My kids went to the dentist the other day. It was a normal check-up and everything went well with the exception that I was once again informed that ALL THREE are future candidates for braces (sigh… think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts, think happy thoughts…).
I like our dentist. He’s a nice guy, late-40s, immigrated to Australia four years ago with his wife and kids from Yorkshire, England. We had the typical conversation about what brought us to Australia, how often we go “home” and how our children have adapted to life down under.
It’s a conversation I have a lot here. I’m not sure if it’s Australia in general, or more of a reflection of the Bayside area of Melbourne to which we’ve moved, but there are a large number of people living here who have picked up their lives to give Australia a try.
A 2011 Census study shows that one out of every four people in Australia was born overseas. Since it’s actually four out of five in our household, I can believe it. If you break down these numbers by country of birth, the largest migrant group comes from the United Kingdom, with one out of every 20 people living in Australia originally from the UK.
On occasion I’ve had coffee with a group of moms/mums from the kids’ school and looked around to realize that out of the half-dozen women at the table, only one or two were actually born in Australia. The others are often from the UK, Ireland, South Africa or New Zealand.
When our daughter was admitted to the hospital a few years ago with her initial diabetes diagnosis, the seven or so medical professionals who worked with us in the Emergency Room were all non-Australians. We had a laugh (refreshing, considering the circumstances) as we questioned where all the Aussies were hiding.
I like spending time with other people who have chosen to upend their lives despite the inconvenience and impracticality of such a move. It makes me feel slightly less unorthodox, knowing other people have chosen to do it as well.
For another, we seem to “get” each other, without the need for an excessively analytical discussion. We’re far from home, we live with a foot in each country, never completely settled anywhere. It can be a disjointed existence, but it can also be one filled with new experience and perspective.
We left behind a good life filled with loving family and friends in first world countries. None of us fled dictators or wars; none of us have entered Australia as an escape from conflict or poverty. We had perfectly good lives back home.
Why we did leave was for change, for adventure, for not wanting to live a life wondering “what if”. It’s such a 21st-century, first world privilege: to change tracks midstream solely due to desire and curiosity. To even have the time to reflect on such a move is a privilege a large percentage of the globe lacks.
I recently said goodbye to a friend I made here in Melbourne. Another expat, she and her husband had migrated from London over ten years earlier on a whim to see what life “down under” could provide. While in Melbourne, they had acquired a home and careers, friends and a life. And they were moving again.
Not back to London, no- her gypsy soul had once again begun to stir within and her family was moving across the Southern Ocean to Tasmania.
As I offered genuine congratulations (Tasmania is one of my favorite places), her smile waned.
“I’ve started to worry about what I keep doing to my kids,” she said, between sips of coffee.
I know what she means; is it selfish as a parent to follow your dreams and expect your children to keep up? Our oldest really struggled with the idea of moving when we first shared our plans with our children. And yet now, after two and a half years here, he is grateful we did- he loves the lifestyle and has made some good friends. But it would be difficult to move him to somewhere new again.
I assured her that it was fine, that she would know if one of her children couldn’t handle it or if one of them wouldn’t grow and benefit from the experience, as difficult as it might be at first to start over.
She looked up and paused, seeming somewhat embarrassed.
“I saw a psychic recently… it was at a party. The psychic looked at my hand and she spoke of our moves. I asked her why I always have this need to leave, why I can’t stay still.”
My friend smiled and relaxed, “She said, ‘it’s who you are.’”
Be who you are.