Reading through the prompts for this week's Writing Workshop, I started singing this in my head
As I watched the video, filmed in Sydney, I wondered what my life would be like if I had stayed in Australia.
I took my gap year when I was thirty and newly divorced from my first husband (my childhood sweetheart). I travelled around Australia for six weeks, before settling in Sydney. I'd had the time of my life travelling. I know this is a cliche, but I can't think of any other way to describe my experience.
How else would you describe the following?
- Sailing round the Whitsundays, including an afternoon on Whitehaven Beach.
- Skydiving from 12,000 feet and landing on Mission Beach.
- A rainforest stay at Cape Tribulation.
- An outback safari, including hikes around the Olgas and King's Canyon, sunset and sunrise at Uluru and sleeping under the stars, in a swag, in the red desert.
- A jolly week in Adelaide, including a tram ride to the beach.
I also met hundreds of other backpackers, broadened my horizons and gained so much confidence.
Whist I was in Sydney, I lived in a lovely little house in the funky neighbourhood of Newtown. We were spoilt for choice with an abundance of bars and restaurants all within a few minutes walk. I could get a bus straight to Coogee Beach at the weekend.
I commuted into the CBD for work. My office over-looked the Harbour Bridge. I worked with some brilliant people, some of whom I still see or at least email regularly. I could walk to the Opera House in my lunch hour and eat my sandwiches in the Botanical Gardens. I saw shows at the Opera House. I sailed in the harbour.
I was living in Sydney when the Olympics were on. I saw the Olympic flame carried through the streets on my way back to the station. I saw some athletics at the stadium (Colin Jackson waved to me when I shouted 'Go Colin' at him from my front row seat, my friends at home saw me on the television). I attended free concerts. I stood with thousands of others in Martin Place watching the Aussies win gold after gold in the swimming. I watched the closing ceremony fireworks in the harbour.
I spent Christmas day in Bondi. I didn't make it to the beach due to the mother of all hangovers! I was over-looking the harbour on New Year's Eve - more fireworks! I saw Coldplay, Powderfinger and PJ Harvey at The Big Day Out. I had a ball at the Gay and Lesbian Mardi Gras.
I've just read this back and it must sound like terrible bragging. That's not the intention. As well as the highs, there were also several low points. I drank too much too often and got into a few alcohol related scrapes. Luckily I always got home safe... eventually. I suffered at times from loneliness, boredom and depression. I fell out with my house mate a couple of times. I had my toxic (now ex) friend to stay for two weeks, during which time she totally undermined my new-found confidence, slagged off my lifestyle and told me my work friends weren't proper friends. She told me I was an embarrassment when I got drunk at my office Christmas party (that I paid for her to go to). She corrected me when I referred to something as 'scummy' with 'we say scuzzy now', inferring that I was missing out on life in our old local. She refused to pay me the money she owed me. She didn't want to see anything or do anything. I could go on, but I don't want to dwell on that time!
These low points were more than out-weighed by the good times. I stayed in the same job the whole time I was there. I was sponsored by the company I worked for. They gave me a four year business visa and the offer of a (very good) permanent job. I had friends, I had a social life.
I came home though, after a year, because my Dad was alone and not well. I wanted to come home, but I always planned to go back to Sydney. I have, but only for holidays.
What if I had stayed?
What if I was still there now, in some kind of parallel universe? What if my Sliding Doors moment had left me Down Under?
Yes, there would be highs and lows, just as there have been in my life back in the UK.
I can not think about that parallel life. I can not imagine a life without my husband or my children. It is too awful to contemplate. So I'll look at my photographs and remember the (mostly) fantastic year I had in Oz and be grateful that I came home when I did.
This post was written as part of the Sleep is for the Weak Writing Workshop. This week I chose prompt no.4 Imagine there is another 'you', living in a parallel universe.