Recently I found a picture of myself when I was fourteen, at my nana’s 70th birthday party.
My arms are crossed and I’m waiting for my life to begin.
Those days were full of english homework and quiet crushes and coming home from school to my mum and sandwiches and afternoon tea. When I was fourteen, nothing made me happier than warming my pyjamas over the heater and slipping into blissful, familiar warmth.
At nineteen I left my little nest. I moved to Melbourne, where glass buildings glittered over a city full of constant movement. My life changed, of course. Away from family and comfort, I had to create new relationships, new spaces. It was hard. I lived with three strangers in a big house in the suburbs, far away from the light of the city. Sometimes I stood in grocery aisles with ten dollars in my bank account and didn’t know if I should buy an avocado or quietly slip one into my bag. Sometimes I was so tired that I fell asleep on the tram, waking suddenly to an empty carriage at the end of the line. Sometimes, when my bag was heavy and my eyes were droopy I wished that my mum and dad could come and pick me up and take me home.
But it gets easier, looking after yourself. One day I found that I could see the beauty of the place I lived in, and not just what I had to do to get through it. And at the end of the night when I said I was going home I didn’t think of there, I thought of here.
I moved into a new apartment with wooden floors and cream walls with my cousin who is like my sister now. The people that live across from us have a baby and at night I see bright jewels of light spilling from their windows as they dance around the living room.
I like buying flowers and placing them in a jam jar. I like drinking tea with honey while nina simone trembles from the record player. I like texting and feeling the heartbeat of my phone throb with words from friends. I felt content. I knew the younger me, she’d be proud.
She liked to be alone then, as I do, now.
A friend from home moves to Melbourne and, as if from afar, I see her go through the same stuff as I did. She says to me she feels guilty for lying in bed on her days off while her housemates move around the house, talking, laughing, slowly leaving. She comes out when everyone is gone and finds messages on the whiteboard in the kitchen that say we miss you Elena!
I understand her completely, for introverted people, being left alone after a busy day is like a wonderfully wrapped gift, as the door closes you untie the bow to the blossoming silence of the house.
But sometimes, solitude turns into loneliness and I am a little bird alone. The phone that was full of texts from my friends yesterday, now sits silent on my bedside table. I wish it, will it to call.
When it doesn’t and I feel terrible, I go to headspace. There I see someone who isn’t family or friend, who has their own story, yet completely listens to mine and knows what to say.
And when I come home I look at things that I wrote when I was fourteen, and things that I wore and how I decorated my room with flowers in jam jars and listened to my dads old nina simone records, and I feel like I am wrapped in my warm pyjamas again. Because I’m growing up.
Headspace is a free counselling service, Australia wide. You can check it out at headspace.org