What a title! This must be really woo-hoo or really deep and meaningful. You are welcome to decide for yourself.
There was a mystery that puzzled me for over a decade. I think I solved it. And I want to share my journey with you.
One day, I set on my balcony wondering…
I watched on social media one of my far away friends enjoying their holiday by the sea. Their beautiful videos, photos and words of gratitude flooded their feed. As I watched it, I caught myself feeling a level of envy, which made me feel very curious.
The ocean is only 10km away from where I am right now – I can smell it from my balcony. Why am I not enjoying my seaside life, flooding my social media with gratitude and holidays?
I remembered that when I was packing for my move across the seas, from Russia to Australia, I anticipated magic – this every-day-holiday lifestyle in a tropical country like Australia. I imagined my life overseas (in Australia) a never ending holiday!
And indeed, there are many amazing birds here that sound exactly like the tropical birds in the movies I watched when I was little, it’s warm here most days of the year; ocean, mountains, forests, lakes and rivers are only a short drive away no matter where you are.
Why am I sitting on my balcony feeling envy about someone’s seaside holiday while living only 10km away from the ocean?
This story isn’t about the affects of social media on our mental health. This story is about my the loss of meaning and joy, and how I found them again.
I grew up in the “European” part of Russia, 2-hr-on-a-plane away from Black Sea and any holiday-alike destination, sandwiched between the freezing North and the Caucasus (on the south). I say “European” because the Russian continent is called Euroasia, containing “Europe” and “Asia” within, divided by the Ural Mountains. I bet you didn’t know that.
By the way, Caucasus is a mountain region between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea populated by, the so-known in Australia Caucasian race, who are mainly Armenians, Azerbaijanians, Georgians, and South Russians, who often do not look like white-blue-eyed Caucasians in Australia. It’s opposite, in fact. Now I know why Australia is called Downunder.
I got off track a little, I am sorry.
I was born and grew up in Moscow – the capital of Mighty Russia. Well, now the capital. For two centuries (1712–1918) St. Petersburg was the capital of Russia. And back a thousand years Kiev, now in Ukraine, was the capital. To be more precise a piece of land called “Mother of Rus Cities”, the first eastern Slavic state, 1,000 years ago was centre of Kyivan (Kievan) Rus. So it wasn’t Russia per se, but rather that Ukraine was the beginning of Russia. But many Russians and Ukrainians may start sending me death threatening letters if I say it out loud, so let’s move on.
I got off track a little again, sorry.
I grew up in Moscow in a working family, who value money, safety and status. Everything else flows through the prism of these three giants. I was five years old when USSR came down crumbling. I was forming my life’s understanding and sense of self throughout the Wild 90s, as we call this period of history, the time that followed after a violent end of a brutal era of Soviet Russia.
Violence continued, of course. But now it was a lot less structured. It was free for all. The Wild 90s was a very difficult time in Russia, politically and for all the citizens individually: government was bombing buildings (yes, I am talking about terrorism performed by the government) to unite Russia against an imaginary foreign enemy, organised crime was coming out of darkness, people were dying, and human life was very confusing and cheap.
My father flourished in this environment (which I cannot say about his mental health) as a successful businessman. We had means and we used them.
I first travelled oversees, to Dubai, when I was about five or six, just out of the chains of USSR. I really don’t remember much of my trip. I was very ill as I left Moscow with a severe flue; and what little I remember of my trip was throwing up a lot, not being allowed to drink cold drinks or swim in a pool in the 50C heat of the Dubai weather.
I remember going to the sea but cannot remember the sea, I remember going to the Zoo but I don’t remember the Zoo and I remember seeing swimming pools and many shopping malls. And once time we also got lost driving through the city ending up in a desert. That was fun! Not much else.
But what I do remember is having this sense of adventure, holiday and something amazing ahead. It felt like an escape from a dark and scary attic, coming out into a huge field of light and opportunity.
Every time since, whenever I knew we were going to travel overseas I’d start packing weeks ahead, pretending to board a plane in my bedroom. This overwhelming feeling of happiness and anticipation would always infuse my life with imagining places I was going to see and things I was going to do. It was magical to dream of a holiday. I still remember today that childhood smell of a holiday and magic.
Before I moved to Australia I thought that living here may be accompanied by this magical anticipation of a holiday. I was coming to Sydney. There are many beaches in Sydney. This is a holiday destination. Magic was guaranteed.
Needless to say, this is not what I was faced with.
I must admit that when I smell the ocean I can remember the warm feeling of waiting to get on a plane to travel to a tropical destination, excited and impatient. In fact today, as I sit on my balcony, over 10km away from the closest beach, I can smell the sea and suddenly a wave of memories washes over me – anticipation of a beautiful holiday and carefree two weeks. Magic is here again.
Instead of packing for the beach I open my laptop and start typing this.
I moved across the seas and mountains to live in the country of holidays but I forgot how to feel this magic.
For an ordinary white Australian from a metropolitan city, I don’t know what feels like magic. I can only know what I feel. But I’ve seen many white Australians anticipating their holidays in faraway places and often wondered “why would you ever want to leave a holiday destination, like Australia – here is everything you can wish for.”
Of course, I was being biased. For me, here is indeed most of what I can wish for. And this is because of my own three giants – childhood trauma, lack of safety and search for an escape – through which I am looking at others in perplexity.
My history often colours my present experiences. Same works for others.
As I was sitting down to write this, I realised that over the last twelve years I’ve been working hard to become an ordinary white Australian, not a child in anticipation of magic.
I forgot magic in my pursuit of fitting in and growing up.
When I first arrived to Australia as a student I could not relax on the beach worrying about my assignments and whether I looked okay in my bikini. I also spent a lot of time worrying about my future: am I going to meet my family’s expectations, will I be able to find a job, am I too Russian for this English-speaking country, will I ever find love, etc.
I spent years worrying! The magic was long gone.
As I sat down to type this, I wanted to write an opinion article about people working too much and not spending enough time chasing magic, smelling the ocean and packing for holidays. And I realised, it’s me who is working too much and I’ve exchanged the magic for trying to be an adult, being taken seriously, seen successful and collect money. I am like The Little Mermaid, who exchanged her voice for a pair of legs. And unlike Ariel, I don’t want the legs!
I sat on my balcony smelling the sea, three weeks away from turning 35 years old, and I thought to myself “So, when the growing up will finally happen? Is my magic there?”
I knew the answer already.
The magic I thought I came for has always been inside me. I brought it with me. I just forgot to unpack it.
My life in Australia is not a two-week resort holiday that I used to travel to with my family. My life here has been shaping and shifting over the last twelve years, becoming my home. Without enough understanding of what is home due to my old trauma and wounds and living my life in the anticipation of an escape, I could never settle and relax – I have been espacing and anticipating, unable to live. I believe this is why I felt like the magic was lost.
But it’s always been here. Inside me!
Now that I am no longer espacing and learning how to settle in the moment and enjoy every second of my existence I can finally feel content with my life. And it’s so much more pleasent than a holiday.
I found my magic. It’s right here. It’s always been.