It’s only been two weeks since the last day of my year-long adventure in Australia.
The day brought many mixed emotions, and the difficult ones were perhaps heightened by the fact that I’d only booked the flight home two weeks prior. Though I never knew exactly when my time in Oz would come to an end, I never expected it to end so abruptly. Diminishing funds, a flight that could be paid for with frequent flier miles, and another circumstance or two led to the quick and early departure. With so little time to come to terms with the end of my experience, I boarded the plane with little-to-no processing of the end of one journey and the beginning of another. Thankfully that last day included a final visit to Adriano Zumbo and Din Tai Fung — both welcome and tasty ways to celebrate the year and distract myself from the inevitable.
On the morning of my flight, Adam and I stopped by one of our favorite cafes in Sydney’s Inner West before he and Paul Heinz took me to the airport. While Adam was able to say goodbye, I can’t remember if I was able to mumble anything intelligible through the tears.
Nearly 20 hours later I was moments away from boarding a flight from San Francisco to Dulles when a friend (who’s more like a brother) emailed me, asking me to call him straight away. I prayed he was simply eager to speak with me now that my feet were back on American soil, but I feared and anticipated the worst — had something happened to our mutual like-a-brother friend who serves in the military?
Moments later my worst fear was confirmed. Our friend John had passed away while I was flying over the Pacific, only it had happened at home, not while on active duty.
As soon as I learned of John’s death, the boarding process began, and I fought to hold in tears. I wanted to express all of the hurt, shock, confusion, and sadness I was feeling, but I didn’t feel like sharing those emotions with countless strangers in a confined space. Half-way through the flight I finally made my way to the lavatory and let go of every tear I’d been holding onto.
The next few days were a blur. Between jet lag, reverse culture shock, and aching over losing John, I hardly slept and cried at the drop of a hat. My dad came to the rescue by offering airline vouchers he had received from being bumped from a flight — it made the trip to the funeral possible.
I spent several days with my friends in Orlando, meeting many others who loved John and whose lives he touched. When we weren’t at the family and friend night, the service, or at the funeral, we spent time sharing stories about John and supporting one another. It was difficult to leave after only a few days, but I know John has a great group of friends who will look out for one another.
Now that I’m back in Virginia, I’m beginning the process of trying to settle in to life back in the USA — a full two weeks after returning. I’ve kept myself busy, sorting through all of my belongings to see what’s necessary and what needs to go; scheduling networking lunches with former colleagues; and making appointments for changes to banking, auto and health insurance, and so on.
In the midst of the process of making myself busy, I find myself tearing up at random moments. I cannot distinguish if the tears are ones of exhaustion, saying goodbye to Australia, or saying goodbye to John. There’s no doubt a mix of ending the Aussie journey and losing John are both constantly on my mind, but I’m finding it difficult to process either at the moment. I’m in this odd in-between phase of grieving what’s gone, taking each day as it comes to avoid feeling overwhelmed, attempting to be somewhat forward thinking as my “re-entry money” won’t last long, and trying to be social with friends and family who are excited to have me stateside.
After so many goodbyes in such a short amount of time, I’m hoping that the days and weeks to come have some pleasant hellos, reunions, and bright spots. And perhaps a stress-free, low-key source of income!
Featured image via creative commons..