I’m at the midpoint between returning from my Australian test ride and boarding a plane for Milan. I am calm about the coming adventure – not entirely ready but ticking through the list and confident I will be good to go come Sunday 24 May.
I’m trying not to let my mind settle to long or too much on the size and scale of what lays in front of me. I see it in the eyes of my friends and acquaintances when I speak of it but I’ve been living with the idea of it and the myriad component parts of it for well over a year now, so in some ways for me it just is. It just is my present. It just is my coming and immediate future.
So I am just going about my business of packing what I’m storing, getting rid of that which I’m not, wrapping my mind around the first few weeks, reconnecting with old friends to see when and where I’ll find them, etc. I make lists and tick through them.
I’m glad I decided to have my Going Away Party before I left for my Australian ride. It was a great afternoon, evening and night as friends came and went. At the end we were my core Sydney mates drinking red wine like it was water, singing loudly and badly to a selection of songs from the 1980s and 1990s that were being especially chosen for their likelihood of pleasing me. So the sort of formal, ritualised farewell has happened.
That has allowed, then, in this space in between for the spending of time doing what I would normally do with my friends – like it is as it always is, but each engagement made just a little more luminescent by my nearing departure.
I’ve seen Jim’s Colourwheel permormance again – third time, still good. We had a meal down the pub – him and that circle of his mates. Afterwards, walking up Oxford Street toward the city I messaged Jonathan to see if he was home and up for a drink. He was and we worked our way through three of them at the Golden Age talking of Roger and Peggy, Joan and Don. I was finally – for the first time ever – entirely caught up with Mad Men. Vickieanne and I had just watched the most recent episodes and were biting our nails over the likely fates of our favourites. We had laughed together in delight at Peggy’s rolling skating to Roger’s organ-playing. Such hidden talents! Who knew? On Friday Erin is making me mac and cheese (because I more or less demanded it) and will help me, as ever, with my IT and Social Media quandaries while filling me in on the latest in her life. My leave-taking even pressed the often elusive Rob into an evening of hanging out and catching up in a way we haven’t in years.
So all normal, but not quite so.
Part of my ease around leaving is knowing that it’s just Italy – I can buy the stuff I need, I’ll get a local SIM card, I’ll find WiFi. It will be lovely, it will be Italy, but the day-to-day of communicating and feeding myself won’t be that hard. Basically much of what I can do here I can do there.
What I won’t be able to do there which I can do here is marvel at Vickianne’s exuberant joy, salivate over Erin’s AH-Mazing kitchen creations, lose uncountable hours to engaging conversations about nothing much at all with Jonathan, or enjoy all the easy warmth and comfort that is my friendship with Jim … in short for all the wonders of modern communications I will be without the tactile, phernomal presence of my friends.
I will be without the glasses of wine, the off-and-on planning for a get together and the last minute catch-ups; I’ll be without the hugs and laughter, the repeated themes, and occasional debates. I will share with them tales of my adventures but we will not share the adventures themselves. That is as it must be for the best sort of adventures – but it is for this I am trying not to think too much of the bigness and the length of my journey.
While I ride along alone in Europe, here in Sydney there will be small joys and large, work angst, momentary pop culture interests taken up, new recipes trialled, big plans and small will be contemplated, made, and abandoned. Some of these I will hear about, of course, but not in person, not over a coffee, or while walking down King Street, not over a glass of wine or three somewhere in the City, nor with takeway Thai while watching Mad Men or during a bush walk in Royal National Park. All of that will await my return.
I guess part of the feelings that whirl and rise when I think about it come from the sure knowledge that if I return the exact same person as I am now I’ve failed to be truly open to the adventure. I will change; my friends will change, Sydney will change. I don’t fear the journey but I worry a little about the return.