A year ago today, Darren and I arrived in Melbourne.
It was cold, it was 3am, and we’d just finished driving 12 hours. Minutes before departing the Central Coast, Darren had just visited his grandmother in hospital for what was to be the last time, and the drive was one mixed with both joy and pain. The joy of starting a new life, the pain of impending loss. The challenge of looking for a new job. For, you see, having agreed to keep Darren on for at least 6 months remotely, with a view to setting up a Melbourne office, Darren’s boss put him off just days after the ink dried on our lease agreement in Melbourne.
After working there for 17 years, and having been told to depart to Melbourne with the full support of the business, it came across as totally lacking in moral integrity or standards, regardless of any actual reason behind it. And it hurt.
A few days after we arrived, Darren’s grandmother, Betty Gibson, passed, after a protracted hospital stay.
Any three of moving, death and job loss can be categorised as a traumatic experience. Darren copped all three.
Yet, through it all we kept pushing along, knowing the long-term rewards were worth the short-term pain. Within the first 24 hours of arriving in Melbourne we started cementing friendships – most notably our closest down here, and that process has continued throughout. We’ve met some great friends, we’ve met some best friends, and discovered depths of a friendship we’d never considered before.
Less than a fortnight after we arrived, Southern Hibearnation 2011 kicked off and Melbourne suddenly seemed full to bursting with bears.
Imagine arriving in a small seaside hamlet for a weekend vacation, looking forward to peace and quiet, then discovering that the World Firecracker Festival was about to start. We’d gone from pretty much zero participation in any gay community for our entire lives, then Southern Hibearnation exploded around us and we were in the midst of it. Yet, even during that, people who were insanely busy with Hibearnation went out of their way to make us feel welcome and included. In retrospect, being able to partake in Hibearnation from the edges couldn’t have been a better introduction to our new lives down here.
Fast forward a year, and there’s been much growth for both of us. Darren discovered that the Melbourne Graphic Design industry is much focused on a person’s graduate status, not really giving a damn about whether someone has been in the industry since its inception. So now he’s working in customer contact – and despite the frenetic pace of that, has grown to love it and find more fulfilment than he had for years in a job that had stopped trying to give him new challenges.
There’s been some ups and downs in-between – some pretty big ones, in fact. Years of neurotic emotional suppression ingrained from childhood and overall work-from-home isolation drove me to seek psychological counselling, for instance – and while it seemed initially like it was giving in, what it actually achieved was a giving-up of so many burdens I shouldn’t have been carrying. Not all of them – but I’m progressively knocking them over, one by one.
Yet through it all, the benefits of being in Melbourne have constantly outshone any interim challenges, and left us feeling more fulfilled than we’d ever been before.
Just a couple of weeks ago we had our second housewarming since moving down here – the place we’d been renting was sold, yet fortuitously, a house across the road came up for rent at the same time, and we were able to snatch it up. Surrounded by close friends and best friends – people who had welcomed us into the community, we also used it as an opportunity to celebrate Darren’s impending 42nd birthday.
As the cake was cut, and we all sang “happy birthday” to Darren, one thing was abundantly clear.
Betty would be happy for us.