It’s official – well, mostly official – I’m going back to school! I was accepted into the Master of Creative Writing, Publishing, and Editing at the University of Melbourne and will be moving to (duh) Melbourne, Australia, in January! I’m so excited I could cry and pee my pants at the same time.
I’ve wanted to go back to Australia since my semester abroad in Sydney at the University of New South Wales (UNSW). It feels like a bizarre stroke of luck that I found a country I could fall so madly in love with, especially because I ended up in Sydney on a complete whim.
It was toward the middle of my fourth year of college. I was exhausted, depressed, and emotionally vacant. My autoimmune disorder was flaring up with cruel enthusiasm, making it difficult to do much of anything. The antidepressants I had been relying on had stopped working, and I was coming to terms with the fact that I still had a full year before I would graduate, even though all the friends I started college with were at the student book store buying their caps and gowns.
Despite lacking the necessary energy and ambition to get dressed most days, I wandered down to the study abroad office. I was speaking with the advisor for the U.K., whom I told I wanted to spend my penultimate semester out of the country. I was required to spend my final semester at home, so it could only be the one semester. She told me I couldn’t do it: they only ran year-long exchange programs and summer programs with their partner universities in the U.K.
For a moment, I was devastated. Then she told me she was also the advisor for Australia. I could spend a semester there. Six minutes later, I left her office with a brochure for UNSW. Six months later, I found myself flying in over the opera house, ready for adventure.
Before I even left UNSW I knew I’d come back to Australia. It was just a matter of when and how. I was different there, yet somehow fundamentally more “myself” than I had ever felt. Being there didn’t cure my depression, but I don’t believe it’s an overstatement to say it brought me back to life. I was still suffering, but I had never been happier.
Many of the people I’ve told about moving to Melbourne seem to think going back to school is the price I’m paying to get back to Australia. But I’m actually beyond stoked to be in a classroom again. I miss reading the same thing as a group of enthusiastic people prone to over-interpretations. I miss late nights in the library munching on contraband snacks. I miss being around like-minded people with scholarly passions and academic anxiety. I even find myself finishing books feeling difficult-to-identify emotions, almost wishing I were being forced to write an essay so I could critically parse those emotions and ideas into complete thoughts. (I said almost wishing, okay.)
“Do you think you’re going to wake up one day and realize, ‘Oh shit, school actually sucks’?” was a question one of my coworkers asked me.
And the answer is, yes, I absolutely think that’s going to happen. I know it’s going to happen. But I also know the gnawing pain I feel when I’m not writing, and that sometimes chasing a dream leads you down uncertain paths. So, yes, I know I’m going to hate it sometimes. But I also know I’m going to love it. And that struggling is a necessary part of a worthwhile journey because challenge fosters growth. I’ve been sitting still for too long.
Driving home from work the day I received my acceptance letter from the University of Melbourne, I was struck by a thought: I’m going back. I couldn’t stop smiling the rest of my commute.
In a way, going to Melbourne truly feels like a homecoming.
In a much more real sense, it’s not a homecoming at all. In fact, I’ve never even been to Melbourne. I still pronounce it with that hard r that Australians hate.
In reality, I’m leaving home. Very literally. I’ve been living at home with my parents, sleeping in my childhood bedroom since I graduated from college nearly a year and a half ago. I’m leaving my family, my friends, and my country behind.
But I’m going back to school. Back to books and essays and, most importantly, writing fiction in a workshop setting. Back to adventure. Back to breakfasting on Vegemite, watching footy just to ogle the guys, and being a piss pot through-and-through. Back to that feeling of exploration that makes me fall in love with my surroundings. And if going back to love isn’t a homecoming, I’m not sure what is.