Some students know how it feels to re-locate to study and go back “home” over the holiday period, away from their new friends, partner(s) and Melbourne summer events and atmosphere. Whilst some travel for an hour or two by car others travel by plane for three or more hours. And still both struggle with existential questions, displacement, and cyclical nature of living away from home to study. Although, whilst it all sounds serious, seeing family once (or more) a year is a pretty cathartic experience where you get to live like old times, where your housemates are your own flesh and blood.
My existentialist side comes out to play only in Darwin, where I grew up and started to decide the kind of person I wanted to be. And with this, it is the place where I can no longer run away from answering the dreaded questions of “Who am I? Where am I going? And what am I doing?” which are common amongst uni students, especially during exam period and semester breaks, but there is something much more poignant about trying to find the answers in the place you grew up. And whilst I never have an answer for these questions, it’s the process of seemingly long stares at the ceiling, extensive journal writing and asking overly complex questions to my parents about what they did when they were young that bookends the end and beginning of my year. And every year my soul search spirals into a several day period of depression about how I became who I am, until I snap myself out of it to think about who I am, where I’m going, what I’m doing… until next year. I feel extremely lucky to have a home away from home and to get away from the intensity of Melbourne to a place that’s inhabited by nothing but crocodiles and grey nomads. I can explore my existentialism and reflect on the year past and the one ahead. However, it isn’t always a calm reflective time.
Displacement feels inescapable when you’re living between two places. For me it feels like I have three separate lives that are all sewn together through my experiences in Darwin and my memorabilia there. All with contrasting experiences, they feel disjointed and fragmented. I grew up in Melbourne where I engaged with the natural environment and walked home every day with my best friend through the most beautiful Sherbrooke forests and made new friends in my first years at high school. Then my family moved to Darwin where I started all over again, making new friends, exploring new interests and wishing to return to Melbourne. Those years, of course, were stained with teenage angst. My current life in Melbourne feels like I’m returning to a reoccurring dream where everything is so familiar but isn’t the same and not quite like how it used to be. Visiting where I used to grow up and my old friends there, I am engulfed in a wave of nostalgia and familiarity but also a strange hunch that they’re memories from a life that isn’t mine. My displacement stems from living away from family where I have a shared history with them for a great majority of my life and where I am now, living in an environment where I have a future. I’m am still unsure whether I can confidently call two places my home, for remotely different reasons, but I am willing to try.
The cycle of going back and forth between two places not only feeds into the idea of displacement – never really settling anywhere or feeling completely at peace – but also feeds the cycle of annual self-reflection. Every year the cycle continues to show personal growth, reflection and boundless possibilities. But will the concept of entropy ring true? To the point where the regularity of my annual self-reflection will decline into a greater disorder and further disassociation with memory, and the feelings of displacement and fragmentation. Or will it, alternatively, become so regular, where the reflective time spent away from Melbourne no longer harbours the effects of personal reflection as the years go past? I honestly don’t know which I prefer but can feel slightly more at ease, knowing there are other students in the Monash community who face the same challenges of the cyclical nature of living away from home.
I definitely feel I’ve grown as a person since the last time I visited Darwin but I can imagine I said this last year and I will say it again next year. But I don’t know, it just feels like there’s something more to living away from home than just being in two places at different times of the year, in places that hold such personal relevance, for completely opposite reasons.