Johnny and I received the best Christmas gift we could’ve asked for this year: his Australian permanent residence visa. It arrived, rather unceremoniously, as a PDF e-mail attachment a few days after Christmas. This visa is something we’ve been working on for roughly the last four years. I was so surprised that it had finally arrived that I had to come home from work and confirm with immigration myself before I believed it.
But here it is. A few lines that allow him to live in the same country as me with no deadline or time limit! I’ve avoided writing about Australia because it makes me homesick. When we first arrived in Canada at the end of 2012, I thought it was for good. I remember standing in Sydney airport and Johnny passing me a bottle of water. “Drink up,” he said cheerfully. “This will be your last taste of Australia for a while.” I wanted to vomit.
Don’t get me wrong, I definitely wanted to move to Canada.
Six years ago, while visiting Toronto, we drove through the suburbs and I saw my future life flash before my eyes. I saw the schools I would send my children, the house we would live in, the sparkling offices I would work from. Talk about jumping the gun. Although, I did take a photo of the Royal York because I thought it was a “cool hotel.” I didn’t realise that just three years later I’d be working at its sister property in Winnipeg, so there you go.
The following year, Johnny and I flew back to Canada to spend Christmas with our families. My Canadian fantasies were kicked into hyper drive again during a brief visit to Vancouver. I pictured myself cycling along the waterfront after a perfect latte in Gastown, the mountains looming in the background. I saw myself shopping with friends on the weekend and picnicking in Stanley Park.
Don’t even get me started on the ideas Montreal put in my head while I was studying at McGill and Montreal was my home.
A newly minted graduate, I assumed that after moving to Winnipeg I would get a job, we’d get married, move into our house and this would be our life. That’s what you do in your twenties right? The first few months were brutal. I’ve touched on that before in this blog. The terrifyingly cold weather, alien landscape, and sun that rose after 8 a.m. and disappeared again at 4 made me wonder what I was doing. Back home my friends were posting photos of day trips to the Gold Coast and complaining about the humidity index.
I couldn’t imagine how we were going to make this work. I’d immigrated and survived before. I could do it again. A couple of months after we arrived in Canada we were informed by Australian immigration that our visa application had been rejected because we’d left the country. We both knew it would happen and I tried to brush it off. It wasn’t like we’d planned to stay in Australia anyway, right?
That night I lay bed and tried not cry. It seemed like that was all I had been doing and I didn’t want Johnny see me breaking down again. Staying with Johnny means I might never go home.
It sounds melodramatic and indeed when summer rolled around and I settled into my job things looked a lot brighter. We embraced living in Winnipeg and I started to fall in love with the city and our new life. At that time I didn’t realize that it would take struggling through two more winters and a few more weepy evenings with a glass of wine in the bathtub before I finally started to feel like Canada was home.
When it’s summer and I’m dangling my legs over the edge of our yacht watching the fireworks over the bay, when it’s Fall and our kitchen smells of apple butter from the fruit off our own trees, when the deer peer through our window in winter or when we get the first crisp snow fall; in those moments I wonder why I would ever consider living anywhere else.
When my visa came up for renewal after two years in Canada, Johnny and I took a long, life contemplating walk. We’d had two great years and I was happy to give it another two. But neither of us felt ready to commit to forever. Even though this was a nice home. So we decided that we would open up Johnny’s Australian visa application again and this would at least give us a few more options. If it came through, we agreed, we’d look at moving again after the next two years when my visa expired.
When I started telling people that we were considering moving again, they couldn’t understand why we wouldn’t consider living here forever.
Just because you are happy and comfortable in a place does not mean that you have to set up camp permanently. For now, this is good. This is safe and happy and pleasant. But I’m not quite ready for safe and happy and pleasant. I’m ready for the exciting discomfort that comes from living somewhere new.
When November comes around and my visa is up for renewal and another life contemplating walk, maybe we will decide to stay.
Or maybe it will be time to get the suit cases and cat carrier out again.