As I closed the door on my empty apartment, I felt equally vacant within. All those emotions and memories that were present while packing were gone. Seemingly evaporated. Only specs of dust lingered in the air. My apartment was now just like any other – even those I had recently gone to inspect. And that’s when I realised… my attachment was more so to what was within these walls – the life I had created and who I had become over the last six years while I called number 303 my home.

It wasn’t just where I lived; it was where I lived. Where I established my roots and flourished. This is exactly where things didn’t work out when I lived in Sydney the year prior. I never found that feeling of home – despite moving three times. The first place had me in a shoebox-sized room, boxes throughout the rest of the house, and prawn heads on tables. The second was an improvement; but with five people living there, it was too much. I didn’t have the social battery to keep up. The last had me living with a couple – third wheeling and feeling guilty for being in ‘their space’.

Where things started in Sydney

I was failing. At least at the time, it felt that way. Now I’m aware that I was also learning. We need to remember that in the classroom we learn with our heads in a book; in the real world, learning often means getting to work with grazed knees and knuckles. I got hurt, but I became hardened. And I learned about my needs and the environment that would best support my growth. So when I moved to Melbourne I knew exactly what I was aiming for and I got it.

I refused to cram into another sharehouse for the sake of saving money or to settle in any other way. I put my quality of life above all else. I found a small but cosy place that offered a walkable lifestyle to everything I needed, including work. I met a tall, gentle Kiwi giant named Andy who always had a smile on his face. He understood my ebbs and flow. That while I’m extroverted outside, at home I prefer spending time alone – reading, writing; and most importantly, recharging.

With a safe and secure home base, I was able to get out and explore. All though I arrived pretty much empty handed (apart from a friend and cousin) I slowly collected friend after friend. I built routines and a life – all while continuing my journey of self-discovery and healing. I definitely had challenging days, but things were vastly better overall than Tonga and Sydney. When I needed it, home always gave me a place to seek refuge from the world.

My home in Hawthorn really was a haven – nestled amongst beautiful parks and walking paths away from the chaotic city energy that is often hard to escape in metro areas. For those that know the show and therefore the reference: it was The Good Place. Which makes leaving so bitter sweet. In fact, moving has resurfaced some of those feelings from my moves before Melbourne – highlighting just how challenging that period of my life was.

An apt description of my current state is that of a plant pulled from the ground, hanging in the air with its roots dangling and exposed. My nervous system feels heightened as I try to establish my bearings and out of routine, reach for the familiar. I do feel guilty about being ‘a bit precious’ – but I’m also being patient with myself knowing that I’ve just come off a very exhausting week. We inspected our new house and moved all within a week. I also spent six years in Hawthorn. So it’s expected there’d be some grief following saying goodbye.

I went through a similar process when moving to Tonga – which involved leaving Brisbane after 26 years. At the time I lived with two long-term friends (Chris and Alvin) in a great three level place where lots of laughs were had. It was another Good Place. I loved living there, but knew a new chapter awaited me across the ocean.  Like I did then, I’m making my current transition easier by shifting my attention towards what’s ahead of me; rather than what I’m saying goodbye to.

This move offers many things to celebrate: there’s having a backyard with garden space to grow things, see the night sky whenever I want, and have a firepit; I have access to one of the best gyms in the state; I have more space including a shed for new hobbies like vlogging, painting and woodwork; I no longer need to go in and out of lifts or scrunch my nose at strange smells in the hallway; and my partner can now get to work within a reasonable commute time, saving her a lot of stress. Oh – there are also no buckets on the floor to catch leaks from the ceiling or black mould showing up on the walls.

The new place

As much as I loved that apartment, things turned a bit chaotic in the end. The complex’s structural faults were only getting worse and the real estate were showing less and less concern. It was time to get out – and quick. Which was stressful – but definitely taught me a lot about getting s**** done. I also learned a lot about what it means to ‘give and take’. That dance of compromise and priorities. Sitting with ambiguity until something becomes clear. My advice for anyone currently trying to make a choice out of many options is to just focus on identifying what’s the most important. From there an arrow should form pointing in the direction you need to go.

I’ll still miss things about Hawthorn – and expect I will for some time. But I’m not going to put any sort of timeline on my feelings. Just like when I arrived in Sydney, I’m going to work on feeling settled bit by bit. In this old post, I discussed the idea of starting with a black canvas and adding colour – making it my responsibility to both envision a life for myself and to create it. That’s what I’m doing now – trying to get inspired. And unpacking most of the boxes and belongings has definitely helped with that. This is all while reflecting on the two key lessons from my life in Tonga and Sydney, which were that with a new place, it’s easier to see ourselves in new ways; and being out of your comfort zone is undoubtedly being in your growth zone.

Ending this post where I started at the closing door: my last thought was that I’ll be okay. Along with my furniture, I’m also taking me with me. While 303 was my home, I also discovered how to feel at home within myself too. This is the kind of haven that’s permanent – safe from rising house prices and surprise leaks. The progress I’ve made is mine to take and I’ll forever be thankful for the home and opportunities I had. To list a few, there’s getting recognised as a Hawthorn Hero in parliament and on the street in passing as the guy who does the poetry; having an art exhibition; and living with another housemate (Phong) who like Andy, has become a friend; as well as getting to know many other friendly faces in the apartment complex, local cafe, gym and the wider area.  303 in Hawthorn may no longer be the place I live, but it will always have a place in my heart. A cliche, sure. But also true.


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