Reader, I’m so excited to share the next installment of my series, “A Little Bit Brave.”
Each month, I’ll be posting an article by another blogger who took a leap and moved themselves away from everything that was familiar to find the next “right” step in their life. You can read other women’s stories here.
Koalas. Kangaroos. Australia has this amazing mystique about it. It always has for me. I remember when I was 14 or 15, my mum told me she just had this feeling I would live far away when I grew up. I’ve always had an adventurous heart, but I can honestly say that I never expected anything to end up like this.
When it came time to go to university, I left my parents’ house in Shawnee, Kansas to go two hours away to Kansas State. It was basically like high school, round two. Which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but wasn’t without its challenges. The day after we moved in, I played football with my roommate and two new friends. One of these friends would impact my life in a big way, and give me the illusion of a safety net that would help me to jump into the best decision of my life.
I decided in December 2008 that I was definitely going to study abroad in Australia for my sophomore year. The whole year. Not the measly six months everyone else did. I wanted the full cultural experience. I was now also dating this previously-mentioned friend. I was in love. So I packed my two suitcases. Whoever invented the 50lbs/23kg limit never knew a 19-year-old girl packing for a full year. You have to be able to have nice things to go out.. Aussie summers are hot… Nobody has central heating… It’s a delicate balance!
I fell in love with Australia. Head over heels in love with Australia. But how could I stay? About as soon as I landed back on American soil, I was homesick. I can’t explain the tie this country has to my heart, but I knew I had to find a way back. I was prepared to make plans to leave my family, everything I really knew, to spend exorbitant amounts of money on finishing my degree, and to create a life halfway around the world.
I came back over to Australia on a working holiday visa, changed jobs every six months, and saved like crazy to finish my degree. I wanted to get a student visa, and then hopefully immigrate permanently on my own accord. But when I tried to apply, I was told I couldn’t apply onshore, basically because I was an American on a working holiday visa.
I had to leave the country to get my student visa. I didn’t have the cash to escape anywhere except New Zealand – but I had a tight deadline to get back before school started. (This was also happening in the midst of the 2010 Chilean volcano spewing ash into the air and wreaking havoc on air travel in Melbourne and New Zealand.) Even though I miraculously had two places to stay in New Zealand that my dad and another friend from church literally cooked up overnight, I couldn’t guarantee I’d be able to get back in time to start school, and I was risking all the money I had paid the university to start my final year. After some good advice and a lot of tears, I was told I could study one semester on my current visa.
I applied for a de facto partner visa in order to stay, finish my degree, and each year reached a new step. First, a bridging visa was granted, allowing me to finish my studies. It offered temporary residency and later, permanent residency. Finally, a few months ago, I got to take a test that will allow me to become a citizen of this wonderful country that stole my heart so many years ago.
So many people – friends & family – thought I was crazy. I can’t count how many times I was told I was only moving for the boy (that friend I had started dating at Kansas State), or that I would regret it all when the relationship inevitably ended. They all thought I was insane, but I took the leap anyways. It may have been brave to take a chance on life and love, but it didn’t feel like my little bit brave moment. At the time, I thought that my best life was with my then-current boyfriend.
Five and a half years later, I made the toughest – and what I believe was the bravest – decision of my life so far. I’d had my future decided. I had decided when I was 20 that I was going to get married, have kids, have a life with that guy. But things didn’t end up that way. Life took its toll on my relationship, and I was hurting. I stayed longer than I should because leaving meant my visa became very complicated, and I really thought there was still a chance.
When I had my moment of clarity – that this part of my life was not what I wanted forever – there was part of it that was beautiful and empowering. But there was also part of it that was completely terrifying. Ending that relationship meant risking nearly my entire community. My house, my belongings, my pets, but most of all, our friends and his family.
But I did it. And the craziest thing happened. I felt so much lighter. This weight I hadn’t been aware of was no more. Until it all hit the fan.
Friends judged. I decided to start dating someone else who I’d known before hand. I was asked if I had cheated. And worse, I heard whispers behind my back from people I cared about. It felt like no one cared about how I had been hurt those last years, and no one thought to ask me why. I felt I had grieved the relationship before it ended. There were bumps along the way that I had never gotten over. Hurts that never really healed. But dating that “someone else” brought unbelievable happiness to my life.
The weight that was lifted at the end of the previous relationship felt miles away. Even with the stress from people I cared about thinking the worst of me, there was this amazing man who was falling in love with me and teaching me how to be loved without boundaries or limits – a lesson I really needed to learn. When I ended the previous relationship, I had no idea what would happen.
I had been staring the single life in the face, when all I wanted was to get married and start a family, and up pops this wonderful man who wants the same things and cared for me. He is sweet, kind, strong, and steadies me through the storms. I couldn’t have asked for better.
My brave moment was deciding that long term happiness meant more than staying in the safe zone. It meant more than what people thought of me. For a people pleaser like me, those were the hardest moments for me. The fact that a lot of those decisions were made a world a way from my family and two best friends. Ultimately those brave moments, led me to where I am today. And I wouldn’t change that for anything.
BIO: Laura Adams is a journalism grad and hobbyist photographer from the Midwest USA who obsesses over beach volleyball and font choices. She spends her days chasing after her crazy chocolate lab and going on adventures around country Victoria on the weekends.