It’s the question I get once or twice a week. Where the expected response was once “good”, (because in Australia it’s a greeting am.i.right?!), “good” doesn’t cut it anymore. Living on the other side of the Pacific, it’s asked with expectation of an answer – a substantive one – a summary of what I’ve been doing, how the job is going, church, friends etc. But the reality is, 6 months in, I often don’t know how I am. Living away is glamorous and a lot of fun. I get to explore new places and satisfy my curiosity and justify my craving for new. New views. New experiences. New food. New brands. New smells. New sounds. New friends. New animals. (Yes, I did stop and attempt to coerce a racoon closer for a photo tonight. He ran away. Rude.). I’m coming to realise what a privilege it is to choof off to a new city twice in 3 years. It has been wonderful. I honestly cannot believe I’m close to 6 months in this stunning country. But, truthfully, I’m also very tired. Tired of setting up a new life. Making friends and rarely getting beyond “Oh you’re another one from Australia. Why did you move?” But beyond that it’s still struggling to set up a credit card, trying to find time to visit an actual branch after being rejected time after time online. It’s navigating new health systems. It’s trying to balance a personal budget with all the adventures and ski equipment…without the comfort of 5 years of savings accessible via an app and quick 2 second transfer. It’s not knowing where anything is in the supermarket and when you do find it which brand to buy. It’s trying to work out how you want to spend Christmas. It’s trying to remember the name of that friendly looking person you met last week at church. It’s doing it all alone. I’m so very thankful I have people regularly asking how I am. I learnt from the first move to Brisbane and asked the second time round for people to check in. And you have. Friends check in without any expectation if they’re going to get elated Mel coming off seeing the Aurora Borealis and hiking through powder snow, or confused Mel struggling with a broken heart (kidding…but not completely). I am 100% in the expected and normal stage of transition and adaption. I’ve come down from the high of 4 months as a lady of leisure, the excitement of a new dream job and the season I’ve always wanted to authentically experience: fall. I’m in the slump of asking myself why I put myself back at the beginning again. I have so many great friends and family in a wonderful city called Sydney. Why did I not just move back to my original “home”? Setting up life is like playing a game of Snakes and Ladders. You can be on a really good run, quickly climbing and seemingly killing it, but then in a quick roll of the dice, you slide all the way back down. And you repeat that cycle. Just as in the game, you only have one choice, keep rolling die and slow and steady you’ll get to the end. Thankfully unlike the game, there’s no winning. You don’t and can’t win at life. And it’s not luck, although the next move is largely unknown. And to cap it all off, while I keep adventuring and enjoying this wonderful city, the bigger question hangs in my head.  Why Vancouver God? I love the sunshine and Vancouver is heading straight for 4 months of 80% rain. But not just why, how do I make sure this is not just me and satisfying my own personal goals. And so each morning I get up, check the weather, choose the appropriate shoes boots and coat and head on out…muttering some kind of prayer while overheating on the crowded bus or enjoying the dry skies walking across the bridge to work. So new mum reading this while breastfeeding in the early hours, new husband/wife scrolling Facebook after another fight, or lonely single girl spending Saturday nights alone watching Netflix Christmas films, this life on the other side of the Pacific, the one you’re jealous of from glimpses from 16:9 landscape shots on Insta or the one you’re so sick of it’s a hard left swi[e on when it appears on Instagram stories, there is so much more to it all. Moving away is not the glamorous nor easy option. But it’s a good one to learn about yourself, your strength and need for help – from others and from God. Apologies if you wanted or expected a nice clean summary, life isn’t clean or what we expect. Perhaps ask me how I am and I’ll let you know. Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
A few months ago I took a massive leap. With my contract ending at work, a vague dream of working overseas, a love of mountains and autumnal colours, I packed up and moved to Canada. There was a little bit more to it, like diversifying my professional experience, countering conscious and unconscious cultural bias (as much as you can in Australia’s winter cousin) and potentially giving any future children dual citizenship guaranteeing a lifetime of winter ski vacations. In a world where we seek security and security in work, it was a balance of fear and freedom. In a life which I surround myself with people who challenge and encourage, it was diving headfirst into a season of loneliness. In a faith based on trust in God’s providence, it was and remains terrifying. And it was finally June and then July. I had an amazing time travelling around Canada. Life is easy when lived in hotels, hiking trails and home cooked meals cease to exist. And then August arrived. The job hunt became real. I applied for 20 jobs in about 2 weeks. I got half a dozen screening calls from various HR departments. I had a couple of interviews. I was offered a job I didn’t really want, but it gave me confidence to hold out hope for one I really wanted. September came. I moved into my new place. I had made a few friends. I thought I had found a new church. But days became weeks, and a little bit of unease became sheer terror and anxiety. I haven’t really experienced anxiety before but being you’re on the other side of world with a job you don’t want but they need an answer for, and a job you do want but getting a code of silence from. I found out what anxiety was. I also ate a lot of triple chocolate cookies (thankfully I’d also joined a gym and bought a bike by then). I’m thankful for my family and many friends who reached out during August and September and FaceTimed through my joy at progressing in various recruitment processes and the agony of waiting. “How are you?” could vary dramatically based on emails, phone calls and whether it was sunny and I’d been outdoors or rainy and stuck inside. I had my family here, my family at home, my new church family, my church family, new friends and old friends, and at one stage the Garden Island Naval Base praying for me. I was not alone and I was comforted by all of them. In the months that led up to leaving, I held onto it all with an open hand. If it wasn’t meant to be, I’d be disappointed but accepting. But time and time again, God provided. Visas came quickly, temporary housing, work connections given. And now more than 100 days on, I can proclaim God’s kindness and generosity once again. I still tread unknowingly around ‘God’s favour’ because it is far from what this inherently selfish girl wants to believe it is. The Spirit of God was with me when I leapt in the form of a business flight and a house deposit of savings to the land of the maple leaf. And it remains with me now. Praise God. And if you’ve made it here, and was pretty much just wanting an update when you clicked to read another monologue on my corner of the interwebs: – The EXTENDED edition. – The HIGHLIGHTS reel: I have a place. It’s in Kitsilano. It’s lovely. I have found a church. It’s St Pete’s Fireside. I 110% struggle with the liturgy but praying God changes my heart because I love everything else. I am making friends, although many of them are Australians – a cultural enclave in the making. I broke my fifth metatarsal (aka my little toe). It sucked and I have not rested so it’ll probably take a while to heal. BUT…I landed a job at the company I dreamed of since deciding I was moving to Canada. I start next week and I’m equal parts stoked and terrified at being the new girl again. Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
A couple of weeks ago I was cycling around Vancouver when I pulled over at the entrance to a regional park info board to decide if I’d keep going or turn back. While pulled over a man wandered over and asked where we were on the map and how far you could walk. Having just looked at the map, and me being me, I gave him to full run down of the path system and, when asked, included estimated distances. “You must live around here then,” he said. “Yes, I suppose I do.” And then another day I was standing on a street corner downtown and a lady approached me looking for some directions. I didn’t know the answer immediately and although I could have pulled out my phone and worked it out for her, I responded: “Sorry, I’m not from around here.” It’s been 100 days since I’ve been back in Vancouver (YVR). It doesn’t feel quite like home yet but I also don’t know what the alternative is. So ‘home’ it has become. HOME After housesitting (and getting to know my some now very dear to me family) in North Vancouver, they helped me move into an apartment in the suburb of Kitsilano at the beginning of September. After warnings of bed bugs, the gloom of basement suites and reality of a <0.5% vacancy rate, I ended up in the first and only apartment I looked at. I prayed God would make it clear where I should live, and I’m thankful for this little abode until the end of January. (On a side note, I’m pretty certain my born and raised BC-housemate is the only Canadian around. The cafes and beach are full of Australians, Irish and Brits with a scattering of Kiwis and South American’s for good measure. We’re the only ones stupid enough to pay the exorbitant rent.) CHURCH You may remember I did a very strenuous search for churches when moving to Brisbane. I took those learnings and renewed prayers for wisdom and discernment into my new search. The process was made a little faster in YVR because of the sad truth that it’s a very dark city. Spiritual, yes. Christian, no. Despite my passive aversion for the denomination, I found a new-ish Anglican church St Pete’s Fireside meeting in the University of British Columbia’s downtown campus. The liturgy takes me back to my childhood church memories, but the teaching, community, music, evangelistic approach and strategy is right up my alley. Although the liturgy is a shock, I’m praying God changes my heart to see its beauty. I’m coming around. FRIENDS It’s often joked making friends was easier when we were Kindergarteners in the school playground. You walked straight up to someone or a group and started playing. 20+ years on I think the only difference is an increased sense of self-awareness. It’s walking across a room, it’s asking for someone’s number, it’s texting them and asking if they want to catch up. It’s actually a lot like dating… I boldly invited myself on a whale watching adventure which gifted me a friend soon to live 3 blocks from me. I’ve great times eating ice cream, hiking, paddling and even suffered through a few Saturday morning headaches. I’ve made several others and starting to get a little crew together. I’m hoping work will help soon. And my plans to join the local netball team were hindered from a certain broken metatarsal. WORK While I could financially continue this lady of leisure life into 2019, I started to long for structure, routine and a sense of productivity. It’s been a privilege to enjoy this season. It’s also been a lesson in patience. It’s been pretty anxiety-ridden but really it’s been 8 weeks. Job hunting (and apparently dating too…) is about the numbers. From 20 applications I had 6 phone interviews which progressed to 3 in-person interviews (I withdrew from one) and 2 job offers – a pretty good conversion rate. I accepted a job a my dream company in this past week and now I’ve had all the necessary ‘dodgy foreigner’ checks, I start this coming week! DATING Because why not do everything at once…I decided to throw in some casual (?) dating into the mix. I’m in awe of anyone who can manage multiple dates in a week, (KBH I’m looking at you!), I have managed 4 in 3 months with another lined up for next week. Write me direct and I’ll share the fun bits. These first 100 days have been characterised by a deepened love of mountains, the pain of a stupidly broken toe and the rollercoaster ride of finding work. I said before I left, life is best lived on the edge of our comfort zone. And that’s exactly what life in Vancouver has become. It has little structure and even less certainty. But throughout I’ve found myself drawing closer to God, or when I haven’t, running back when I realise I was relying on my own strengths. Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
Someone at some point in time gave me some travelling advice to ease the transition back to reality. If it was you, thank you. Never go back to work for a full week after a holiday Within your budget, treat yourself on the final night. And so I write this from a cute Italian restaurant on Halifax’s waterfront. I’ve got a glass of French Rose, a bottle of sparkling water (because I ain’t fancy, but gosh I prefer it over tap) and I’ve got spaghetti ai frutti di mare on its way.   Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)
I may have only told you in recent weeks or perhaps you’ve known for a few months, but I’ve known I’d be ‘leaving’ for about 9 months.  My visa was approved waaayy faster than I ever anticipated and since then I’ve been making intentional decisions that enabled me to leave. I signed a short lease, I chose to stick out the time in a challenging work environment, I stopped seeking any significant relationships and I stopped buying stuff (okay, perhaps that last one happened a little later than it should have). I was leaving. But most of those were just decisions for convenience sake. Leaving has been about more than that and more than about just me. Yes, I am going off on an adventure. But life is about relationships and my leaving for a grandiose adventure means leaving people behind – for better or for worse. I am surrounded by people who love me, who challenge me, who inspire me and who laugh with me. And I (hopefully) reciprocate that for those around me. And so, 9 months ago I decided I was going to try and leave well. I had no idea what that would look like, but for more than 8 months now I’ve been trying. Pretty early on it got exhausting keeping this exciting (and terrifying) impending adventure to myself. Life is supposed to be shared. So leaving well meant telling people early, particularly those I see most often: my close friends, the girls at work, and then later my managers, my pastor and then later my church family.  I gave them months of notice. To me it felt like ages, but for others the 3 (and even up to 6) months’ notice was not enough. I hate to think my leaving impacts others, it suggests I have a self-inflated sense of self. Perhaps so, but I think back to when a friend left Brisbane 12 months ago and the sense of loneliness I had following. Change is hard and loss hurts. Knowing it’s coming and preparing for it can only ease that challenge. (Or perhaps not, they’re like “Mel, get going already!” Perhaps I should have gone for the bandaid approach. Rip it off, mic drop and leave. Alas. Sorry if that was you!) I think leaving well for me has been about closure. Reflecting on this Brisbane chapter of my life, my mid-20s and the learnings I had and then moving forward again. A couple of weeks ago I wandered along a Sunshine Coast beach just reflecting and being thankful for blessings + learnings from it. I’ve spent time scrolling through Instagram, reminscing on Queensland adventures I’ve had. I know I’m the strongest physically I’ve been (despite 12 months of on and off again injuries). I’m also thankful I waited until I was mentally strong and not running away as I would had been 9 months ago. It’s also been saying goodbye to and acknowledging the significance of the people who I’ve done even just a short part of these 3 years with. Although I love a party, I have filled the past 6 weeks individually catching up with people + small groups. I’ve had meals with old managers and laughed with dear friends. I stopped by my old running group (despite the fact I had to break up with them 3 months ago because a girl who can’t run ain’t much good). I thanked the gym trainers who have taught the classes I’ve attended. I met with work suppliers and gave notice to others. Leaving well was about pouring into the relationships that I made in this chapter. Perhaps a favourite component of leaving well has involved stopping by old haunts, favourite cafes and finally getting to the places still left on the list. From Moreton Bay bug dumplings, to gingerbread pancakes, sweet potato waffles, a whole lotta tacos and plenty of vino + my tequila vice, leaving made its mark…for which I’m thankful I’ve had a trainer to motivate me to counter all the excess (but not at all regreted) sugar + fat + booze. I wrote a mental bucket list of the things I wanted to do before I left. This largely involved physical challenges – climbing mountains, exploring Brisbane on my bike, and in Saturday’s case, riding up Brisbane’s Mount Coot-tha. Sadly I didn’t make it out to Girraween NP, but perhaps it’s a reason to come back. I’m most thankful for the time a few key people made to help me leave well. To pray with me and for me, to check in on how I was doing, to challenge me to think about what the Canada chapter of my life could look like…and to offer North American-based family members and friends to call in case of emergency, even if it’s a jail bail out. Sunday was my last week at church where I have spent 2 years trying to help people connect with our community. And I was also moved by some of the newer people at church, many of whom I hardly know well, stopping by and saying goodbye. I was sad that I would have likely overlooked them in my leaving well process. I hope in taking time to try and leave well, I have provided an opportunity for a sense of closure. I don’t know if I’ll return. Many of those I’ve mentioned above have begged me to return or reminded me how quickly I acclimated to Brisbane’s very temperate conditions. It’s true. I have loved Brisbane. It has been very good for me. I have loved the outdoor lifestyle and how I settled into an even more active lifestyle I never expected for myself. I mean, padded Lycra pants and a road bike? A gym membership? I hardly recognise myself. I have also loved living life in a 3 kilometre radius and complaining about driving longer than 20 minutes into the suburbs. After years of commuting >2 hours a day, jumping in an Uber home from a night out, or the quick 8 minute bike ride to work, or a slow 40min meander home were so welcome. I have loved my river views apartment with a non-sarcastic pretty price tag. I might return. I might not. I don’t know what the future holds, but I could control how I left and how I move forward. I hope I’ve done it well. Care to share?Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)