Today I find myself in Melbourne, the place I grew up. It's unrecognizable. Perhaps I could say I don't recognise it because I lived in outer suburbs when I was younger, but that's no real excuse. I lived inner city, with Rudolf, in my early 20's when I was studying to become an occupational therapist. We were immersed in city life. Perhaps it's because our life back then feels a lifetime ago, and we've done so much since.
We were so young. I went back to Uni to study OT in 1987, at the ripe old age of 22. By that stage Rudolf and I had been going out for almost 3 years and to save money we moved into a share house. What a year of adventures that was! The following year we decided we might go it alone and moved in together. Life was fun. At some point in my 3rd year of study we decided to get married, and for some obscure reason I thought it would be fine to get married in my final year. It was fine; just busy.
It was the following year that things changed for us. We were the first in our group of friends to get married, but soon after, it felt like there was a wedding a week! Rudolf and I got married and then settled back into our old ways. Not our friends. Houses were bought and then babies started to arrive. This was not our idea of fun, and we were far too immature to contemplate either of these options, so we did the next best thing - we packed up and left!
I remember telling my family that I'd applied for an OT position in the East Kimberley's and been successful - we were moving. My oldest sister said she was worried and when I asked why she said, 'what if you don't come back'? At the time it sounded like a ridiculous question so I laughed her off by saying 'where would we go if we didn't come back?', but she was actually right. We never returned to Melbourne to live.
We lived and worked in the East Kimberley's for a while, then we moved to the USA to do the same. We stayed there for a while working and traveling until we became weary, and that's when we first discovered Cairns. When we returned to Australia we wanted to catch up with friends and family, but we knew we didn't want to live in Melbourne again. After our hello's we bought a car and drifted up the east coast with the vague intention of checking out Cairns.
We'd heard it was nice. It was. We stayed for around a year, and by this stage, thought it was a good time to settle. We tried to play grown-ups so we purchased a little 1 bedroom unit. We threw far to much money into renovating it and then as soon as the renovations were finished we decided we were board. We packed our back packs again, locked up our little unit and took off to the UK. We came back intermittently for holidays, so we seemed to live between Cairns and London for a period of time, until Rudolf decided he was home sick and wanted to come home permanently. That was a problem because by that stage I'd forged a career in London and managed to be accepted by Oxford University to study my Master's degree.
I'm not going to lie, those were difficult times but we knew that if we were going to be holding hands in our 80's we would have to live separately for a while. Rudolf returned to Cairns and I stayed in London working and completing my studies. Over the eighteen months we were apart we talked just about every night (phone calls back then were outrageously expensive) and we had three extended holidays together. Our last holiday was the Christmas / New Year of 2000.
Despite our assurances to the contrary, I think both our families thought we had separated, so you can imagine the response when I called to tell them that after 16 years with Rudolf, and while we were living on the opposite sides of the world, I found myself pregnant. It took another 6 months before I could complete my research so I could return home to write my thesis. I landed back in Cairns 29 weeks pregnant. We knew we wanted to bring up our children in Cairns, so we stayed. We've stayed ever since.
So here I sit in a hotel room in a city that I thought should feel familiar, but doesn't. Maybe that's OK. Nearly three decades have passed. We have lived a life; I guess it's OK for the city to do the same.