I awoke yesterday morning after dreaming of the Australian continent, or an ambiguous mass that my dream mind knew to be Australia. I was hopelessly trying to pin something on it, like someone tries to pin a tail on a donkey while blindfolded and dizzy from being spun around. I just couldn’t grasp it, pinpoint it. When I awoke I felt suitably displaced, perhaps even more so as I remembered where I was: Melbourne, Australia.
I arrived in Australia after a 23 hour transit from Vancouver to Adelaide. The weeks leading up to that flight are a blur, all mashed up into one long hazy day. Five days after arriving in Adelaide my partner and I jumped in our car and headed East to Melbourne. Ten hours later we arrived at our friends’ home, greeted by hugs and news of the past year. Three days after that we were signing a lease for a new apartment. One day following and we had the keys to said apartment and were moving in. And somewhere in the midst of that I was inducted into my new office at uni, I picked up some boxes of my Canadian life I had freighted to Melbourne airport, and I sifted through even more boxes of my Australian life I had locked-up in a storage unit while away in Canada. In short: I really had no idea where the fuck I was, or which “life” I was currently living!
I’ve tried not to panic too much about this. Having just spent ten months living abroad independently and then partaking on a whirlwind move back, it seems pretty reasonable. It surely takes time to consolidate the pieces of one place with another; one time with another—and this has been a big shift in both place and time.
When I awoke yesterday, however, my mind did not find this justification reasonable. Not good enough, it said, not today! Of course it had a lot to do with that thing that happened the night before. That thing where our Labor Gillard Government got upended from the inside by Kevin Rudd, who I watched get signed in as the new Prime Minister via a webvideo the next day. Well, I half-watched. I had to close the video box before his oath was over because it was too much for me to take in. Don’t like this reality? Just click the red box; close the internet; shut down your computer! Too bad it’s so much harder to shut down your mind.
I came back to Australia uncertain of myself but certain of many other things, including that Julia Gillard was our Prime Minister and Tony Abbott was our Opposition Leader and there was going to be an uphill slog to keep it that way at the September election. But in the time it takes to check your Facebook newsfeed this fact became history. Not having a TV or wifi or even a radio set up yet in the new apartment I pieced everything together via Facebook status updates and a quick news search on the smart phone. Fuck! That is about all I could muster. Fuck. When I finally went to sleep that night my subconscious set off trying to find “Australia” all night long but to no avail.
I woke up bewildered, agitated and somewhat lost. Something about the leadership changeover triggered off the part of myself still confused about why I was suddenly in the Southern hemisphere, what emotions such a move should manifest in my body, where I’d left off and needed to pick-up from, and how I was going to reconcile my time in the foreign country with this fresh start at “home,” which in fact felt uneasily foreign itself right now.
My mind proceeded to chase after its own tail for the rest of the morning and well into the afternoon; hunting its identity, country, political ideology, opinion and all other things that go along with the term “home” and any disruption to it. After a few hours of (pretending to do) PhD work in my office, I stumbled down Sydney Road in Melbourne’s Brunswick with a buzzing head. How do you feel, dannijean? What do you make of all this? How much of last night’s government debacle is about misogyny and gender? Did you even really like Julia? Is it even about liking? How does this compare to the Harper government in Canada? Oh, Canada… Do you miss it yet? Do you wish you were still there? But didn’t you want to come back? My thoughts were thankfully interrupted when I spotted a thrift shop and walked in. I bought a potted parsley plant for $1. It was a clear and obvious attempt to attach myself to something that had roots.
While waiting for the bus home, clutching my small plant, I overheard two elderly women complaining about the unreliability of the bus system. One lady commented: “bus drivers just don’t care anymore, they just don’t care,” and my mind, caught up in a neurotic self-questioning, immediately thought: ‘what does it mean to care in 2013 Australia? What is “care,” exactly?’
ERGH! I AM SUCH AN ANNOYING PHD STUDENT SOMETIMES.
A few minutes later, having boarded the bus still clutching my parsley, I watched a woman hop-off with a toddler strapped to her back and a small child skipping behind her. I thought, ‘that woman probably has to go home now and spend the next however many hours looking after those little beings: prepare them food, bathe them, entertain them. She might have swirling thoughts like I do but she probably does not have the time or capability to indulge them.’ And then, as if the blindfold used in my pin-the-tail-on-the-country dream game was removed from my eyes I thought: ‘well, I DO have the rest of this whole day to indulge my swirling thoughts… But, I also have the rest of this whole day to put them aside for now, water my new plant, drink a cup of tea, have a bath, and lie on the couch PERFECTLY STILL if I choose.’
Well, hallelujah, dannijean. Welcome to Perspective Town, population: growing.
It seems that when you are able to put yourself at the centre of everything you generally will, and some days you will let your mind go traipsing down the road which has too many speed signs and not enough stop lights. All of the questions I was sweating over are interesting, and most of them are certainly worth thinking about, but just because I’m trudging down this road doesn’t mean that clear thoughts and structured arguments are as well. I believe psychologists describe this predicament as: “analysis paralysis.” The truth of the matter is, sometimes I really do not know how I feel or what I think and nothing but time will sort that out for me. When this happens, I thank small parsley plants and Mums with children for reminding me that there’s a place beyond my relentless questions and expectations—this place has no “I,” is not concerned about how or when the unresolved questions will be answered, and—most importantly—it is very, very quiet.