Last night I made a new friend in a new city. We met in a crowd of intense fan girls at a music festival. Her boyfriend and friend were trying to get closer to the stage, and we laughed at their oblivion to how hardcore The 1975’s fanbase is.

After bonding over a mutual love of the band and their stellar live shows, we got to chatting about how, when and why two Queensland girls ended up living in Melbourne.

I shared that I had come to the festival alone as I had moved here a week ago. She was surprised, and said she’d been here for six months and was still learning to navigate the tram network.

It turned out that we had more in common than our home states, music taste and love of tattoos. We also both moved here to escape. To start fresh. 

We both left big, coastal towns in pursuit of the unknown. Uprooting our lives (with our partners) for the novelty of walking into the supermarket looking like shit, and knowing that you will be completely anonymous.

As we stood side by side in a sea of bodies, chatting like old pals (a special magic that can only be found in anticipating crowds and stalls in women’s bathrooms), I was shocked by how eerily her words echoed my own. 

We hadn’t even exchanged names and yet we were kindred spirits, belonging to a special party of souls who is brave enough to leave the comfort of home, of family, of favourite restaurants and takeaways and swimming spots, for the chance to be whoever the fuck we want to be.

Our conversation was silenced by screams and cheers, a piano intro and flashing screens. The band came on, and were phenomenal, as always.

We sang along to all the songs, dancing and smiling, gushing about Matty’s hair and how brilliant the set was. Soon, we parted ways, with a promise to catch up for a tattoo in the near future. 

It felt nice, knowing that I still have the ability to put myself out there and brave conversation with strangers (not something that comes naturally to me) and in turn, make friends and alliances in a place I now call home.

Returning from the festival left me exhausted and elated, a juxtaposition that only comes from singing at the top of your lungs in a crowd of thousands and being on your feet in the summer sun for nine hours. 

I fell asleep with an aching knee and a feeling of contentment. The expected and the unexpected had occurred, and it was all lovely.

Today, in between cups of tea and restrapping my compression bandage (glamourous), I’ve been reflecting on just how many like-minded humans I’ve come across in my travels.

How I always seem to find people that have uprooted their lives, or moved across the country, ignoring our natural instincts to stick with our packs. I come across them in coffee shops and make up stores, on Instagram and at events. Friends of friends and clients, fellow punters and writers.

I wonder if the Universe is sending us to each other, to remind us that we’re not alone. That we’re not crazy, or fussy, and that our actions are completely justified. That it’s okay to move away and sell your belongings and figure it out as you go. That not everyone needs to have a five year plan, or build up long service leave at a job, or settling down by the time you’re 29.

Because as we start from scratch, gathering household essentials like magpies (thank you Kmart) and scrolling through Marketplace like it’s a commission-based occupation, we are committing an act that far too many are scared to do: leave.

Perhaps it’s because I grew up in a small town. Perhaps it’s because I started travelling before I hit puberty. Perhaps it’s because I saw one too many people grow up in an isolated place and never book so much as a weekend getaway beyond its borders.

Whatever the root cause of this calling, I know that I’ve made the right choice. I knew it the second I allowed myself to wonder, why not Melbourne? 

Yes, it took a lot of planning, and long days on the road and a hefty hotel bill, but as I drive along the streets in my new neighbourhood, and catch the right train, and wander through my favourite bookstores, I feel like I’ve finally arrived. 

It’s taken me 25 years to genuinely feel at ease. I no longer need to look over my shoulder or wonder who I’ll run into in town. I can build a life for myself using whatever damned tools and embellishments I choose. 

And whilst we’ll still have guests visit from up north, who will no doubt comment on the traffic and the weather and the price of things, I’ll sleep soundly knowing that they have to go back up there, to the place where they call home, and I get to stay right here, in the place that I call mine.

February 12, 2020

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