June – Newcastle

Melbourne and I got off on the wrong foot. I remember my first year in this city mostly in panic attacks; these bright snatches – vivid and stark against the haze around them. A kitchen at a party. The stairwell at a temp job. My bedroom at 3am, the ceiling dark above me. I was still working out what anxiety meant to me, now I knew that I had it. And I was trying to do that while swimming through the worst anxiety I’d ever experienced. That year did strange things to my memory, as time seemed to bend around those moments. 
The year before – my last year in Newcastle – seemed perfect by contrast. And so I clung to it. I smoothed the edges off, buried the (fewer) moments of panic. That year became like a place and it was home. In the moments when Melbourne felt impossibly cold and dark, I missed that place. I was homesick for this time when I was less lonely, less anxious, less cold. 
I only lived in Newcastle for three years. Yet people – a lot of people – think I grew up there. I only correct them halfheartedly because in lots of ways I did. My life feels tangled in that city. Between my eight years of NYWF, the three years when it was home, and all the people I love who’ve settled there, most of my happiest memories are set in Newcastle. And during that first year in Melbourne I went back to those memories again and again, until it felt like that was all that Newcastle was. 
Every time I’ve been back has felt like a process of letting go. Newcastle wasn’t a perfect place. I loved living there and I was happy and it was good. But it isn’t the perfect haven that my memory has constructed it as. And that’s ok. 
I want to remember Newcastle for all the things it’s been to me. I want to sharpen the corners that my fallible memory has worn down. There are bright, clear moments of panic that take place there too. A strange, dark laundry. My kitchen. A doctor’s waiting room. Those didn’t start when I moved to Melbourne. Newcastle helped me work out who I was – it matters that it was messy and complicated and often surreal. 

I also want to remember the happy parts of my first year in Melbourne – to dredge them from the haze. Besides the cold and beyond that first year, this city has been good to me. I am happy here. It’s been messy and cold and sometimes hard, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t also good. It doesn’t mean I can’t love this place, in different ways, for all the things it’s been to me.

My goal for 2017 is to go somewhere every month. 
Preferably out of the city. Preferably to spend time with people I love.

Further reading

December – home

I spent the first minutes of 2018 on the beach. I’ve never actually spent New Year