Sun and Shade

In a state of lethargy you start folding and packing a fragment of your life into your newly purchased suitcase perched on your parents’ bed, as the last episode of Grey’s Anatomy you’ll watch, plays in the background. You let your mother neatly piece together your belongings in a way you could never manage – with some space left over. It’s this attention to detail and labour of love you will miss sooner than you know.

Arriving in your new home on the other side of the world you didn’t think it would be so trying even though it was your choice to do it alone.

The reality of the loneliness is gut-wrenching.

Your beloved grandmother died the morning you flew out on your new journey and you start to berate yourself for your choice. You can’t eat properly. You have no real friends. You have no idea where you’re going half the time. This new city is full of nightlife but you’ve got nobody to explore it with. You get booted out of your temporary abode via text message by a girl you’ve known for over a decade. You flatshare with countless others in a place resembling the United Nations as well as a family of mice running rampant at night as you surfed the net accompanied by the stench of dirty plates fermenting in the kitchen.

The lounge room you fell in love with once, is continuously clouded in a thick weed haze you’re forced to walk through to figure out how to reset the hot water. The saving grace being how damn good looking your pot-head Italian flatmate is even if he laughs in your face because he’s so stoned as you ask him for his help. You get evicted a few weeks before the Olympics start, then spend two weeks after work trying to find a new place to call home.

You tell yourself these are all just speed bumps. An adjustment period. A learning curve. It will all make you stronger apparently. And how many times you hear that cliche that there are people who have it so much worse than you.

Everyone you speak to says the first few months are the worst.

You shamefully bawl your eyes out when you Skype home as your family is doing everything they can to persuade you get back to the rut you so desperately broke free from. You watch your elderly grandfather shuffling over to the table, seeing how he’s aged in the time you’ve been gone. You cry yourself to sleep at night sometimes, wondering what you’re even doing here. Is this a mid life crisis brought forward some 15 odd years?

And then suddenly, you are not alone anymore. A social life starts to materialise. You accumulate friends. You conquer places you really only saw in your favourite films. You watch bands you’ve admired for the longest time play five minutes from where you live. You drink pale ales and lagers in crisp Northern Hemisphere Springtime. You have conversations with people who’s accents you just don’t understand. You see snow and feel it burning your nose on the way to work in the morning. You stumble drunkenly beneath Christmas lights lining Oxford Circus. You get your delicate heart broken by a boy in a band.

One year on, you’ve made it. You’re in love with this place. Its history, its grime. Its rain and its snow. Embracing the sun and the shade in a wondrous place you could have so easily flipped the bird at.