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memoir: musings of past and present

Image: Minnesota Historical Society

Image: Minnesota Historical Society


It’s one of those cold winter mornings where my bed feels like a blissful cocoon, warm and safe and impossible to abandon. I wake before dawn and the whole world is encased in this transcendent beauty, like I’m the only person whose mind has sacrificed the land of dreams for a glimpse of reality. This moment only lasts a few seconds before a wave of nostalgia washes over me. I grab my journal, pages upon pages of black inked memories, and settle in for a day of sweet idleness.

My mind wanders back to a time in my early 20s. I had just moved to London and right into a share house that encompassed everything my young heart desired. We were a beautiful mess; a group of humans who happened to find themselves in the same corner of the world, collectively trying to figure out what this life thing was all about. I remember working these random temp jobs and being paid so little that I’d spend hours walking to work and back just to avoid paying for a bus ticket. I remember early morning conversations outside secret warehouse parties and dancing hand in hand beneath a golden lampshade. Filled to the brim with wild dreams and a youthful curiosity, I remember feeling like anything was possible, like I was part of something bigger.

I was nine when my family and I moved to Australia. For six years we had been living in a small town in northwest Germany, the only place I identified as home. Yugoslavia, my country of birth, seemed like a distant memory. I’d hear my parents talk late into the night, reminiscing about a part of the world, a time in history that brought them so much happiness. I would sit in silence, captivated by these stories about warm summer nights and close-knit communities and streets that smelled of roasted chestnuts. When I found out we were moving to Australia I pulled out an Atlas in front of my friends, pointed to this small continent in the middle of the ocean and said, ‘See, right there. That’s where I’m going to live.’ I remember the first flat we moved into in Melbourne was right across the road from a train station. I would wake up in the middle of the night and press my face against the window, listening to sounds coming from outside and wondering how long the journey back to Germany would take. I remember fingering the gold pendant around my neck – half of a broken heart my best friend gave me before I left – and wondering if this pain of missing people would ever go away.

It’s a longing that’s spread far and wide. This pursuit for a sense of community, a small corner of the globe set aside especially for us. I believe it’s the reason so many individuals choose to leave home and venture into the unknown; for a chance to discover all the different ways people around the world live, the way they breathe and love and take care of each other. I’ve never been a big believer in soul mates. It seems improbable, this notion that there’s a human out there, put on this planet especially for us. But I do believe there is a place in the world – a giant city or a small town, maybe a house situated high up in the mountains – that’s filled to the brim with the type of people and moments that make us feel alive. The kind of feeling where you’re experiencing everything at once, like your insides are floating in a kaleidoscope of vibrant shapes and colours. Yeah, I believe in that.

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