Parents.

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I’ve really struggled to find the words for a post about my parents’ visit last month, which is why I really haven’t written anything lately. (I’ve also been behind on my school work for weeks, so there’s that!) I think despondent is the best word to describe how I’ve been feeling. They were here for several weeks (my mom stayed on for a bonus stay after my dad went back to work) and it was non-stop fun. We explored the Northern Beaches (where Donnie and I live), ate amazing food in the city, went kayaking and hiking, drank countess flat whites, rode lots of ferries, ate our fill of bacon and egg rolls and TimTams, walked across the Harbour Bridge, went snorkeling on the Great Barrier Reef, rode camels in the desert at Uluru, and cuddled koalas in Brisbane. It’s been a definite adjustment going back to “real life” since they left.

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My parents are veteran travellers, and completely to blame for my travel obsession, so they wasted no time jumping straight into Aussie life and soaking up all this unbelievable continent has to offer.

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I realized that my parents have shared in some part of literally all of my life experiences. They were there while I was growing up (obviously), moved me into countless dorms and housing while I was going to college in Evansville, visited me in England while I was studying abroad, moved me to Tulsa, visited my first-ever chaotic class of kindergarteners, moved me back to Nashville, let me move back in with them before I got married, and spent time in Donnie’s and my first home just hanging out, watching movies, eating dinner, and helping me garden. They’ve shared in every single stage of my life, emotionally supporting me, but also physically sharing in all of my spaces.

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They make the effort to show up, whether in a classroom in Oklahoma or a castle in the UK– they always manage to be there for me. And now, Australia feels so much more real to me since they’ve trekked thousands of miles across the world to share in this new space. Part of me didn’t feel like this experience was fully concrete until they spent time here and understood the places I described, the food I ate, and where I spent my time. I don’t mean this in a co-dependent or needy way, it’s more that things just feel a bit brighter and more meaningful now that my parents understand my environment on a different level.

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One of the hardest parts of moving to Sydney has been leaving family and friends. I get lonely sometimes, which isn’t fun to talk about, but it’s true. Talking and staying in touch is a particular challenge, especially when most people tend to put the responsibility on us to reach out. I am particularly grateful that my mom and dad make the time to call, whether for casual chats or long catch-ups, it means a lot. And now they understand the exact path I’m on when I say I’m walking to the bus, or what my apartment looks like, or how gorgeous the ocean is on a given day. There’s a privilege in being truly known, and I really can’t explain how grateful I am that my parents continue to make it a priority to know me and Donnie, specifically at this point in our lives.

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While I’m feeling a distinct void since my parents have come and gone that I hadn’t felt before, I also feel much more grounded having shared this new home with them. Donnie and I are constantly revisiting the adventures we had together and laughing over the ridiculous things that happened. Maybe I’m getting old and sentimental, but memories are so precious to me these days. (It’s really nothing new. I’ve been a sentimental mess since I can remember.) Now that I’ve worked through my emotions on their trip in general, I can’t wait to share more of the details from our travels across the land down under! (And maybe they are already talking of a return trip, which I fully support.)

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When You Leave

While we were preparing to move to Australia (or “On-cherry-ah” as my nephew says it) I did a lot of research: what cities and countries could we visit, where would we live, how do people dress, what is the climate like, what kind of food do Aussies eat, and so forth. I also did a lot of dreaming. I dreamt of warm, sunny days spent on silky sand beaches and traveling to exotic new places. I dreamt of cuddling koalas and watching Cockatoos from my balcony. And honestly, some of those dreams have already come true. The beaches are absolutely lovely, with warm, soft sand and cool, salty waves. We’ve already booked a cruise to the South Pacific (rather impulsively, but the deal was incredible and we set sail in 22 days!) and I’ve seen more Cockatoos than I can count.

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With all of the excitement and adventure looming, I didn’t give a lot of thought to the leaving part. This isn’t the first time I’ve been away from “home.” I went to college in Indiana and lived in Tulsa, OK for the first two years after graduating. I spent a semester studying abroad in England and traipsing across Europe. I’m independent and adventurous. And I’m grieving the loss of my home and family.

It’s very important to keep things in perspective: my family and friends are all still very much alive and surprisingly easy to communicate with, thanks to FaceTime and WhatsApp. But leaving created this vacuum, this hollow space that used to be filled with family dinners, hugs and cuddles with my niece and nephew, and the ease and comfort of being surrounded by so many people I love and who love me. No one tells you that giving something up, even voluntarily, and even for a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, will hurt like it does.

Burton, my nephew who just turned 3, told my mom today that, “Sometimes I don’t like Donnie.” (He loves Donnie and literally asks to talk to him every time I call.) My mom asked him when those times are, and he answered, “When he moves away.” Cue tears.

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I questioned publishing this post. This move is our grand adventure, and no one wants to read about the unglamorous, slightly depressing side to becoming an expat. But I also think it’s important to acknowledge– especially in today’s “Instagrammed” world where everything looks perfect and sometimes we find ourselves trying to measure up to someone else’s life that isn’t even reality.

This is my reality. I live in the most beautiful country I’ve ever seen. I spend my days reading on the beach or walking up and down the Corso to find the perfect takeaway lunch. I thank God every single day that I wake up here, unbelievably happy to be taking this one day at a time with my fabulous husband. I also cry sometimes. Some mornings even the beach loses its appeal and all I want to do is get on a plane and head back to Nashville. I feel uncomfortable grocery shopping because food has different names and I’m bad at converting kilograms to pounds. I never know what the temperature is because Celsius is dumb. (Actually, I’m starting to learn that one, too.)

I’m learning that feelings of loss are not negative, these feelings are simply part of the process. We had to give up some really important, really wonderful things and people to be able to make this adventure a reality. The joy and wonder we get to experience are magnified, not diminished, by our parallel sadness. While I’ll continue to miss home (and Chickfila) I am confident that we made the right decision in coming here. And December, which means a trip home and Christmas with our families, will be here before we know it!