I remember the first time I flew for work. It involved a day trip from Melbourne to Sydney. I was super excited. I felt professional and oh-so glamourous. I wore business-attire (even though it wasn’t at all necessary) and I carried only a handbag.
And the bubble popped.
When the pandemic first kicked off, the world went a little bit crazy stockpiling… the predominant of which seemed to be toilet paper. To me this made little sense. But I understand the theory behind it – the need to be able to control some aspect of something that feels out of your control.
Now two years on, despite Covid still lurking, we have calmed a little. Which is a good thing. But… what happened to all your stuff? Did you use it up… or is it still sitting in a spare room or at the back of the pantry, gathering dust or going off? In one way toilet paper is not the worst contender – it doesn’t have a use by. But what about the rest? What about the yeast? Did all those people who decided, on a sudden whim, that they would buy yeast because they were going to bake their own bread… did they do it… or did they do it once and the rest went to waste?
I don’t come from a large family. I was never exposed to lots of kids when I was younger. I don’t much like them, as I’ve already explained.
I wondered if my view would change when I got pregnant. If I would suddenly be overcome with the ‘miracle growing inside me’. Yeah… sorry, but ew. I don’t mean to sound ungrateful because I know there are many women the world over struggling with infertility and that makes me one of the lucky ones. But I can’t deny that I personally don’t love the idea that there’s something growing inside me I was never under any illusions about what being pregnant would be like, and I always figured it was unlikely that I was going to suddenly become enthralled by tiny clothes or drooling kids. I see a dog, I grin from ear to ear, I see a child, and I cross the street!
Immigration is a big topic in Austria. Let’s be honest, it’s a big topic almost everywhere, and one of those places, is Australia. I grew up in a multi-cultural boiling pot complete with all the challenges that come with a mixing of different cultures, sprinkled with racism and the natural tendency to gravitate toward people that look and act like you do. In the time that I’ve been in Austria the immigration debate has just gotten hotter, with scores of people attempting to escape violence or just seeking a better life for their families. I like to imagine that my perspective is more rational because I grew up in a country that was already rife with these problems. But who knows. Let’s not forget the fact, that as a white Australian, I am technically an immigrant to my own country. I am not actually native. My ancestors are English prisoners… that essentially stole the land from the aborigines.
I have a confession. Babies freak me out. They’re small, and all-knowing and annoying in the way they can’t take care of themselves.
I’m also not completely comfortable with pregnant women. I see them out and about, trundling around with a huge bump in front of them… carrying a living creature! Growing one! They do it like they have no care in the world. Like it’s a completely normal thing. Which, let’s be honest, it is.
So the news that I’m pregnant might come as a bit of a surprise. I’m currently one of those freaky women walking around with a bump, with a freaky living creature inside me, that will turn into an actual squealing, unable to look after itself, baby.
And this was no accident. I actively made this happen.
I’m usually a fairly optimistic person. But I have been a bit down lately, as many of you read in my recent blog posts. But I have to say a big thank you, to everyone that reached out to give me a bit of love and support, and reminded me that it is all going to be ok. Because it is going to be ok.
I was already feeling more positive… the sun was shining, the weather was warming up… and despite the fact that the world was still being super crazy, I was doing ok at letting go of things out of my control.
And then suddenly I found myself on a plane to Australia.
There’s been some dark days over the last few months. There’s been a few more tears than usual, a few more outbursts of Life’s not fair and why me? And I know that there are many people out there worse off than me, as I bask in the privileged position of having a steady job, living in my own house and enjoying Friday night date nights.
But it’s like two years of Covid just came and bit me in the ass. I recently gave some very serious thought to trying to make it back to Oz. Why not skip over there, I thought, despite everything going on, because it is possible. Of course, for it really to be possible, a lot of aspects of my life had to line up perfectly. And when they didn’t, my world kind of crashed down.
When you’re young you often hear the same kind of advice: ‘these are the best years of your life’, and ‘enjoy it while you still can’, and ‘all this stuff will be trivial when you have to grow up and adult’. I think I had a pretty astute inkling that life was damn good when I was younger. Sure, there were the usual trials and tribulations, and while in the moment they can feel intense and devastating, usually I look back years later and have a good laugh at myself. But overall life has been pretty good. And I did my best to absorb it and live in the moment and count myself lucky. Or maybe I enjoyed myself too much. Because somewhere along the way it seems I didn’t pay attention to the other thing that people always tell you when you’re young: look after your back.
Where I live in Austria it snows in winter. Not just up in the distant mountains, but down on the ground, out in the streets, and along the Autobahn. The first few times it snowed I was in a winter wonderland of magical happiness. I skipped around the streets in my new boots, marvelled at the silence the blanket of snow created and drank hot tea while staring out onto pretty white fields.
And then it snowed again… and again. And then it melted… well, half melted. And that’s when I found out that sometimes snow is a big pain in the ass.
People are always asking me about the differences between living in Austria as opposed to Australia. I always reel off the big, easy ones – the culture, the language, the weather, the fact there’s no ocean and so on. Of course let’s not forget the quirkier ones like the fact that they tend to use foil instead of cling wrap and that you always have to pack your own groceries. If you haven’t already read it, check out my blog on the 25 differences between Austria and Australia.
But there is one other big thing. And it can’t be reconciled – it can’t be learnt, and it’s really hard to get used to. Because it’s the past. It’s the fact that the way I grew up versus the way the people around me grew up is completely different. I’m not saying that it’s bad. I’m just saying that it is.