It is almost 5 a.m., and I am leaving for the airport in just a few hours. I find myself leaving last minute bits and pieces behind, convinced that I will be home at the end of my holidays to retrieve and organize the scattered articles of my life that I left behind for just a moment in time.
It was a few weeks ago when it started hitting me, and like a mosquito I would slap the thought away.
I was walking to the train, a walk that I took every single morning for the past few months when I made my way to work. Through the quiet, gentle and still slumbering streets of Pyrmont, across the Darling Harbour footbridge with the rows of flags stretching out in front of me, standing tall like soldiers and serving as a reminder to my fourth grade art lesson with Miss Pantangelo on depth perception.
There were always a couple of hundred people walking across the bridge with me each morning, going in either direction, and there were always tradies (re: construction workers) working on things, though I never saw any progress. A bend around on the bike path toward Sussex Street, a small uphill battle that was never fun in heels as I passed Kent, Clarence, and the Subway shop with its distinct smell of suffocated sandwiches before finally turning on to York Stree where I reached Wynyard Station.
I did this twice a day, and one afternoon I found myself thinking, In just a few weeks’ time, I will be one less person walking the city streets, one less person taking this exact route day in and day out. Will you even notice I am gone, Sydney?
And the truth is, Sydney, you will not. Cities can’t feel; they can’t miss someone or feel a person’s absence. They are just concrete, stone, devoid of emotions. Sure, maybe the baristas at my favorite little cafe where I would treat myself to a morning coffee may one day realize I have not been around in a while, or the friends I have made running through Pyrmont and around the Opera House, always seeing this one couple who would smile at me whenever we crossed paths on our morning jogs, may wonder if I found a new route.
The people of a city can feel and miss and reflect, but Sydney — you will not even know that I am gone. You will wake up every day just as a you do and go to bed every night like you did the day before. Funny the way that happens, how a city or a place can forever change you but the exchange — the influences parted — are not always mutual.
You showed me a lot of difficult times throughout the time I was living here, Sydney. I came to this city — well, continent really — knowing one person, and two years later I am leaving Sydney more human than when I arrived. For the first time in my life, you taught me what it was like to fall in love and what it was like to have my heart broken, and damn if it is not the most gaping void that can swallow up the biggest of hearts.
It is hard to walk away from you, Sydney, to walk away from a life that I so carefully created by the day, a life that I had always envisioned for myself: one lived out in the ease and pleasure of a life abroad in a society that understands how to press pause and appreciate moments in time.
The truth is, I never knew whether I could stay forever; yet at the same time I never saw an end in sight, never saw us parting ways. Every morning in the past few weeks that I have set out for a run, I have found myself sprinting away from the thoughts of leaving you. Each time a thought came into my head, my speed picked up, and my reluctance to saying good bye propelled me fast forward.
Looking at the Opera House became painfully beautiful, the glow of city lights reflecting on the waters of and lighting up Darling Harbour each night soon became too much to bear. It felt like an impending break up, like holding your gaze for even the slightest of seconds just caused so much heartache and self-torture; I knew that I could not look at you forever, that one day soon I would be gone.
We have had our difficult times and moments, Sydney, and I still can not truly believe I am leaving. I said good bye to friends tonight like I would see them tomorrow, not processing the thought of never seeing some of those I came to believe would be in my life forever and a day.
You showed me good and true friendship, people that I will carry on in my heart forever. From the friendships I created at work, the friends of friends who became essential to my life and on to the family I came home to each night at my Little Mount house. If there was anything I learned in my last months living here, it was that I was not alone. I was surrounded by people who truly love me, who want the best for me and want me to be nothing but happy.
And I finally am.
I am confused, sure. Just another 20-something never knowing what I am doing with my life or what my next move will be.
Who knows what life may bring, and I can only find solace in the thought that what is meant to be will be.
But one thing I know, Sydney, is that you taught me lessons on life I will never forget, that I will carry on with me in my heart forever.
And for that I thank you.