Fourteen years ago I arrived in Brisbane. I thought I was coming for a year. Maybe two. Five at the absolute tops.
I was drawn here by the weather. The lifestyle. The architecture. Deep emotional friendships. The love of a good man. Phhhhhhhht! If you believe that you should pop off, take some more drugs and have a little lie down…..!! I’m sure some people move to a new city, for all those reasons, but that person is not me!
Whilst the weather, the lifestyle, the architecture, friendships and the love of a good man did indeed manage to keep me here slightly longer than the handful of years I planned, they most certainly are not what got me here in the first place.
For that we can thank a dead end relationship, a dead end job, a looming pre-mid life crisis, a man I liked but couldn’t have, my best friend getting married and knocked up in close succession, an overwhelming sadness at returning from living overseas before I was ready and the unrelenting feeling I’d never discover how and what I was capable of being with a whole heap of history hiding around every corner. Other people would probably have sought professional help. I read self help books, drank a lot of wine and plotted ways to get the hell away.
When plotting an escape it’s really kind of obvious to get as far away as you possibly can. Brisbane was the clear winner from the get go. Leave Adelaide. Drive 2,016.3km. Once you get to Brisbane you’ve pretty much gone about as far away as you can without leaving the country or subjecting yourself to the death defying levels of humidity Darwin and Cairns offer up.
And so Brisbane it was.
If you’re thinking of escaping “home” shortly after returning from being away for an extended period, here’s a strong tip. People generally don’t like it. They take it personally. Your mum will cry. Your dad will likely say things like “you’re making your mum cry”. Your friends will cry. You will cry. There will be crying. I tell you this from experience.
I can also tell you from experience, if enough people cry / complain / criticise to make the idea unpalatable, wait six months then try again. No need to change the geographic location of your escape but it does help people embraced the idea of you leaving for sunnier climes if you package everything up with some more socially acceptable influencing factors than just ‘this place is doing my head in’. Just saying.
‘Influencing factors’ are like a psychological 10 point ID check. The flimsier the factor the more of them you need. One solid factor and you’re in no questions asked. In hindsight getting people to buy into my escape on the basis that my home town was driving me nuts was somewhat like trying to get a passport with a library card. Six months and slightly more attention to detail provided me a solid 10 points at my disposal. The escapees version of a drivers license + Medicare card + bank statement + telephone bill!.
1 point = depression and melancholy exacerbated by current location
1 point = previous visit to new location (10 minutes enroute from a wedding on the Gold Coast to lunch on the Sunshine Coast)
1 point = deep attraction to new location (river + hills = quasi Vancouver = where I really wanted to be)
2 points = friends at new location, one point for each ‘friend’. (nobody needed to know both of my offerings were firmly positioned in the tricky no mans land of not quite friends, not quite acquaintances)
5 points = acceptance into art school (my lucky penny was an art school crazy and/or broke enough to accept me mid term into their Interior Design course on the basis of a hurriedly compiled and exceptionally substandard portfolio submission)
Booyah! Escape executed. Happy people. There was even a going away party – with Hawaiian leis and a room sized poster of a lady with a large bottom in a bikini on a tropical beach. Such was the acceptableness of my ‘influencing factors’. (Then again I’d possibly become such a self absorbed pain in the arse over that six months everyone was more than happy to see the back of me…..)
Whilst packing up at 21 and heading overseas was my chance to live a grand adventure filled life of wine and roses (though less of the wine and roses metaphor and more of the vodka and tobacco reality), escaping to Brisbane was an opportunity to grow-up, away from the the stifling feelings of inadequacy and the overwhelming expectations that seemed to follow me around my old stomping ground. It was a smart thing to do.
I arrived here in 2001 an (almost) single 26 year old, heart sick and floundering. In 2015 I’m leaving a (very much) married 40 year old with three children, heart full and strong. Every June I reflect on how much this town helped me grow up, face up to my insecurities, take control of my own life and invent myself. I feel excited the “growth” chapter seems to be coming to an end and the “maturing” one is about to begin (at least I assume that’s what the next chapter will be!). The fact that that will take place in a new location hasn’t escaped me but nor has it escaped me that I’m not running away from anything this time.
BrisVegas, here’s a quick honour roll of what you’ve dished up over the past fourteen years. In no particular order, I thank you for; An art school qualification of questionable merit. An apartment right in the middle of the city. A vintage car. A stab at politics. Another tattoo. A wedding. A degree in how to deal with mould. A bunch of awesome friends. A wardrobe with colour. The love of my life. The ability to ride a bike up hills (with a baby on the back). The opportunity to live (and work) with my best mate. The ABA and all the beautiful people it bought me. The most awesome school a mum could ask for. The guts to find out what I’m good at. Nest. Red hair. Black hair. Purple hair. Long hair. Short hair. No hair. Lost friendships. New friendships. Old friendships. Confidence. Self assurance. Independence. Crunchy parenting. Singing. Swimming. Camping at the beach. People who trusted me to make their houses beautiful. Two renovators delights. Two businesses. Three little Queenslanders. Four houses. Four cars. Six jobs. Fourteen Summers. Fourteen Autumn/Springs. No Winters.
It’s been grand. You’ve been grand. Really you have. Thank you.
PS: if you want to paint your very own awesome picture of Brisbane and the Storey Bridge head to Cork & Chroma where you can drink wine, laugh, paint and groove to the best play list in town. Take friends. It’s seriously good fun!