Just outside my window are two very large trees. They provide shade and colour and a home for the unnaturally loud flock of cockatoos who seem to have taken up residence there. These trees have been here as long as the house, perhaps even longer. The life force in these trees is strong. I look out at them when I awake in the morning, when I do my sun salutations, when I pause while writing at my desk.
But April has arrived, and soon the green leaves will slowly turn yellow, then a brilliant shade of orange, and eventually into a deep red. They will fall on the gentle breeze that blows through the valley here, and everyday I will sweep them up until there are none left to fall. Change happens continuously, no matter what you’re doing.
Whether it be rhythmic like the turning of the seasons or violent like a thunderstorm, change is inevitable. We learn and grow and change through our environments and our experiences. And I have returned to Sydney — the city I was born and raised in — and being home has shown me just how much I have grown within, even if my external features have not altered. I have become more quiet, more observant, more reflective than the version of me who left here all almost eight years ago. I have developed the resilience I always had in far-reaching ways. I have battled bureaucracy, injustice and hardships, and learned from my mistakes. I have seen and lived and loved. Travel has shaped me in ways I struggle to fully comprehend.
From where I am standing, Sydney looks refreshing, inviting and unafraid to show her true nature. She knows I will tire of her easily and she’s accepting of that. She helps me recharge. I always return. But this time it feels different. I don’t understand the particulars of why or how or what, but I feel as though I am on the precipice of something… big? Momentous? Different? I’m not sure. But the winds of change have brought me back to Sydney for a reason. And I am trying to interpret what it’s whispering to me. A few weeks ago, I read ‘The Alchemist’. The lessons have stayed with me, even if I was not truly inspired by the writing. I now understand why certain people recommended it to me.
“[M]aking a decision was only the beginning of things. When someone makes a decision, he is really diving into a strong current that will carry him to places he had never dreamed of when he first made the decision.”
– Paulo Coelho, ‘The Alchemist’
I made a choice to travel, to embrace the unknown. I sought a different life from the traditional model laid before me, one full of adventure. And when wrapping up these past seven and a bit years, I see I have done that. I had no idea that I would develop a connection far greater than I ever imagined to San Francisco. Or that I would come to understand how much sunshine means to my health after living in the rainy and permanently overcast west of Ireland. Or that I could manage to travel alone throughout Eastern Europe, at my own pace and on my own steam. Or that I’d experience first hand the impact a piece of art would have on me at the National Gallery in London: the Execution of Lady Jane Grey. Finding a small town in New Zealand to show me how to slow down and appreciate the elements central to life: love, family, food and time. That my time in South East Asia would be so colourful and so varied, ultimately reaffirming my need for distance. Or that I would move to Chicago on a whim and find that it would influence me more than I imagined. Already, I’ve lived some great adventures. I wonder what comes next?
I am starting to view my life less as a series of planned adventures and more as a path, a journey with twists and turns and unexpected hiccups and fortuitous events. And even though I haven’t changed on the outside, I’ve done a hell of a lot of growing on the inside. There’s still plenty more to do, but I can’t help but smile at myself when I think about all I have already accomplished, and all that I am on the cusp of achieving. Here’s to plenty more adventures – both home and abroad.