How are you settling into life in Sydney? It’s the question my new and longer term friends ask.
Settling in. I’m not sure if we ever truly settle in to anywhere because the suggestion to me is that in the ‘settling in’ there’s a level of comfort that is reached; a bit like sitting on the edge of a large armchair and then manoeuvering yourself until you’re almost one with it. Once you are part of that chair the slightest movement can alter your comfort level – making you more or less comfortable than you had been.
If the level of your ‘settledinness’ is complete, then one or all of your limbs or your whole self might go to sleep. When you wake with pins and needles, you wonder if there is something you’ve missed or should have been doing.
So – am I settling in? I like to think – no. Instead I am awake and watchful as I embrace the new experiences and convert connections made in the virtual world to real world friendships. I wake each Tuesday to the anticipation of the classes in the MA in Cultural and Creative Practice. I revel in the readings and what they might bring to my writing, but have felt the anxiety, the same as I am know my students have experienced in the past, as I structured the first essay I had written in 13 years. I was genuinely relieved and pleased with the feedback I received.
I have learnt not to be embarrassed about the writers I have not read – among them Foucault, Nietzsche and even Beckett – and have discovered that a few years on the planet and a lifelong engagement with reading and learning, means I can bring other insights to the discussions.
There are two cafés I frequent and my favourite of these is Mars Hill in Church Street, Parramatta. They make my double shot cappuccino with no chocolate on the top without giving me a strange look or suggesting what I really want is a latte. It may be a small thing, but life’s too short to drink bad coffee.
But, every now and then when I am feeling very much a part of this new place and this new life, I’ll be caught unawares: a memory of Albury will find its way onto the page. It did this recently in a workshop with award-winning poet, Fiona Wright at the New Writers Group meeting. Fiona asked us to list ten points of interest about a place that was familiar to us. I recalled a recent walk down my street:
In the yard of the only house I pass on my way to Westfield
there are chickens: two Isa Browns, two black and two white.
On the rest of my walk I miss
the Leagues Club, local pool and Centrelink office,
and instead see the quarter acre block
with its orchard, veggie garden and
Thea, Alice and Maggie.
I don’t think I quite completed the task as requested, but perhaps discovered we don’t have to ‘settle in’ to be part of somewhere new. We can continue to inhabit all of the places we have been.