A life-changing moment, or, how I got myself into this

by Alissa

Thursday May third, I climbed into the shower and convinced myself to move to Australia.

Since then I’ve told myself and friendly bystanders hundreds of times that we’re going, and most times now it doesn’t feel so gut-wrenchingly stunning.

But in those twenty minutes, alone under the hot high-pressure blast of our shower, I had to let go of a dozen mostly geographic yet closely held ideas about our future. Giving up on proximity to family. Leaving Canada. Leaving North America. Giving up on Europe.  Giving up on sharing even a time-zone with anyone I know.

They see different stars there. And that makes me a little queasy.

My husband (henceforth known as Ace) had just received a very generous offer from the University of Newcastle–the first offer in three years of post-doctoral suspense that met and more than fulfilled his ambition for a good academic position and a high quality of life. There were a couple of other possibilities in the wings, but nothing firm, and nothing that lit him up like the idea of Australia.

When the job ad came up in February, he told me he wouldn’t even apply if I didn’t want to consider living there. In the long practice of openness that 10 years of marriage to a student/aspiring academic has honed in me, I decided I could be open. When the ad closed in March, he was invited for an interview. A few weeks after that, he was breakfasting on the beach in Newcastle, watching pods of dolphins and surfers cavort in the waves, and talking to people who were excited about his research.

At home alone with our two-year-old (henceforth known as Octavia), in the small margin between self-care and self-pity, we ate bacon at every meal and lived from Skype call to Skype call. We fought the bitter winds of April at the playground, and I congratulated myself on procrastinating so long on putting away the winter coats. In our last few days before a three-week visit from Ace’s mother, who arrived the day before he did, we looked for Australia-themed things at the library, and I secretly thought about how easy life without winter might be.

Squinting into the sleet while leaving the library one of those mornings, I glanced up at the Canada flag, and across the field to the Canada geese in the pond and our neighbourhood here. This has been such a good place for us, what does the weather really matter? When we reached home and started reading Octavia’s speed-gathered stack of books, I found Little Miss Stubborn, by Roger Hargreaves in the pile. Not my usual taste, but I try not to censor her book choices too heavily. In this short tale, Little Miss Stubborn takes the wrong fork in the road and ends up in Coldland, which she swears she meant to do, and that it is a charming place, even as she catches cold and falls on the ice. It gave me pause.

The light in our shower is golden, in part because of the hue of the shower curtain, in part because it is the last room in the house without the mediocre half-light of high-efficiency lightbulbs. There is no window in our bathroom, but I’ve decided the shower itself could be my window to Australia, and I want to be open to that warmth and light. I also want to take this shower head with me.

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