“Can I have a life update from you?”, says a good friend from Japan.
“Of course” and “soon”, I reply halfheartedly as I know that my thoughts are currently far too confused, far too mottled to provide any kind of coherent explanation of where I currently lie in life. Physically, I am in Sydney, Australia, but the reasons, for which I came here have all dissipated.
I am bad at closure, bad at saying goodbye to partners who have had significant impacts on my life, and bad at cutting the cord completely.
So in a moment of frenzy and confusion whilst in Thailand, I booked a flight back to Sydney. I had nothing to lose, at least not financially. I had a temporary job in Sydney lined up, so any cost of the trip could easily be redeemed with a two week stay.
I was stressed and tensed throughout the whole flight. How was the man who I was flying over to see, to talk to, to patch things up with, going to react to my suddenly arriving back in the country? Would he pick me up at the airport? Would he ask me for a coffee? For a drink? Was he ready to see me? And at what capacity?
I didn’t have the answers to any of these. We had maintained contact all throughout the separation as we once promised each other, that no matter what happens in life, we would never abandon the other.
We lived together for five years. We moved homes, countries, and continents. We bought furniture and made doctor’s appointments in each other’s names. We signed legal documents cementing our relationship and our commitment to each other.
Needless to say, the separation was hard. The lead up to the decision resulted in an insurmountable amount of tears and of uncertainties and indecisions that bore ulcers. The resulting days, weeks, and months of separation were an unrelenting, unpredictable tide of emotions, of feeling complete and utter freedom, of relief, of sadness, of fear, of anxiety, and of emptiness. One day, one moment was different from the other. And one smile and one tear was one step closer to being whole again – whatever that meant.
Stepping out of the airport double doors, my eyes scanned the crowd. I had not once arrived in the same city as him, without him being the first one to greet me. Without him embracing the fatigued of the journey out of me. Every tall, dark-haired man, caught my attention, but none of them were him. None of them had his gruff, unshaved face. None of them had his eyes of warmth and certainty.
I lined up to catch a taxi, feeling lost, sad, and uncertain in a sea of happily reunited families, friends, and couples. Arriving back in the empty house that he and I shared before the separation, I took a deep breath, turned on the hot water, removed my clothing, and sunk deep into the tub.
He didn’t want to see me, he said. He wasn’t ready. It would be too hard. It would be too distracting. It would be a step back in his attempt to recover and move on.
“Two weeks”, I told myself. Two weeks of temporary Sydney life to reconnect with friends and replenish lost funds. Two weeks of tears. Two weeks of feeling unconnected with the people who had been ever present in my life before. Two weeks of culture shock. Then it was back to Thailand, or to Nepal, or to Pakistan, or to the many other destinations that I had set myself up for.
Two weeks has turned into two months, and now nearing three, with the possibility of leaving only after the fourth month; partly because of finances and partly because of the distractions that allowed for the possibilities of a relocation to another country to slip away. But mostly because turning 30, alone and away from him, has been a re-birth and a crash at the same time.
We had a fight on my 29th birthday. We were in Paris, in a small apartment in the 3rd. I was lost and confused about our relationship, our treatment of each other, and the compromises that we had made in order to be together. He was stressed about his PhD, confused about my commitment to him, and pressurised to maintain a certain level of comfort and security in a country that was not ours, that neither of us had full rights to.
“I want to make this a really good birthday for you”, he said, “because I don’t know if there will be others for us to spend together after this”. He was right.
I spent the lead up to my 30th birthday with a number of expat girlfriends who have also become recently single, caught off guard by the surprise that life had in place for them; for us. Caught off guard by the reality that we had all turned 30, or was nearing 30, and was without the promises of society – without a partner, without a home, and without a strong career. I then spent the actual day of my 30th with a male friend who had known me for no longer than a few seconds. It was strange, freeing, and rejuvenating. It was also how I wanted to spend it; with someone who did not know me, with someone who had no expectations of the way my life was suppose to be, with someone who would not judge.
The days and weeks following my 30th involved a lot of drinking, little sleep, no exercise, and a disconnect from the realities of life. It was a gigantic avoidance of reality, of my career path, of the movements of life, and an ignorance of how my behaviour was affecting my body, my mind, and my soul. It was fun. It was wild. It was a mess.
Messages to friends became perturbed glances of a crisis in motion, irrespective of their comical nature.
“I accidentally went out with a 50 year old man, drank too much wine, called the ex, and started a waterfall from my eyes”. “I’m drunk. I’m high. I’m dancing to 90s hip-hop and I miss America”. “The 23 year old hot-bod said that I am not ready for a serious relationship with him”.
And finally, “4am. Walking home. Barefooted. Assumed child’s pose. Had a break down”.
It was an embarrassing month. It was unnatural, uncharacteristic, mean, and hurtful.
It was also a necessary month. I needed to go through the motions. I needed to get in touch with the different characters, personalities, and versions of myself. I needed to let go, to fall, and to crash.
I needed to do all of this so that I can pick myself up again.