The Fullest Circle

22 years ago I arrived in Australia, fresh faced and damaged, 18 going on 19, already affected yet still so naive. I moved in with my Dad in a Victorian suburb called Clifton Hill, in a cute little apartment opposite the massive park that dominates the suburb. I had intended on a fresh start, away from the mire and malignancy of Auckland, a city I loved and hated simultaneously. I came here, to Australia, to Clifton Hill to reinvent myself.

Of course, we all know that problems follow us, even across the expanse of oceans. A fresh start is a fallacy, especially at that age, when wisdom is yet to touch our brows. The span of experience between then and now is staggering. So many lives compacted into one. 41 years old, and I find myself back in Clifton Hill, cat sitting a marvellous creature named Keyser in a cute little shoebox apartment – right next door to where I used to live.

The concept of things coming full circle has always eluded me, being somewhat of an unintentional nomad. I have moved constantly in the 20 odd years I’ve been here, all within the same city, never settling for long, always trying to outrun the darkness. And here I am, back where I started, in much the same situation. Shell-shocked and blinking against the light as I start my life again. Again. Always again. It feels odd. I don’t feel completed, or satisfied, or finalised in any way. I feel much the same as I did then, albeit tempered by the complexities of a life well-lived. Here I am, talking as if I’m in my twilight years when really, I’m just beginning.

I have no idea what’s coming next. I don’t know what the Fates have in store for me. I know things are moving; my career, my self worth, my adultness, all are moving forward at a rate that I can’t fathom. I have no control, I’m just holding on and going for the ride, knowing that what’s to come will be as surprising and soul altering as what has been.

One thing that is different now to what was then: I am fierce now. More fierce than I have ever been. My heart is shredded, my soul is singed at the edges, but it gives me a power that I can’t describe. I am aware now, more awake than I ever could have imagined. I don’t see the path in front of me, but I’m now at a point where I don’t need to know what’s coming. I just have an unwavering faith that the Universe knows what it’s doing, and I’m about to enter something new and unimagined.

This blog, all the things I have written, splashing my innermost desires and despairs across the page gives only a fraction of what I experience. It’s my platform, my tool of self-expression. I have followers, but really, it’s just for me. My own little narcissistic soap box of opinions and responses; a sifting of disjointed thoughts into something clearer. Comprehensible.

I am here now.

I am here.

I am.

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Homeward Bound

It’s just past midnight as my plane approaches Auckland airport. I lean over the man sitting next to me to look out the window at the lights of the city. If it was daylight, I’d see the sparkling water of Weymouth estuary, the iridescence created by distance and sunlight belying the grottiness of the Manukau harbour on ground level. This is home. I haven’t been here in five years, and that last trip was only for two days for my grandmother’s funeral. This is home, where I’ve come to reconnect with myself.

I arrive at my brother’s house feeling strange, not quite believing that I’m actually here. Within a day, I can hear my vowels flattening and my speech returning to the idioms of my youth: I call my brother “bro”, “bra”, “eho” and “ao”. I say “choice” constantly, meaning “excellent”, and the Maori words and place names roll off my tongue with an ease I haven’t experienced in years. I see my mother, who is suddenly old. I see my nephew who is suddenly 16 and tall and skinny, and I feel all of my 37 years with a sense of finality. I remember things: the reason why my hair was so fluffy as a teenager (Auckland is bloody humid); how to take off on a hill with the car in first gear (you have to put on the hand brake, then give it some gas to stop the car from stalling); the taste of New Zealand milk, ice cream, and lamb; kumara chips; driving at 50km/h, which Auckland roads seem to demand; the hills, all the undulating hills.

I think I expected a feeling of relief being here. I’ve always considered that home is where one can stop for a moment and take a breath, where one can relax a disquieted mind. I was quite depressed when I left Australia, and I expected New Zealand to lift me. It does, after a fashion, but I think it’s more to do with spending time with my eldest brother and his girlfriend, and hugging my mum than it does being physically present in this country. It’s not the country of my youth anymore. My family members live in suburbs far removed from Manurewa, where I grew up. There’s no click of recognition as I walk the streets of Ponsonby and Northcote Point, I don’t feel that “phew, I’m home” feeling. I’ve always idealised New Zealand, I know that, as I suppose a lot of expatriates do. I am immensely proud of being born and bred in the little country that could, the nation that legalised same-sex marriage and where the indigenous culture is not only represented but fully integrated into every day life. I’m proud of the culture, the common sensical ingenuity of the average local, and of course, the physical beauty of the land of the long white cloud. There is something deeply spiritual, even magical about certain parts of New Zealand, and I feel a connection to the earth here that I don’t feel in Australia. I ate dirt and sand when I was a toddler, my mother tells me. New Zealand is in me, flowing through my veins.

So, why don’t I feel like I’m home? I put it down to still being a bit depressed, but then I’m having a conversation with my brother about petrol prices (Auckland prices were $2.19 per litre. Atrocious!), and I said “yeah, they’re much cheaper at home.” Melbourne. Not New Zealand. My heart breaks a little – only a little – as I come to the realisation that Melbourne is my home now. It could never replace Auckland, but it has given me opportunities that Auckland never could, and I find myself telling my mother that I can’t make a life here. She frowns. “You mean acting?” she asks. “Yes,” I reply, but that’s only part of the reason. It’s too small here. As my brother says, it’s small-minded. As my cousin says, it’s boring. I don’t tell my mother this, but as much as I love my family, and miss them intensely, that love isn’t enough to keep me here. I begin to get really honest with myself, and I admit that my memories of this country and my childhood here are not entirely pleasant. A lot of trauma happened to me here, a lot of innocence was lost. I finally realise that my aroha (love) for Aotearoa is based on the romanticised version in my head, not on the reality I now experience.

You can never take New Zealand out of this girl. I will always be a die-hard, up-standing and proud Kiwi. As I walk towards the departure gate to get on the plane that will take me back to Melbourne – home – I weep a little. I weep for my mother, who I fear I may not see again any time soon. I weep for my nephew, who will spread his wings and fly away from our little country at the arse end of the world to go find opportunities not available where he was born. And I weep for my country, the place of my birth and I say goodbye to the shining ideology of what it means to be home.