“Do you remember when we first met, I sure do…”
I haven’t posted in weeks and am now going to post thrice in one night. I need to learn to spread these out a little bit more, huh? I can’t resist writing about this because I feel that it is an incredibly important part of my experience here in Australia and also helps to explain my disregard for Recollections of a Wanderer over the past month…
I do not want to come home.
Up until my Spring break vacation to Cairns and the Gold Coast I had spent far too much of my time trying to connect back with my life in the States and looking past my time in Australia towards my return to Cincinnati and Louisville. It wasn’t that I was actively waiting to go home and wanted to leave Melbourne but simply that I was incredibly excited for the things I would have waiting for me when I got home. I no longer have that feeling. My excitement to return hinged primarily on the attachment I felt to the life I had in the States and now that I no longer have that attachment I also no longer have that excitement. It just so happens that those two were also main motivators (alongside wanting it for my own recollection) in the consistent and detailed posting of this blog.
It is impossible to identify the singular moment when I found myself not wanting to go home because it happened in stages of disillusionment with my life in the States and increasing feelings of belonging to my study abroad experience. I guess it all started when I made the choice to not do anymore serious travels here in Australia. I was running out of money due to unforeseen expenses and realized that I had already done more traveling than I had ever hoped to. I had explored New Zealand with The Group for two inexplicably amazing weeks, traveled across half the continent of Australia to see Kangaroo Island, Uluru, Port Douglas, and Sydney with my parents, driven The Great Ocean Road with some of my best friends here in Melbourne, learned to dive in Cairns while making friends from all over the world, and was reunited with a long lost friend in the Gold Coast. I am in no place to say that I haven’t seen enough of Australia and I just came to the realization that no matter how much travel I did there was always going to be something that I didn’t do or see. Not knowing where to draw the line, I took my relative unfamiliarity with Melbourne and its surroundings as a sign that I needed to take my remaining time in Australia to truly discover everything that the city had to offer.
With a new determination to get to know Melbourne and the weight of travel expenses off of my shoulders, the past few weeks I have been going all out in an attempt to enjoy as much of the city as I can before I leave. Concerts, nights out, food. You name it and I have been ‘splurging’ a bit more. This has definitely made my time here more enjoyable and I have noticeably become closer with people since doing so. Instead of being preoccupied with saving money to dive with sharks I have been spending more Tuesdays out at the Hawthorn. Rather than worry about the cost of a plane ticket to Darwin I will be visiting the Victoria Markets on the regular. Concerts and sporting events have taken the place of nights in hostels and day trips to the beaches and mountains surrounding Melbourne have become my new addiction. I have 50 days to explore as many hole in the wall pubs and uniquely Melbourne events as I can and I plan to use each day as best I can. So here’s to exploring a city with some of the best people you could ever find. However excitement over the opportunities I have here in Australia is nothing new for me. So how do explain this changed perception of my return?
I don’t want to come home because I am no longer under the influence of distance causing my heart to grow fonder. Over the past month or so I have been reminded in many ways of the reasons why I chose to leave my life in the States in pursuit of something completely new and unknown. Maybe I just took too much onto my plate. Maybe I just cared too much. I am excited about senior year and have no doubt that it will be a great experience but the year hasn’t even started yet and it is proving to be quite the stressor. My ‘school’ here in Australia has been more like a vacation than anything and it will have been a full 8 months without taking a serious class by the time I start back at Bellarmine. That definitely has me stressed out and while right now I can just kind of chuckle and say “I am so fucked” the reality of it is that I will be going from two incredible extremes; my joke of a class schedule at Swinburne and a semester full of nothing but senior level economics and business courses. That hanging over my head has me worried but the more immediate responsibilities of preparing Knights’ and Hillel for the coming semester is also proving to be difficult. I definitely underestimated the difficulty of trying to step into a situation I have been absent from for 6 months and all the unreturned emails and unanswered questions has reminded me why I wanted to step out in the first place. My front row seat on the roller coaster of finding a place to live next year also has me sick to my stomach. And I love roller coasters. But my determination to explore Melbourne and stress about the responsibilities waiting me when I return aren’t enough to cause me to not want to come home.
When I returned to Bellarmine at the beginning of January to say final goodbyes and watch my last few basketball games, I was hit with a very hard reality that life in the States would indeed go on without me. I always knew it would but to witness it was an eye opener for me. As I flew across the Pacific and began my life in Australia I was still being bombarded by communication from the States and this continued throughout my travels in New Zealand. Not to sound like an egotistical asshole, but it felt good. I felt like even though we were leading completely separate lives that I was still attached to the people I call my friends and family by a mutual interest in each other’s lives. But as soon as it was no longer the cool thing for people to miss Ben that interest stopped. Activity on this site dropped drastically and was only kept afloat by increasing numbers of posts and my own desire to have it further on down the road. I was under the false impression that the more you all knew about my life here the more interested you would be so I put incredible effort into giving as many details posts as I could justify. I went through the same experience when I left for Bellarmine almost three years ago. I struggled during the first semester of college not in the aspect of involving myself on campus but with not feeling connected with the lives of my high school best friends. Call it what you will, but I guess I just expected us to be exception to the typical “you always fall apart from your high school friends” rather than the norm. Thats not to say that I still don’t love and miss them and consider them some of my best friends but it just is meant that the level of communication that we had was disappointing to me. And the same thing has happened here. I honestly don’t know what I was expecting but it wasn’t what happened. I wasn’t expecting to Facebook and Skype for the entire six months I was here but eventually the incredible amount of “Skype soon!” messages and lack of actual Skype calls became a bit disheartening. I recognize that it is a two way street and of course I am bias to my own efforts but I just got the feeling that communication always had an ulterior motive. Whether it was kissing ass to a new President or to cuss and discuss housing, I couldn’t get over the idea that people’s “missing you” was more “I want something from you” than it was genuine effort to catch up on my life down unda. Some people who I considered my best friends at Bellarmine didn’t initiate a single conversation while others started to talk to me more than they do when I am actually in Louisville. Rather than try and understand it or go against what was evidently a natural tendency, I have just accepted it. I used to be terrified of the idea of being forgotten and not feeling attached to life back in the States but now I embrace it. If people want to talk to me and hear about whats going on in my life than they will find a way to do so and I’m not going to forsake my time in Australia to do it for them. It is almost like a natural selection and it has definitely opened my eyes about some of the people I am close with. Call me selfish or hypocritical if you want but I am tired of trying to talk to my friends and feeling like I am annoying them. Its a terrible feeling to have. One definite drawback to realizing that it is no longer cool to miss me is the conflict it poses when it suddenly becomes cool again as my return comes closer. After this post that may not happen at all, but I suppose that wouldn’t be so bad. It’d spare me the choice of whether to just forget the fact that you’ve just ignored me for the past six months or call you out on being either a terrible friend or terrible communicator. I need to stop thinking.
I meant every word that I just wrote to you and hope that you can begin to understand where I am coming from. But before you go getting offended take note that I never said I do not miss you. In fact, missing you is my motivation for writing this post in the first place. Because I miss you terribly and the feeling that it isn’t mutual is nearly unbearable. So please don’t take the above as an attack but rather an observation of someone who just had to get it off their chest and don’t take me not wanting to come back to the States personally. If you can, try to think about a time where you were excited for something while simultaneously dreading the circumstances in which that something would take place. If successful, you will know how I feel right now and subsequently also understand how confusing that mix of emotions can be. I am hopeful that this is just a phase that I will move out of as my return draws nearer but until then I hope you can respect the fact that I have no desire to end my time in Australia in order to return to the States.
Until next time, whenever and wherever that may be.