Leaving a place can be hard. But being left behind, that’s harder. I’ve been living in Melbourne for almost two months now, and on the whole, I’m having a good time. I’ve never had any qualms about leaving home; in fact my propensity for running away from things that irk me is almost legendary. Despite that, I have always, in some way, returned to and found solace in London.
It was my safe space; not just one part of it but the whole city. And it wasn’t the architecture or the murky Thames that always pulled me back to it, it was the people. My friends (and my family when they lived in London). My ride or dies but without any real commitment to that concept. And now I have left the city. And I have left them. And it doesn’t feel strange.
Don’t get me wrong, I miss my friends. They’re some of the best people I’ve ever met and probably will ever meet. They’re weird and serious and caring and kind and intelligent and all extreme lefties except for one who is misguided and I have been trying to coax over to the liberal side for years, but that’s by the by. The great thing about London is the people that inhabit and endure the smog, who smile at you on the tube, causing you to have a lifelong bond with them over such forbidden acts. The people that help carry your suitcases up too many flights of stairs on public transport for their help to just be considered ‘polite’. The people that form an orderly queue at the bus stop, reminding us that we can all stand to be a little more civilised.
But I’ve left that place now, and thus my friends. And leaving isn’t just the physical act of going to one place and being absent in another. It’s also a mindset that you and the people you care about, have to get into. For the first few weeks I was here, I thought in two time zones; London and Melbourne. Whatever time it was here, I would immediately do the (difficult) math in my head to decipher the time in London. I knew when my friends were asleep, getting up for work, maybe having lunch. And why did I do this? So that I didn’t call them at 3am and cause alarm? So that I could time my messages of jubilation about a new sandwich I’d eaten, at a time when I knew they could reply in minutes? Or was it so that they still felt like I was there, even though I wasn’t anymore?
It’s probably a little bit of all three, but mostly the latter. I was afraid that if I stopped monitoring those things; the time, the UK news, Brexit, I would lose the connection I had with them, the people I loved and was the most far away from. But I wasn’t fooling anyone, because I was far away. I mean really far away. Like 10,500 miles away. Everyone seemed to know it but me. I was still checking group messages and trying to take part in conversations that happened hours earlier. And I was still trying to keep up with my best friend via Whatsapp, and being met with a wall of silence, which was not that different to when I was in London because she’s not great at replying to messages; but the silence felt ten times bigger because I was (at the time) ten hours ahead of where she was.
But it’s gotten easier, the time difference, the distance. I’m making new friends on my time zone, I’m keeping in touch with the old, the ones who didn’t have too much trouble adjusting to me not being around; it’s been easier for some than others. The disparity of which has been surprising, disappointing, and refreshing.
There’s something about a big change that shakes everything up and shows you who you are. And who your friends are. Mine are still ride or die, but I might have to catch a plane to cash in on that particular favour. Which is fair enough really, because I am the one that left.