Growing up, I knew I wasn’t going to stay in my hometown forever. Like many teenagers, I believed I was destined for things my hometown couldn’t offer. I’d spent the first 21 years of my life living in the same suburb, going to the same school and studying at a university in the same city. In short, I felt like I’d outgrown the pot I was planted in.
So, basically, I finished my university studies at the end of 2017 and got out as quick as I could. I moved to Brisbane, where the only two people I really knew were one of my housemates and a friend I’d played netball with. I launched into my first year of teaching trying to navigate making new friends, playing sport, working 45+ hours a week and eating a diet that resembled some sort of health. For the first 8 months I dealt with crippling loneliness. I loved my job but felt so disconnected from my close-knit family and village that I left behind. I felt like I didn’t have anyone in my corner and was being incredibly critical of myself for stepping so far out of my comfort zone and not immediately flourishing. Given that I was living in the inner-north of the state’s capital, I longed for open space (or, even just a little bit of grass) and something to drown out the constant sound of traffic.
In May of 2018 I got a random Facebook message from a lady I’d met while on a work marketing tour in North-West QLD. Her, her husband and 3 young daughters lived south of Hughenden and her children were completing their schooling through distance education. She was messaging me to ask whether I’d be interested in being their governess in 2019. Spoiler alert – but you all know I said yes.
During my last 4 months living in Brisbane I found my groove. I found my tribe and to my own surprise, I was quite sad to leave. For the second time in 12 months, I packed up my life and moved further out of my comfort zone. I found the transition to the cattle station easier than I’d anticipated. To my credit – I’d been living on the station for 5 days before we lived through a natural disaster, so I didn’t really have time to feel homesick. Sure, I missed my family, but I came part of another family. I fell into a generous community, who made sure you were included from the get-go.
Eventually the homesickness came, but I managed it better this time. I won’t lie, it wasn’t all sunshine and rainbows, but I was surrounded by so many people who were also far from their loved ones. September 2019 and I knew that, as much as I wanted to stay chasing cows, drinking at the pub and educating the 3 greatest students I’ve ever had, I needed to gain some more ‘traditional’ teaching experience. When I raised my impending departure with my boss (which, if you’ve read Life Advice from My Boss you’d know I adore her) she simply said ‘Even if you wanted to stay, we wouldn’t let you – you’ve got too much potential’.
2020 and I find myself back in my hometown. I’m a completely different person to the person who left over 2 years ago, and the transition back wasn’t easy. I moved into an apartment right above the tramline and on the fourth night of being woken up every time the tram went past, I was ready to move out and escape back to the bush. I struggle to ‘fit’ and I struggle to feel like this is ‘home’. I’m closer to my family, which is great, but the compromise is I am further away from many people I love. I’m trying to fit back into the mold I left here. 2020 Hannah doesn’t quite fit back into 2017 Hannah’s place as well as she’d like.
That’s the problem about moving around; you leave your heart in so many different places. From the Gold Coast, to Brisbane and all the way to a cattle station in North-West QLD, my heart strings have been stretched to encompass the most diverse environments.
I feel like a paradox when I say I want to settle and put down roots, but I also get itchy feet after I’ve been living somewhere for longer than 8 months.
Despite all these mixed feelings, there is an overwhelming sense of gratitude. Gratitude for the people, the communities and that my heart can be spread (and left) across the lands.
Dream big friends, stretch that comfort zone and know that wherever you end up and for however long, you’re exactly where you belong. Be proud of the fact that you’re able to leave a little bit of yourself in all the places you call ‘home’, because that means you’ve made an impact on that community and that community has made an impact on you.