It was a cold and drizzly Tuesday afternoon. I’d just left work, happy to have left with a feeling of elation that my six lessons that day had gone off without a hitch… and having chatted with my crush made it all the more better. The wipers undulated slowly across my windscreen, slightly blurred by the fine moisture emanating throughout the atmosphere below the dark, foreboding clouds. No Doubt’s ‘Settle Down’ played through my car speakers. I sang along emphatically as I normally would within the safe, non-judgmental confines of my black Jeep Wrangler.
‘You can see it in my eyes / You can read it on my lips
I’m trying to get a hold of this…’
As the lyrics continued, my chest tightened slightly, leading to a sudden and deep breath of inhalation. In this unexpected moment of previously avoided introspection, I remembered the life decisions I needed to address. As the lyrics suggested, I was trying to come to terms with something. The uncertainty, the doubt, the anxiety… it was still there, threatening to consume the forefront of my mind; threatening to wipe my pleasant, short-term memory clear, much like the wipers sarcastically waving to me from the outside of the windscreen. As Gwen Stefani’s vocals endured, little did I know that the song I was so happily belting out foreshadowed what was to happen next. And further to that, what would happen next would be the perfect metaphor for my current situation.
Driving my usual route home, I noticed a digital traffic update sign that flashed 'Accident on Richmond Road. Take detour.' “Poor bugger…” I thought, silently thanking God that it wasn’t me. I flicked on my left indicator and moved into the next lane of the freeway, leading me to take an earlier exit than usual so as to avoid the expected delays.
Gearing down appropriately as I approached the red traffic lights, I touched the brake peddle and came to a complete stop. I squinted at the street signs through the misty air: one pointed left, the other right. It was an intersection I was unfamiliar with though I recognised the street name. I made an executive decision within due course before the lights turned green – my inner compass has always steered me in the right direction. “Right it is,” I said aloud as I slowly but surely released my foot from the brake. Much like riding a bicycle, my foot now pressed gently upon the accelerator as if automated to do so without a second thought.
As I crawled my Jeep around the ever-dampening bend, my eyes remained focussed on the cars in the two lanes to my right. One car was slightly overhanging its lane, clearly having misjudged its ability to fit in behind the car that was ahead. Knowing I had to be even more careful, and acknowledging that my tyres had a tendency to slide erratically in wet weather, I lightly tapped the brake with my right foot so as to slow down even more.
Suddenly, my car careened around the bend uncontrollably, and at an unexpected speed. The back tyres seemed to have absolutely no grip. I’d lost control of the vehicle. I put my foot down harder on the brake - no dice. I turned the steering wheel as fast as I could to avoid hitting the car that had driven up alongside mine. I spun the wheel one way then the other. My reliable Jeep had lost its shit. Before I knew it, I was situated halfway up the sidewalk facing oncoming traffic. I was directly below the freeway’s underpass at the time.
The most dramatic part was over. I was at a full stop. I was unharmed. I was safe. Miraculously, I’d avoided hitting any cars at the T-intersection and although I did feel a sudden jolt as my Jeep exceeded the gutter, the incident left me quite literally parked perfectly between two enormous cement pylons. Somehow, I’d managed to avoid making contact with either one.
‘No big deal (I can handle it) / It’ll bounce off me (I can handle it)’
I wasn't hurt. I wasn't even rattled. I distinctly remember my unsettlingly logical and calm train of thought as my car spun into a frenzy: "I cannot afford an insurance claim right now. This is bad timing. I really don’t need this. If I have an accident, I’ll have to call work and let them know I won’t be in. What a hassle!" Logical, calm and forward-planning as always. Though my immediate reaction to the potentially fatal situation was alarmingly skewed, it did instigate me to drive with more patience and care from then on.
As soon as the car came to a halt, I took off my seat belt, pulled up the handbrake and started to reach for the ignition, ready to switch off the Jeep and assess the damage. It hadn’t quite clicked that I’d gotten off scot-free. As I looked at the two pylons neighbouring either side of my front bonnet, I realised just how lucky I had been. No one had been hurt. There was not a scratch or dent to be seen. Few people saw so my dignity remained intact. As my motor continued to hum healthily, I assessed the area for oncoming traffic and reversed back into my original lane. Slowly I made my way home via the detour I otherwise would not have taken had there not been a reported accident on my usual route home.
The near miss became a symbol of my inability to choose between the two choices I was facing at the time: the comfortable path I was already on as a high school teacher, or to forge ahead towards the challenging obstacle course that was the unknown. If you're a close friend, loved one or acquaintance, you would know I lead a very busy and purposeful life. Leaving no stone unturned, my spare time is often spent writing and researching for personal fulfilment, learning a second language, working as a P.A. at geek cons, playing guitar and piano, and dedicating a good amount of time to exercise. If this comes as no surprise to you, then you'd also know I've booked a one-way ticket to London in 2016.
"You must be so excited!" people chime. "London! This must be a dream come true!" The response to both of these statements is a dull and boring "no". Besides the fact that many focus on the 'holiday' aspect of the journey rather than the stress of migration, the impending move to London has evoked in me a sense, or rather, fear of the unknown.
Currently, my future in London is completely set: teaching work is all systems go; working visa has been sorted, and accommodation is close to finalisation. However, if the extensive administration of moving to London was so simple and stress-free, why then am I so damn opposed to the idea?
Plan B was hurled into action as soon as the doubts began to surface. Ardently, I set forth on a job hunt, passionately seeking a career outside of teaching that would allow me to immerse myself in the world of writing. The ABC advertised a position that had me head over heels in love with the idea of working for a highly respected and ethical media corporation; but alas, my heart was broken when, after spending a solid two weeks writing a three-thousand word selection criteria document, I received the dreaded email that my application had been rejected. Painstakingly, I continued to search for similar jobs, my mind set on establishing a career that prided itself on truth, accuracy and the exposure of media manipulation. It was soon after the professional rejection that I came across a position modestly titled ‘Writer and Editor’ for an eclectic Sydney marketing agency.
Upon calling the Editorial Director, I learned that the role comprised of copywriting and managing social media for a multitude of fields: design, business, hospitality and medical to name a few. I could do this job with my eyes closed. The next six days were spent working tirelessly on a cover letter that thoroughly addressed the obscure selection criteria of the advertised position. During our phone call, the E.D. had noted that applications were open for another three weeks, so I had plenty of time to make this one count.
Only hours after my car had spun out of control on the wet and slippery road, I was eating dinner and sitting at my open Macbook Air, decidedly set on completing my convincing application. Another hour later and I breathed a sigh of relief. “Done...” So eager was I to apply that I’d kept the advertisement open in my web browser for six days – its presence acting as a reminder that the figurative clock was ticking. Ready to submit, I clicked Google Chrome’s ‘refresh’ icon. However, rather than being invited to ‘Apply now’, I was met with ‘Sorry – this job is no longer advertised.’
‘Here we go again / Are you insane?
Underneath the avalanche / So heavy again…’
Underneath the avalanche / So heavy again…’
I felt lost, even more so than before. I felt directionless. I felt hopeless. I felt like I wasn’t good enough… No – rather, I felt like I was damn good but my talents and expertise were being disregarded by future employers, and wasted in my current job. I felt frustrated. My future was hanging in the balance, and I was desperately grasping for lifelines that just weren’t there.
“Maybe I’m destined for London,” I thought before dragging myself to bed, dejected. “Maybe that’s the universe’s plan.”
Of my decision to live abroad, my friends and family have been incredibly supportive - I cannot fault them on that. Each of them wholeheartedly wishes for me to embark on the adventure as they know I’ll realise aspirations that would otherwise have gone unaccomplished in Australia. They lament on upcoming ventures they envision for me. They tell me exactly how we will communicate in the future - Skype calls with my friends and their yet-to-be-conceived children is the agreed mode. They tell me that they will miss me dearly, and selfishly wish I’d find a job in Sydney so that we can continue to see each other on a regular basis. Although their support has been so very appreciated, it has me left questioning my ability to cope in a foreign land without so much as a loved one’s hug for months on end.
Then there are the heartstrings, and the incredible guy tugging at them. As individuals in a highly digitalised society where face-to-face interactions are becoming more uncommon by the day, rarely do we meet people we have an instant connection with, as if drawn to them by some unknown force. Sure, I’ve only known my crush for a short period of time, but our conversations both in and outside of the workplace have led me to consider him a valued friend. I was instantly comfortable with this gentleman, as if I’d known him for years. Within a week or two, I found I was sharing my inner thoughts, hidden 'talents' (or rather, my less than desirable musical attempts), expressing self-doubt without restriction, and exposing my flaws quite comfortably. It was (and continues to be) a beautiful feeling.
While our paths seemed to cross in synchronicity with our experiences at the time, London remained a ticking time bomb, threatening to destroy the positive progress made with this intelligent, witty, grounded, soulful and kind-hearted man. Though regardless of who the love interest may be, my commitment to international migration created a temporary barricade around my love life, the sign stating ‘OFF LIMITS’ to any man who may be interested in getting to know me further. London soon became the invasive chaperone that ends your date before you get the goodnight kiss. It is the stroke of midnight that turns a beautiful ballgown back into rags. In an ideal world, our friendship would blossom into a solid relationship, albeit in due time. I worry that my efforts have been in vain if London's calling lures me to its shores in 2016.
As I write this, it continues to rain. Not drizzle, but pour. I’m sitting at my desk in an empty staff room, listening to the obnoxious ticking of the clock on the wall, well-aware that I’ve stayed well-passed my usual finish time, and further aware of the stringent amount of time I have to make a decision about my immediate future. If time is of the essence, then, like my wily car accident, it’s no wonder I’m so uncentred.
That said, I am resilient. I am focussed within my very being. I know exactly what my end goal is, though I may not always like the journey. I persevere, I endure, and I overcome obstacles as they occur.
As I drove away from the dangerously damp intersection of which my car slid, I couldn’t help but thank God resonantly for not only keeping me safe, but for making me the irrepressible person I am today. ‘Settle Down’ continued to play as I glanced back at the freeway’s underpass. Despite the immediate events, I continued to sing along with the equally tenacious Stefani:
‘I’m a rough and tough / And nothing’s gonna knock this girl down…’
By Belinda Pearce