melbourne

Ejo #100 – A Love Letter To Melbourne

The ache for home lives in all of us, the safe place where we can go as we are and not
be questioned.

Maya Angelou

Melbourne, my beloved, you are not the city of my birth, but you became my home before I was old enough to form memories of anywhere else. You will always be my hometown. And no matter where I live, you will always be my home.

I became aware of my capacity to love you only after we parted ways, nine and a half years ago (ack, has it really been that long?). Oh dear Melbourne, when I moved away in search of adventure, to “broaden my horizons” and to see more of the world, can you believe that I was actually happy to leave you. I was excited to embark on that brave new endeavour. It wasn’t that I was leaving you, it was just that I was going somewhere else. And even though my journey has been more difficult than I could have imagined, even though I left behind all my family and all my friends, and even though I have struggled with that, I don’t regret any of it. I have seen the world, and it’s wonderful. I have broadened my horizons and I have had adventures. Hopefully I will continue to have them.

What I do regret are all the years that I took you for granted. All the years that I failed to appreciate how entwined we were, and how dependent my sense of self was to yours. I moved away to have new experiences, arrogantly presuming that I would find the same sense of belonging and the same sense of security and oneness that you and I have always shared. Naïvely thinking that these things were inside of me.  But they were not.  I found that I did not belong anywhere else. I do not belong anywhere else. I blamed myself, for years, thinking that there was something wrong with me. Only after a great deal of painful introspection (and therapy, lots of therapy) could I see that you and I have something special, something that I will never find anywhere else in this world, no matter how hard I might search for it.

Melbourne, you have contributed so much of yourself to so much of me. I spent my formative years, my growing up years, inside of you. But until it was gone, how could I have known the extent of your influence? Does anyone ever realise how much they’re shaped by their environment, until they leave it?  The place I live now is nothing like you. The place I live now hates me, and quite frankly, I hate it back. I will always belong to you. And you will always belong to me.

I recently spent two wonderful weeks back in your embrace. In the comfort of your big sky, your clean air, your beautiful light. Enveloped in the glow of your sparkling constellation. You are my galaxy, and though my chosen orbit forces us apart, I am forever drawn to you. We resonate, you and I.  My cherished family is with you. My friends live in you. My history resides within yours. When I am “home”, I am normal.  My guard drops.  I breathe more deeply, and with less effort.  I remember who I was.  I know who I am.  I like myself more.  I regain a sense of belonging. And I do belong.

My beloved Melbourne, please, wait for me.  I promise you, one day I will return.

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Best fucking coffee in the world.

 

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David and I missed out on the “smashed avo” trend, so we make up for it every time we go back.  Also: bacon!!!!

 

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Afternoon cocktails at Madame Brussels. A quintessential Melbourne experience.

 

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Of all things, a lichen covered mailbox in Mount Waverley brings on waves of homesickness.

 

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Park.  Land.  Every.  Where.

 

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A track behind my childhood home.  You don’t realise how much you can miss trees and dirt and insects and bark and grass and fallen leaves and dappled light and twigs and Mother Nature until you have to live without them for so many years.

 

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The light.  Just, the light.

 

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A delightful afternoon in a delightful garden with delightful friends.  Melbourne.

 

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Yes, you can hire a yacht anywhere in the world.  But only in Melbourne is it helmed by such a good mate.

 

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Mah bitchzzz!!!!  Melbourne is where I am free enough to be my crazy self.

 

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Friends.  I’ve lived with these people.  I’ve danced with them.  I’ve gone to university with them.  They know me.  I know them.  Love is in the air!

 

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My gorgeous Mum in her incredible garden.

 

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My best friends in the world.  My sisters.  Melbourne girls.  ❤

Ejo #61 – Status Quo (Not Coming Home)

So, I don’t need to tell anyone how I feel about Dubai. We all know. No need to beat that dead horse. So surely, given the opportunity to leave this joint and go back home to Australia, I would jump at the chance, right?? Well, I guess if that had been the case, this ejo would have a very different title. Something along the lines of “Ejo #61 – Escape At Last” or “Ejo #61 – Fuck Off Dubai, We’re Going Home” or similar. You get the gist. As it is, my ejo this month is not about the colossally magnificent news that we’re packing up and moving back to Australia. Nope. It’s about having the opportunity to do so, carefully (oh, so very carefully) considering it and then rejecting it.

For the first time since we’ve moved to Dubai (way, way back in October 2008) Airservices Australia (the country’s only Air Navigation Service Provider – and our previous employer) has opened up recruitment to overseas air traffic controllers. When we first heard about it David and I kind of looked at each other sideways trying to assess how the other felt about the possibility of chucking it in here and finally heading back from whence we came.  Neither of us wanted to ask the question, and neither of us wanted to answer it.  But we both knew what the question was: Are we ready to go home?

Eventually we got around to talking about it.  The conversations would go something like this:

“So, do you want to apply?”

“I’m not sure.  Do you?”

“Not sure”.

In the end we decided that we would write to the recruitment people and ask them a few questions.  Dealbreakers like where we could expect to get placed and whether or not we could expect to get placed in the same city.  If Rockhampton was our only option, the scenario instantly became less palatable.  And if one of us could go to Melbourne but the other would be placed in Sydney, same deal.  I’ve always said that my marriage is more important to me than my career, and I’m not about to start a long distance relationship with David now.

When they got back to us we discovered that Melbourne Tower was not even on the board.  This drastically reduced the attractiveness of the idea of moving back for me.  If I go home, it’s to go home.  And for me, that’s Melbourne.  If I’m living in Sydney or, even worse, Perth then I’m not home and I might as well stay where I am.  Don’t get me wrong, I don’t have anything against either of those places, but the deal would be made a lot sweeter if we had the chance to move directly to Melbourne.

In case you didn’t know, the main reason that David and I moved to Dubai in the first place was an increasing level of disenchantment with the management style of Airservices Australia.  When we first got to Dubai, our employer was the sharing and caring antidote to that and we were happy.  Unfortunately, over the years our current employers’ management style has rapidly deteriorated to the same level as we were experiencing back home.  I’m talking about deceit, derision and downright hostility towards their air traffic controllers.  Morale here is not good.  People are resigning in droves and returning to their home countries leaving behind radar units and towers that are painfully short staffed.  The company is unable to recruit air traffic controllers from elsewhere because they aren’t offering an attractive enough package.  And we’re not just disenchanted, but also disillusioned and disengaged.  So it ain’t a happy place.

So why do we stay?  Let me make you a list of things I miss from Australia.

* my family

* my friends

* coffee (oh my god, the coffee)

* no smoking in restaurants, bars and cafes

* the weather

* the amazing restaurant scene

* the sound of birds

* the lack of in-your-face racism

* the culture

* our house

* our neighbourhood

* road rules

* clean air

* trees, plants, flowers, the colour green

* jobs done by those who want to do them, rather than jobs determined by nationality

* quality healthcare

* good service

* not being called sir EVER AGAIN

* being able to wear whatever I like

* being able to kiss my husband in public

* being able to swear in public (I’ve started doing this here and think I’d best stop)

* not being afraid to be drunk in public for fear of being arrested

* not being afraid of being thrown in jail for no good reason

* being able to flip people the bird if I feel like it (it’s the principle)

* great fashion

* reliable mail

* no freaking construction

* no sand EVERYWHERE

* Madame Brussels

* cleaning ladies not being terrified that I’m going to beat them

* pornography (again, not something I necessarily want, but give me the choice god damn it)

* freedom of speech

* reading magazines where they call it wine and beer, not grape and hops

* bacon, oh crispy bacon

* being able to log onto Skype, Spotify etc. without having to hide my location using a VPN

* the countryside

* being able to ski within three hours of the city

* OPSM (seriously, I’ve never had a pair of prescription glasses made properly here)

* no in-your-face wasta

* people that turn their headlights on at night (der)

* wineries

* skilled tradespeople

* OH&S

* minimum wage

* human rights (OK, Australia’s record of that isn’t so great either, but at least you aren’t subjected to it on a daily basis)

* recycling

* addresses (there’s no street name/number system here – you navigate using landmarks)

* great live music scene

* people washing their own damn cars

* not needing the aircon on 24/7

* good hairdressers*

 

I really could go on, but I think you get the idea.  Now I’ll list what I would miss about Dubai if we were to move back home.

* the travel.
 

 

 

 

 

 

Well, maybe the cheap and plentiful taxis too.  And that’s about it.  But that one thing, right now, is worth sacrificing all those other things that I miss about home.  I’m not done travelling yet.  I don’t know if I ever will be.  I’ve got a severe case of wanderlust, and I’ve got it bad.  And living here allows me to regularly, and frequently, scratch that itch in a way that I wouldn’t be able to do from Australia.  So I forfeit my family and my friends and great coffee in exchange for being able to see the world.  I can’t even say if it’s a fair exchange.  I just know that I’m not ready to give it up yet.  And (thank goodness) neither is David.  If one of us wanted to go home, we have agreed that we would go.  But for now we’re staying.

In other news, we are coming home in February for a  couple of weeks so that we can get our fix of all those things we miss about it.  Best of both worlds.

 

 

* If anyone can recommend a GREAT hairdresser in Melbourne, I’d be extremely grateful.

Ejo #56 – Extraordinary People I Know: Jack O’Loughlin

What is it that makes a person extraordinary? Sometimes it is their extraordinary actions – climbing Mount Everest, feeding starving children in Africa or walking a tightrope strung between two buildings. Sometimes though, what makes someone extraordinary is as simple as their sparkling humanity, their ability to connect. It doesn’t sound like much. But when you meet that special person you realise what an incredible gift they have. And how rare it is.

I vividly remember the day I met Jack O’Loughlin, for it was the day of my father’s funeral. He came along with his girlfriend Dee, both of whom were friends of my sisters. There are two things I remember the most about them being there. First, how nice it was that they had come – during a period of great darkness, it seemed like a very supportive and loving thing to do. The second thing I remember is that afterwards, we laughed. I mean we laughed until we cried. Hysterical guffaws, side-splitting chortles, belly-laughs galore. And who knows, this may have seemed inappropriate to the people around us, but after ten months of depression and anxiety and sad thoughts, after days of grieving, and after almost a year without any joy it was truly cathartic to just laugh. It was a release from the pain and the grief. And it was a hell of an introduction to the life force that was Jack.

And what a life force it was. I’ve never known anyone who was so goddamn alive. So full of vitality, so present in the moment, so full of fucking beans! People search their whole lives for meaning, wondering what their purpose is. Jack knew his purpose. He was here to live. And those of us who knew him, hey, we got taken along for the ride. And it was exhilarating. I only ever spent a handful of occasions in his company, but he left a permanent mark on my spirit. He was not perfect and he sure as hell wasn’t a saint. He was brash, and crude and, sometimes, he could even be a little bit intimidating.

The classic Jack and Dee "stinkeye"  If you didn't know him, or if you met him in a dark alley, you might be scared.  That is, until he gave you a great, big, warm bear hug.

The classic Jack and Dee “stinkeye” If you didn’t know him, or if you met him in a dark alley, you might be scared. That is, until he gave you a great, big, warm bear hug.

But Jack’s gift was that he was able to connect with people from all walks of life, melting down barriers and walls with the ease of a superhero. He was fun to be around because he created adventure in everything. Life was a gift and he was a kid under the Christmas tree. And more than anything else Jack was uncommonly kind and loving. He loved and was loved abundantly, but there was only one person who held a special place in his heart. Just one person that fit him perfectly. Jack proposed to Dee every single year for seven years until she finally said yes and married him on 18th April 2009*. They honeymooned in South America, gallivanting as newlyweds do, savouring their newly forged marital status.

Always up for a laugh.  Perhaps some pre-wedding jitters, too!

Always up for a laugh. Perhaps some pre-wedding jitters, too!

The newlyweds. What a beautiful couple.

The newlyweds. What a beautiful couple.

The look of love.

The look of love.

Just two months after their wedding, whilst walking to work early one morning, Jack was struck and killed by a speeding car. Just like that, he was gone. Words are rendered ineffective and useless when trying to describe this great loss. It was, and still is, an overwhelming devastation. It was hard to make sense of it then. It has remained, frankly, impossible to make sense of it now.

It was Jack’s birthday two days ago and David and I had a toast in his honour. He is still very much alive in so many people’s hearts, including ours. He burns as bright as ever, and his life force endures even though he is no longer around. I became quite emotional that night and, when I went to bed, I’m not ashamed to say that I had a good cry. I was sad for him, for Dee, and for me. I was sad for everyone who’s lost him. But at the same time, as I was weeping, I felt strangely comforted. It was almost as though he was there, in the dark, sitting on the edge of the bed, soothing me. Consoling me. Now, isn’t that extraordinary?

* * *

Some words from Jack’s mates:

He was the water that filled the cracks in the dream I didn’t know I wanted. Dee.

Jack (Johno) was (and still is) an extremely unique guy, a true loving soul. Someone who would always be there for you even before you hinted. Someone who always had my back. Completely selfless (except the times I’d make him take my help). He had this presence that you’d feel as soon as you were in the same room (and yes I still feel him now). Mal.

He was inclusive, protective, loyal, enthusiastic, and generous. He would talk to anyone and everyone regardless of their status, race, religion, etc. His unofficial philosophy of life was that he didn’t know if he liked or didn’t like something until he tried it. So he (quite literally) tried EVERYTHING! Apologies for the brevity of this message and lack of actual story content but I’m hungover to buggery and my brain is broken (I blame Jack, who would have made me go out today and do something active/fun/outrageous to distract me from the pain). Mish.

On first impression he might seem a little scary.  But when you look into his eyes you can see he's all heart. This photo is beautiful to me.

On first impression he might seem a little scary. But when you look into his eyes you can see he’s all heart. This photo is so beautiful to me.

Jack you always had time for me. Whether to laugh at me, or a kind word of advice, even if it was to say HTFU. Rob.

[After a phone prank, during which he pretended to be angry at me] I realised the effect he had on me, the level to which I held his esteem. I realised that besides my partner, and besides my best friend, this man Jack was the most solid male influence in my life after Dad died. I was crushed, thinking, even for those 10 minutes, that he didn’t love me anymore. I think we both realised how much we meant to each other. It was just a dumb incident but it ended up strengthening our relationship because it meant working at it. He was shocked at how a little of his aggression had affected me so greatly, I think he realised then how much he meant to me. Pieta.

We met Dee and Jack in 2007 when we moved next door. Through our renovation, Jack provided a friendly smile, advice and laughter, popping his head over the fence at unexpected times and joining in whatever was going on. He made us feel very welcome in the West, sharing with us the things that made Footscray home to him. His energy and zest for life was infectious. We only knew him for a very short time but his impact on us was great and will never leave us. He smiled with his eyes. P.S. Matthew misses sharing the sneaky cigarettes with Jack in the backyard. Matthew & Naomi.

Jack came over to our house to fix the kitchen sink because the taps were leaking. He was nice, kind, funny and the most beautiful fella I ever met. And I mean this because that’s how he came across – as a nice hearted person. We had some good laughs during his visit. And to make him an even better person, he refused to take money from me, and said laughing, “Maybe you can pay me next time, but not now lady”. In my heart and mind Jack was the most beautiful person, and I say that for the person he was. When I heard he was gone, my heart sank and I cried for him, losing his life so soon and in that way. And I cried for Dee, losing her loving partner. As painful as it is, Jack deserves to be remembered on his birthday and every day forever, for who he was, a gentle giant. Maria.

He had your back – he wouldn’t leave you hanging. He would give you the shirt off his back. He’d make sure everyone else was OK before making sure he was OK. David.

I did not know Jack very long but he impacted my life in a positive way. He showed me how to party properly, how to listen. He was also the inspiration for my first tattoo. He was a very great person who was loved and respected by all. I think about him a lot but it doesn’t make me sad, it makes me feel proud that I knew him. He was a blessing to me. Nick.

Jack to me was more than just a friend. He was the closest thing I’ve ever had to a brother. He also treated me like I was his brother. He was always there to help me. He always cheered me up. He was the first person in my life to actually take the time to help me build my self-confidence and to help me discover who I am as a person. He made me realise that there are so many people in the world that need help and that you should help them whenever you can. He taught me how to be strong and to stand up for yourself and those around you without resorting to violence. He was my best mate, my brother, my protector and my guide. He will be a part of me for the rest of my life. I have his picture beside my bed. I literally speak to him every day when I wake up and every night before bed. And he is still the most important person in the world to me. I kind of base the way I live my life on the kind person that he was, who always looked out for everyone. Even complete strangers. Justin.

The thing that stood out about Jack was not only that he was next level, take it to the bridge, can’t-feel-my-face fun with a capital F, but that he was so, so very generous a human being. Jack (and Dee) were incredibly kind to my family when we lost my Dad. I’ll never forget that. First time I met Jack was at a party and things were getting too loud and overwhelming for me so I slinked off to get my head together and he sauntered on after me and hung out with me for a while. It sounds like nothing, but it was such a kind thing to do. Jack just made it his business to make sure I, a stranger to him, was okay. We were friends after that and that’s just the way it was because he was inclusive and open-hearted and welcoming. The man had the charisma of 10 people.

I think about that easy human connection he offered so seemingly effortlessly and I’m heartbroken that what remains is an indelible scar where a glorious life should have blossomed and thrived. But I’m really grateful too. I actually do feel lucky to have known Jack. All those times we spent laughing and partying and carrying on, loom large in my mind as a reminder of how well he lived his life. Of how being loving, good-natured and caring can affect so many people in such a good way. I’m so grateful because I understand how truly rare and beautiful Jack was. Mari.

* I’d just like to say here that no extraordinary person would choose to marry somebody that was ordinary. Dee, herself, is an amazing person. Never defined by Jack, but definitely complemented by him, I can’t begin to imagine the hole in her life, created by his absence. Dee and Jack got together on 25th December 2000. This was her Facebook status on Xmas Day last year: “This time 13 years ago I fell irrevocably in love with the master of my universe. What a wild ride & stunning revelation it was to find the perfect fit for me. I will miss you forever Jack/John/Johnno.

Live.  Life.  Right.  Now.

Live. Life. Right. Now.

At a football game in Rio de Janeiro, during their honeymoon.

At a football game in Rio de Janeiro, during their honeymoon.

What a guy.  A man about to be married.

What a guy. A man about to be married.