This time one year ago, it turns out, I was having the time of my life in ridiculous (but fun! if you’re a backpacker! and if you have low standards!) Cairns, Australia, meeting lovely people, getting ready to learn to dive, and going out every single night wearing my newly-purchased boob tube. That is extremely awesome, I think you’ll agree, but it’s not really what I’ve been thinking about today. I’ve been thinking of this time two years ago, which happens to be the day I made landfall in Wellington.
It’s hard to think about it, now–especially from the vantage point of my cousin’s awesome girlfriend’s apartment in gorgeous Queen Anne, from when I write–but I was just really not convinced about Wellington at first. I can see it all so clearly, that first couple of days: not having any idea how to get anywhere, being met by Deirdre at the train station and being whisked away to exotic Haitaitai for fush-n-chups, meeting Jill that first morning at the Maple Lodge and not being able to understand her Scottish accent, wandering sadly to Te Papa and attempting not to get killed as I crossed Courtenay Place. I can see it but it’s like the way I can remember a movie–the little fuzzy-haired figure getting blown down the street that winter, venturing shyly into Espressoholic and trying to figure out where to buy work clothes (Here’s a hint, Past Me: not Supre) doesn’t seem to be me at all, and yet she is. She was.
It’s hard to think about that time when I didn’t really have any friends, though–when I think about Deirdre now I think about when we went to the food festival (“Wear your big pants,” she texted) or when we spent the weekend at her parents’ in Picton rather than that first night, when I reacted in horror to the news that burgers in NZ often have a pickled beet attached to them. I spoke to my friends Lydia and Alice today and updated them on all my visa stuff and talked about what it will be like when we can see each other again and I wonder when and how that will be. It’s one thing to stay, and another thing to go and come back, and I wonder what will be different when I return. Part of me is concerned that when I go back with the intention to really stay (at least for a good long while) and to put down some roots, when I’m not constantly thinking about “when I go back” or “this can wait till I’m in the States,” that it will seem less…I don’t know. Like an adventure, maybe? Maybe it will become more equivalent to being here in America, maybe it will just turn out to be boring regular life. Of course, there were already plenty of boring-regular-life bits while I was there, me in my stable living situation with my nine-to-five job, unlike most of the other, younger backpackers–but I still can’t forget those first couple of weeks, in the freezing cold hostel when I would wake up all amazed and think “I’m here I’m here I’m here I’m here.” I hope that I will still have that, sometimes, when I go back; in fact, now that I think about it, there were many times when I woke up in my pink bed in the flat and heard the tuis in the trees outside our windows and smiled before I was even fully awake yet. I hope that this time next year I am celebrating my third anniversary actually the good old Southern Cross, with meaningful work and my gorgeous partner and all people I love, there in the city of my heart.
Wellington recedes in my memory, Wellington looms ahead in my hopes, and here I am in the middle, in between, on the other side of the world.