I moved across the world for love but found something far better
I'd only been in Australia a week or so as my boyfriend was losing his insides over the toilet in his Melbourne flat, overcome with a sudden case of food poisoning.
The apartment had no landline, my American phone had limited use, and although I purchased a basic three-month travel insurance plan for $142, calling an ambulance was an oversight on my planning checklist.
Luckily, his purging subsided and I didn’t have to call for an ambulance. He was able to fall asleep, by my side. As I rubbed his back to keep his chilled body warm, my thoughts started to drown out the quietness. Was I running away from something or running toward the unknown? Now I felt like the one who needed to vomit.
I had quit my editing job at an online publication, ditched the health benefits and all the other implicit job security perks that come with working for "The Man." I sold my car, gave up my Los Angeles apartment, put my life's possessions in storage (aka my good friend’s ample storage space in her West Hollywood apartment) and ventured down under. Aware of the risks, I put myself in a vulnerable position. And although I consciously made the decision, I still felt foolish.
I was the schlub at a wedding that fears getting stuck talking to the person who loves to ask, "So what do you do?" As I would most likely stumble to find a seamless answer, "Well, I'm a writer, doing sporadic freelance work, going to Australia indefinitely, and my savings and curiosity are keeping me afloat." I'd rather fake a seizure or set off the fire alarm than explain myself.
My sudden exodus blossomed out of a passé, predictable narrative: love. My trans-Pacific romance with my Australian boyfriend had endured two and a half years of back and forth. He had the financial freedom to take more trips to America and stay with me, and now it was my turn. But it wasn’t just about him. I was feeling an itch — the kind of itch that starts with a whisper, Is this it? Is this really your life and you're OK with it? It's soft at first, and then becomes a loud, deafening shout, begging you to uproot your current life and join the circus or shave your head. In my case, moving across the world and risking my current life’s security to be with the man I loved was the call I had to answer. Cynics, be damned!
I'm of the age where my peers' social media feeds are flooded with life events — pregnancies, marriage announcements, separations or the celebratory post of buying a new house — reminders, that my current “floating-raft” life status may not be up to par with the conventional timeline. One more “Save The Date” or baby announcement, and my ship would have floated out to sea indefinitely.
My long-distance relationship caused me to drift from one reality to another. The daily check-in texts and Skype calls created a constant battle from being present in my world, to being tugged into his. I felt divided. I was bouncing back and forth from the present and the future I was hoping to create with him. I wanted the future now.
So I packed up all my possessions and threw out the clutter and crap I didn't need. I put everything on the line and I jumped. Heart first.
As most of our visits went, the first week or so was magical. Honeymoon phase in full effect. Communicating face-to-face. Cooking together. Laughing together. Having great sex. Holding hands in public. Doing all those couple things my cyber relationship had been deprived of.
Then days passed. The weeks trekked on. We settled into the mundane. I was scrapping by with freelance work, and to no avail having trouble finding real work. Although I was in an English-speaking country, similar to America in myriad ways (minus driving on the wrong side of the road part), I didn’t feel like myself.
We started arguing. "What's wrong," he'd ask. "Nothing. I'm just tired," I'd respond, unable to pinpoint the real answer. I was questioning what the heck I was doing and how I could feel so miserable in this beautiful country and with a person I thought I wanted to be with. Soon enough, that mysterious sick feeling in the pit of my stomach, the one so easy to push aside, became stronger, as it rose up into my throat dying to get out.
And this wasn’t food poisoning. Our relationship had flat lined.
We merged. We tried. We failed. Our time together was up. Maybe we were holding on to something that expired long ago, or maybe we were never right for each other from the beginning and the remoteness masked the holes. The distance between us felt greater now, together, than it ever had when we were thousands of miles apart.
"What do you want to do," he asked one night.
"I think it's time for me to leave" I responded. "This isn't working."
There was no way to resuscitate what we had delicately managed to keep alive for so long. We loved and lost, blah, blah, blah, as the adage goes, but the only logical answer seemed to be to walk away. A part of me became so consumed with making the relationship work I forgot that it’s OK to fail. Mistakes are necessary for survival. Without them we wouldn’t have the Slinky, or penicillin — inventions created from unexpected errors.
In hindsight, my miscalculation feels more like a retrieval of life. I might not buy a house this year, or fall in love any time soon. But so what? I was able to come back to the States stronger than when I left — more alone, but less complacent, and more alive. Excited about my life, regardless of my “status.” I’ll let my curiosity discover what wants to rise to the top, like the bubbles in a glass of Champagne (another mistake turned brilliant discovery), and not some ominous timeline.
Moving was unable to save my relationship, or modern science for that matter, but I was at least able to save myself.