I am finally coming out of the storm. Somehow these past two months in Glenorchy have been just as challenging as the constant traveling. There are no more what-ifs, no more unknowns, no more what’s next. I have a plan for the next eight months of my life. I’m not even really traveling anymore. Everything should be simple, easy, familiar, stable. And yet. And yet!
First let me paint you a picture of Glenorchy. Population: 390 (not sure if that’s including the sheep). There is a school, a pub, a cafe, a library (that is tragically only open for two hours on Wednesdays and Fridays), a general store, a few horses, and then there’s me. “The American girl living with Dean and Patricia.” It’s a small, supportive community. Everyone knows everyone. Sue at the store gives me free gelato. Sarsha gives me yoga classes in exchange for washing her windows. I hitch rides to and from Queenstown with Toni, and we talk about marriage. There is local town gossip (that’s right, the rumors are true, Rita is seriously planning on growing a pear tree, but no, unfortunately John is not moving to Auckland). Kids jump off the wharf after school. We pick vegetables from our backyard. The cafe has pizza night on Fridays. It’s so simple, I actually feel like the air is cleaner here. It probably is, seeing as we’re separated from LA by a reasonably-sized body of water.
The simplicity of this life has freed up a lot of my mental space. I am no longer inundated with the superfluity and clutter of modern life—the 5,000 friends, the TV shows, the clothes dryer, the trendy cafes offering $8 toast (although I do love toast). And I am no longer encountering a constant stream of other travelers, exchanging stories, dealing with daily travel disasters. Life has slowed down. In Glenorchy, where I can count my friends on one hand (and two of them are under the age of 13), I’ve found that I’ve been able to turn up the volume on my thoughts.
This has been hard. This has not been a period of casual, confused reflection, like my month in Brisbane. It has been calculated and purposeful. I have a list of goals. I have a journal. I have been trying to answer those questions I have never been able to answer. I have been trying to digest my experience. I have been digging deep and cutting out the parts that aren’t me. I have been molding my weaknesses into strengths. I have been confronting fears and processing feelings that I’ve repressed for years. And every night, I am utterly taxed and exhausted. Every night, my brain is so eager to shut down, to meet the pillow, to rest. But it’s worth it. After two months of forcing myself to do the hard things, I finally feel good. I feel raw and open and free and good.
I’m not afraid anymore. I’m not afraid of the (sometimes irrational, often psychotic) thoughts that enter my head. I’m not afraid of making a poor impression on strangers. I’m not afraid of the direction my life may or may not be taking. I’m not afraid to be flawed and—heaven forbid—imperfect.
For work, I sometimes assist Dean with designing the set for his commercial photo shoots. Ten minutes just lining up the curtain folds to be perfectly uniform. Searching all over the house for a book that’s the right shade of blue. Removing a chair from the set and then putting it back and then removing it and then putting it back and then removing it. I really, really enjoy this in a perverse way. After a full day of it, I wanted more. I couldn’t wait to go back the next day, to keep making things perfect, to scan the environment for flaws and to fix them. Ladies and gentlemen, this is how I used to live my LIFE. Funnily enough, looking at the edited, “perfect” photos, I was displeased. I craved a flaw. I craved something interesting and different and special and unique. That’s what we already are, when we’re not trying to be anything else. The things that I have wanted to change for so long are the exact things that make me who I want to be. So I’m not afraid to be imperfect anymore. I’m embracing it. Now I look at my glass eye in the mirror and I’m like Oh hey whatup bro? Fancy meeting you here!
I’m also not afraid to go home anymore. I don’t think of home as What I Left Behind anymore. I don’t feel as though I’m running, I feel as though I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.
One thing people often ask here is, “Where are you from?” Reasonable question, right? Yet every single time, I am compelled to give them this absurd, convoluted response. I generally say something incredibly boring like “The States” in order to keep them from running in the opposite direction. But what I really want to say is, “What do you mean by ‘from’ exactly? Do you mean where I was born? Or where I was diagnosed with cancer? Or where my mom would carry me downstairs to make me a midnight snack when I was hungry? Or where I met my first love? Or where I tried on the black dress that I would wear to my dad’s funeral? Or where I said goodbye to my last love? Or where I taught myself a hip hop dance from a YouTube video (because that was a seriously influential moment)?”
I have so many homes. So many places where I’m from. Right now, my home is here. Living with my family in Glenorchy. I don’t tell them this, but I love them. I love them so much. Patricia gets excited about the little things. As she settles in with her latest TV show, she says to no one, “Yeeaaahhhh couch and a biscuit!” She brings me tiny snacks. She encourages me to step outside of my comfort zone. She makes strangers laugh. She gets right back up after she falls down. She is absolutely stunning.
Text from Patricia: Leaving Queenstown in 5 min
Me: I guess we’ll have to send the strippers home now
Patricia: Male or female?
Dean is complex. So naturally we understand each other. He is perfectionistic, no-frills, industrious, self-sufficient, hard on himself. Dean the Machine. Dean’s idea of fun is waking up early on a Saturday and waxing the floors and sanding the deck. “Dean, it’s Saturday. Saturdays are supposed to be fun!” “Okay fine I’ll put some Bieber on.” We drove 7 hours to the West Coast to work on a kiwi conservation project and drove 7 hours back the next day. We talked the entire time. I didn’t think this was humanly possible. We can laugh about things that no one else seems to find funny, which means we’re either incredibly genius or incredibly weird.
Aiden asks me to play Monopoly, jump on the “tramp”, paint watercolors, and/or play with his boomerang every day. He always wants to know what I’m doing. He says “ANNA!” when he comes home from school. He remembers every little detail I have ever said. Aiden once interrogated my friend Kevin when he came over to the house: “Do you know Anna’s birthday? When is it? Do you know that tomorrow is Valentine’s Day?” Aiden Interrogation Solutions, Ltd.
Timo makes me feel cool and old. “HAHAHA YOU SAID 69!” “Timo do you even know what 69 is?” He tells me about the girls at school, but he doesn’t tell his parents. I don’t either. #trust. I got him a book from the library, he pretended not to be interested, and then I caught him reading it. Tell me that’s not home.
But when people ask me where I’m from, that’s not what they want to hear. So instead I put on my best southern accent and say, “THE GREATEST COUNTRY IN THE WORLD!” It’s a wonder why I don’t have more friends here.