brimming with self-esteem and worth when we’re met with rejection at every corner. So – being hideous at selling myself at the best of times – I had a truly ghastly time of it. I went from being headhunted in Sri Lanka to being at the bottom of the food-chain in Big Bad Corporate Sydney. Suddenly I felt like my experience amounted to nothing, that I was horribly unqualified and generally rubbish at everything. Applications got harder and harder to write, I started sending my CV out to places I wouldn’t have dreamed of applying to a month ago, and all the while alarm bells were going off in my head, accompanied by a voice that was telling me with brutal conviction that I was never going to find a job and would have to return to Sri Lanka with my tail between my legs come a month or two. Continue reading May 28, 2011

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Lift-off; touch-down.

Airplane_by_MiekoMiley

The plane purred into the humid early morning air, as if it was rousing itself in preparation for the journey ahead. Strapped not-so-comfortably into my seat, I was doing exactly the opposite. Literally minutes away from lift-off, I was plagued by a sudden and unfamiliar urge to run back the way I came.

I plugged in my iPod, leant back in my seat and closed my eyes, and when I opened them again, we were taking off. Glancing out of the window, my throat constricted as I watched the ground rush away from me. I hadn’t expected to miss home barely before I’d left it. I blinked hurriedly but a couple of embarrassing tears slipped out before I could stop them. If I hadn’t been feeling so sad, I could laughed at the irony. I am the ultimate escapist – always wanting to run away, always dreaming about new beginnings. But there I was, at the brink of changing the direction of my life – literally – and all I could think about was what I was leaving behind.

The journey passed in a haze of literal and metaphorical cold feet. I don’t remember much of it now, save for a brief chat with the passenger sitting next to me; an elderly Australian man who allowed me to indulge myself by telling him all about what was now essentially my old home, old job and old life. In turn, he told me about his and we swapped snippets of each other’s lives in between the odd movie, or whenever we paused our separate viewings to eat a meal.

All I really remember, though, is being consumed by thoughts of home. My parents, my friends, my job. The small, sometimes chaotic, but still precious little world I had built for myself in the three years I had lived there as an adult.

The announcement of our descent towards the Sydney airport roused me from sleep. Half submerged under my blanket, I attempted to drag my thoughts to the present as the plane turned its nose to land. My stomach lurched, half from the elevator-like sensation of our descent; half from something else altogether. I got my belongings together, clutching my bag to me protectively, feeling suddenly rather small and alone. The plane landed, shuddering on the runway, gaining a rush of speed before it slowed down to a mellow amble. As its slow motion faded into stillness, I held my breath and glanced up. The yellow light of the seatbelt sign blinked off.

I had arrived.