by LUCY ORMONDE
About a month ago I was alone. And I was struggling.
I found out I needed to have a small operation on my back, and when I couldn’t get an appointment in Sydney (where I live) I decided to travel back to Melbourne (where I’m from.) I’ll usually use any excuse to get back to my ‘hood, but this time it made sense – mum would be able to drive me to and from the appointment and the clinic I’d go to already had my records on file.
The operation itself was no big deal. I’d never had anything cut into me before, but it was over in less than an hour and in the nurse’s own words, I was “almost too relaxed”.
I spent the next couple of days hanging out at Mum’s place, lying on my stomach with the TV remote, a stack of books and my laptop within reach. Mum fussed over me (like all mothers do).
My besties dropped in for cups of tea and made the most of a rare succession of days where there were no distractions, no people to meet and no places to be. For a moment it felt like I was 10 years old again and home from school with tonsillitis; a mix of vulnerability and comfort all at once.
And then suddenly it’s Monday morning and I’m on the 6am flight to Sydney. I’m curled up in the corner of my seat in the second back row, and I’m crying into the hood of my oversized made-for-a-Melbourne-winter jacket. The air hostess asks me what’s wrong… and I have nothing.
How do I tell someone the reason I’m sobbing is because I’ve just realised I need someone to change the dressing on my stitches and I don’t know who to ask? I’ve realised that I don’t have anyone to ask. That I’m alone. That I’m not that close to anyone in this city.
I have people in my life – three gorgeous roommates, some distant relatives in the hills district and the most nurturing, beautiful group of work colleagues a girl could ask for. But I can’t exactly ask them to “spell check this news story and check the wound on my back,” can I?
That’s why I felt alone. And it seems ridiculous. The cabin crew called for an “arm doors and cross check” and it suddenly hit me that everyone on my speed dial list lives in another state. Everyone I turn to when something’s going wrong, the people I call when I need a cuddle, the relatives and friends who drop everything when I need to talk…. they’re all an hour’s flight away.
It’s a funny thing, being alone and living away from your people. A maze of emotions. Some days meeting new people and making new friends is like a drug you can’t get enough of. But other days – the days you’re vulnerable – it’s easy to fall in a heap. When you’ve known people forever you don’t mind burdening then with your problems from time to time, because you know you’d do the same for them and you’ve done it a million times in the past.
It’s the same feeling when you’ve got a ridiculously funny story to share. There’s a weird moment when something’s happened and you’re not sure whether your new friends will find it as funny as you do.
There’s fear they’ll look at you blankly while you’re almost rolling on the floor laughing. You know how they’re going to react. You know they’re not going to ask stupid questions; that they’re never going to judge.
But villages take time to build and those speed dial-esque friendships take time to form. So in the meantime, I buy an industrial sized packet of tissues on the way to the office. I turn up to work like nothing’s wrong. And when someone (read: everyone) sees those puffy plane eyes and asks if something’s wrong, I answer “damn hay fever”.
And they all know I’m lying.
Have you ever felt alone or isolated? How did you cope?