Growing up, I never liked moving cities.
When I was six, I sobbed at the airport in Malaysia after getting off the plane from Melbourne for the last time in a while, bewildered by strange faces and the sticky air. Touching down at Melbourne Airport almost a decade later, jet-lagged me jumped when a Caucasian security officer gruffly demanded I step into the immigration queue. Are white Australians this scary?, I thought, anxious about living here again.
Moving is challenging. It’s never easy leaving behind the ones you love and friends who have your back. Never easy seeing teary faces bidding you goodbye at home or at the airport. If you’re moving alone, all of a sudden you don’t have someone right beside you to share happy or sad moments with.
There’s so many ways to stay in touch, think Facebook, email and snail mail, but sometimes people drift apart. Two years back in Melbourne, my friends in Asia and I stopped messaging each other – all too busy with our own lives in different continents.
Moving means leaving cherished belongings behind. Sometimes it’s impossible to bring all of your possessions with you wherever you’re headed. For instance, your cozy bed will always be too big to move around easily. I sadly donated hundreds of my McDonalds Happy Meal collectible toys to charity when I moved to Melbourne because they stubbornly wouldn’t fit in my suitcase.
Moving is scary. You dive headlong into the unknown. You live in an unfamiliar place. You see new faces. Loneliness can hit you like a truck amidst a bout of culture shock. For the first four years back in Melbourne, I found it hard to understand the Aussie accent. Everyone pointed out my Malaysian-Singaporean accent and asked me, “Where are you from?” I felt too Asian to be Australian, and too white to be Asian, like a freak.
And so moving is full of uncertainty. You can look up how to get around and the local lingo spoken in your new home. You can plan ahead but sometimes things don’t go to plan.
But just as it’s a time of insecurity, moving is a time of change and discovery.
You move all your life, if not across land and seas, then in milestones. Graduating high school. Getting your first job. Changing jobs. Breaking up. With every move comes moving on – leaving one place or chapter behind and starting a new beginning.
It can be harder adjusting to the next page of your life if you’ve become comfortable in a certain place. Of if you’re afraid of change. Or just too lazy to budge from where you are.
Stars shine the brightest in the dark. Amidst heartache and doubt, moving brings with it opportunities to start over, see the world, meet new friends and above all, learn.
In my first week back in Melbourne, I sat alone on the carpet of my furniture-less flat eating instant noodles, set on talking to Caucasian Australians as little as possible and moving back to Asia. More than five years on today, not only do I love Melbourne and know its streets like the back of my hand, I’ve come to love the funny-accented Asian Australian I am today and usually get along just fine with white Australians. The other day in the city, a Caucasian girl politely asked me for directions to a smoothie shop, and then thanked and hugged me when I pointed her the right way. I hugged her back. They aren’t that scary.
Just as it’s hard, moving is one big adventure, bringing a whole new world to your feet.
Moving, is a journey.
Have you moved (or would you)? What did you like or didn’t like about it?