I get it: 7 months seems an odd time to reflect. 6 months would have been the more obvious milestone, but honestly, it was one that crept completely under my radar. I want to say this is surprising, but more colossal plans aside — like, I don’t know, move to Melbourne — I tend to live pretty day-by-day. For that sake, it’s really not surprising at all. Months have flown by and so too have many thoughts with them.
It’d be 7 months in — as of Sunday the 14th of October — before I’d truly internalise the time that has passed. It’d be 3 days post the offical date, where I’d get a chance to sit down where I am now — at our make-do desk — and reflect on what’s it like to be 2600km from home. In a city with no family and predominately, new friends.
When I phrase it like that, it sounds a bit shit. Like maybe, I’ve been sitting in my apartment, tearing up when A.J. walks out the door. Like perhaps, I’ve long-awaited each trip to New Zealand; on arrival, opening my arms to family, comfort and familiarity with a long-held sigh of relief.
I’m glad to announce that this has not been the case nor did I actually predict such an unfortunate series of events. If I did forecast such a grim welcome, I probably wouldn’t have aligned every path in my life towards Melbourne more than 7 months ago. The truth is, the past 7 months have been much of what I thought they’d be — and in many ways, very different too.
To begin a series of which I’m calling “The Laundromat Series”, I’m reflecting on my time spent in Melbourne so far. This is about spending time away from home. Arguably too, about becoming a fully-fledged and independent adult [disclaimer: this is not to say I’m anywhere close, but I’ll admit to being on the journey].
The day we shot these photos in a Richmond laundromat, there was an old man who came in to do his washing. Like most who dropped in and out, I thought he too would chuck his corduroy pants in the wash, and be on his way for an hour. Instead, this old man took a seat and pulled out a sandwich. With the risk of losing those coveted corduroy trousers, there was little to do but sit, I suppose. And so he munched on a cucumber and hummus sammie [I’m improvising here; I didn’t taste the sammie nor ask] — and otherwise, seemed to do little but self-reflect.
On that note, I return now to The Laundromat to do the same thing. As for you, I can only hope it’s not as dull to read about — as it certainly looked, when that old man watched the tumble dryer turn. It turned over. And over. And over. And over again.
I could have told him then and there how the next hour would go. Over? Yep. Again.
Anyway, let’s get to what you came for. Here’s what you need to know about the 7-month milestone in case you’re considering moving overseas.
Something I could have told myself, and will warn you about now, is expecting things to fall into place far more quickly, than in reality they really do. I suppose it’s easy to disregard the fact that you’ve spent your entire lifetime setting up friendship groups, networks, routines, etc. in your home country.
To put it bluntly, you can’t move countries and expect to build those life-long establishments in a month. Not even in 3. And not yet again in 7. I’ll admit that many things are only starting to settle themselves now. And when I say this, I’m referring to my circumstance career and job-wise. With friendships, relationship dynamics — everything, essentially.
I mean, it’s just going into Spring and I’m not even finished telling people that, “I thought Melbourne was just like all the other cities in Australia, but it actually gets really cold!” All of a sudden, I’m talking about the heat and the humidity and how I’m not sure I’ll handle a Melbourne summer.
My point is: adjustment takes time. And to my own dismay, that time that doesn’t fluctuate based on your productivity. Obviously, it helps if you’re focused and determined; more, if you have an idea of the lifestyle you wish to establish. With that said, to develop any sense of routine, even to understand the city in which you’re living, and it’s dynamics, takes far more than a few months.
Not only is this important to realise before you go — so that you can anticipate periods of loneliness, discomfort and even, slight uncertainty — it’s also important to recognise when you’re just a couple of months in. Nothing will come from beating yourself up over what hasn’t happened for you yet. After all, you can’t force yourself to meet the right people. You can only put yourself in as many places that might see these opportunities arise.
Looking back over the last 7 months, I can see how people could have quite alternate experiences of moving and living overseas. I’d argue that this experience stems ultimately from personality traits, and too, from how well you adjust — and keyword: ADAPT — to new situations.
The truth is, there were countless times when I was tired from a day of work, or when I felt like being alone. Forcing myself to show up at occasions I’d planned to meet people despite of my mood, was one of the best things I could have done for myself over the past 7 months. It’s also one of the most important things I’d recommend to anyone else.
Back at home, it wouldn’t matter if you weren’t in the mood. You’d tell your friends another time, right? Here where you’re making first impressions, and where a single catch-up could turn into a long-term friendship, a single occasion becomes far more valuable. Cancel enough — in some instances, cancel once — and they just might not come up again.
As the moral of many stories go, it pays to push yourself. New cities don’t care if you’re shy or if you’re confident. They won’t treat you any differently. The same rules apply for both characters. So no matter the role you typically play, it’s time to get acquainted with making a bigger effort than you did it home. Because I assure you, you’ll be digging for a good few months, before you find solid ground again.
But here’s something else you should know. At around 7 months — give or take a few — you’ll have met some pretty great people. You’ll have thanked yourself for the times where you mustered up the energy to go and grab a drink. You’ll be glad that you trusted yourself, and that you trusted time. Somehow, it always does manage to work out for us in the end.
If you’ve moved with a partner, you should also hold out for the 7 month mark — again, give or take a few. I severely underestimated how much pressure moving overseas would put on a relationship. I knew it’d be hard. I knew there’d be new challenges. But I didn’t comprehend the full extent these challenges would arise.
It’s not easy when you go from being largely independent individuals, who come together because they enjoy it. To very dependent individuals, who come together both because they enjoy it, and now too, because they have no choice!
As you’re making friends, as you’re finding your way in a new city, this person becomes your place of comfort. But they also become your place of frustration. Your place of self-doubt, angst and every other feeling you might be experiencing. That’s certain to be hard on the both of you — and most definitely was for myself and A.J.
Whilst you may find that you’re not actually compatible for the harder times — and this is okay too — you may also find your way through them. This will be one of the most gratifying and strengthening experiences of your relationship so far. You might feel like a married couple. But I promise you’ll also feel more fun. More adventurous. And far more loving too.
7 months in, and I do miss my family and friends. Sometimes, I miss the mundane pleasure of texting someone and going for a walk a half hour later. With friends located across a far larger city, they hardly ever are in the coffee shop around the corner — as could quite easily be the case in Wellington.
But 7 months in, and I can say with complete transparency, that there’s no place I’d rather be. I am better off here. My family and my friends know that. I know that. I’m happier. As A.J. noted, I have even more drive. I see all the opportunities around me. And now that I’m finally parking my flag within them, I know in my heart that it’s only the beginning.
Here’s to the next oddly-timed milestone. I can’t wait to meet you.
Make-up by Dominique Matthews.