Should I Stay or Should I Go?
I’ve never been very good at thinking through decisions. Impulsive trips and impromptu 11am wine I can handle. But big choices that require mind maps and bullet points? They are relegated to the back of my brain with a slew of other important issues. Currently sitting next to “Can I eat toast for dinner three days in a row?” and “Should you really use your teeth to cut that block of cheese?” is the ever looming presence of a big life decision: “When my visa expires, should I move back to Australia or stay in London?”
This October marks two years since I touched down in London and quickly discovered that the British drink nothing but tea and eat nothing but Marmite. What took me a little longer to discover is just how much I love it here and how much I am not ready to go home. Within my first few months of arriving, I was viewing my two-year visa as a sentence to be served. I had moved here to be with the one I love, and as much as I loved him, I was experiencing a few teething issues with this new life. I missed my friends and family beyond words, my job was comparable to The Office except without the comedy value and I was broke and unhealthy from the abundance of wine and cheap chocolate I was consuming on days when I felt a bit lost.
But then slowly things started to change; my best friend came to visit and I rang in the new year in Berlin. I started to explore more of England, escaping for long weekends. I reached out to anyone and everyone I met and went on multiple friend dates. I headed to Glastonbury with a bunch of reprobates and survived. I quit my job and spent two months hopping around Europe, where I met a couple of girls who became my adopted family upon returning to London. I drank whiskey in Dublin, slept under the stars in Morocco and ate snow in Copenhagen. I ended up getting a new job that I love and new friends that may be damaging my liver via cheap wine but have also given me abs through nights of laughing fits. And then there are those people who I’ve made such life-affirming connections with that it hurts my heart to think of leaving, a possibility that never entered my mind in those first few weeks of living in this cold city.
It’s now June, and I am due to be deported on 11th October. I am incredibly fortunate to have a British grandparent, which means access to an ancestry visa and an extra five years. But it’s not an easy decision. For every European adventure I have over here is a friend’s engagement that I miss back home. There are new boyfriends and breakups and wine sessions as well as family moments I can’t be a part of. And of course, the ever-looming fear that If I stay over here, I will no longer fit in back home. I won’t be able to slip back into the easy rhythm of my friends’ lives, I will be displaced from my life back there and will never really have a home over here.
With branching out to explore new territory and start a new life comes the inevitable fear of the unknown. There’s always the lingering questions. Will I ever be able to stomach Marmite? Can I really live in a place where people consider Ugg boots to be outdoor shoes? Australia will always be my home, but despite what I thought when I first arrived, this place of sweaty tube journeys, lads in tracksuits and shit weather is starting to make me see that I might now have two homes. And I don’t think I’m ready to swap any of that for the golden shores of Sydney…. Well, not right now anyway.
Cover by Montse Monmo
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Rowan still hasn’t finished War & Peace, but she did use it to balance her dinner once. Living in London, she’s steadily working her way through the Europe’s great cities and hopes to try every wine in England before her visa expires.