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FeatureLiving Well

Moving house can feel like dismantling a well-established puzzle.

A heartfelt piece by Ruby Watson on moving from the place you call home.

May 21, 2023

Words: Ruby Watson
Images: Si Billam

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Imagine you've spent 11 years meticulously piecing together a complex jigsaw, each segment representing a part of your life – memories, routines and familiar comforts. Then, suddenly, you're reaching for an empty box and having to disassemble it all.

The process is disorienting, unsettling and, at times, downright frustrating. You're left grappling with uncertainty and the loss of everything familiar – even though it's something you might want.

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When you think of the word ‘home’, what comes to mind? You might picture the place where you feel you truly belong or the place where your family or friends are. Maybe, to you, home is simply where your house is.

As a 16-year-old who has lived on Phillip Island for the past 11 years, I confidently consider this the place I call home.

When we moved here in 2013, we needed a place of refuge and a sense of community. While initially living below the poverty line, we were supported by the Phillip Island Community House along with organisations such as Vinnies and The Salvation Army until we got back on our feet.

My brother and I were enrolled at Cowes Primary School. Mum recalls that we refused to tour any other schools upon learning that Cowes Primary had its own swimming pool.

On the nights we didn't have an extracurricular activity to attend, my brother and I would stroll from school to Mum's work at the local newspaper and hang out there until she had finished. Over the years, we got to know her colleagues and the many community members involved in the newspaper, and they became an extension of the community we were building in Cowes. Years on, I can now appreciate how all these little interactions helped us gain the sense of connectedness and safety we have had here.

Living in a small town has many perks and also a few downsides. As I grew older and became more discerning of the people I wanted to surround myself with, I started finding it quite hard to avoid those whom I didn't.

This lack of anonymity feels really pronounced when you want to pop to the supermarket in your crustiest clothes but inevitably end up running into 20 people you know. The days I feel like talking the least are always the ones I end up bumping into three of my primary school teachers. Don’t get me wrong – I love seeing them. I just don’t always know what to say to them.

"Hi, Mrs Rutherford... thanks for grade five”?

After living in such a small community for over a decade, you start to become familiar and even dependent on the routines of daily life, whether they include multiple awkward interactions or not.

We would occasionally have struggles in school and Mum would remind us that changing schools was a possibility, but only if we'd looked into other solutions first. Before now, the idea of changing schools really hadn’t appealed to me at all. However, when my brother finished school and decided to go to university, it left my mum and me at home by ourselves, which meant it could potentially be easier to move if we wanted.

When Mum noticed my fading motivation for school was making me miserable, she asked if I felt like a new school would give me the fresh start I needed to complete my VCE. I wasn’t keen on any other schools in the area, so we looked around Melbourne for more options.

After months of consideration and weighing up the pros and cons with Mum, I decided a fresh start at a new school felt right for me. With my brother at university, and knowing that Mum wasn't afraid to relocate us if that's what I needed, it felt as though the stars had aligned in my favour.

When I broke the news of my move to my friends, it came as a surprise to them. I had never once talked or fantasised about moving away from my home. I was a constant in their lives, and they could count on seeing me every day.

Leaving the place that you call home is a daunting and life-altering transition. It can bring up grief and discomfort. This monumental decision meant I needed to say goodbye to people I may never see again. Admittedly, I also feel a sense of relief about those whom I never wish to see again.

Just as moving requires adjusting to a new physical space, these life changes force you to adapt to a new emotional and mental landscape, which can be challenging and emotionally draining.

I am a very routine-based person. If anything happens that is out of routine, my whole day is ruined. Living in the same community for 11 years has been helpful in this regard when facing other challenges in my life, such as changing from the junior to the senior campus at my school. Coming home to this small town and knowing everyone I see eases my nerves and makes me feel at peace.

However, getting out of one's comfort zone is known to produce far more benefits than could ever be seen by staying comfortable. Getting out of your comfort zone can boost creativity, increase self-confidence, improve mental health and enhance overall performance.

Regardless of where my house may be, I feel like I will always think of Phillip Island as my home. Growing up here has made a big impact on who I am as a person, therefore this place will always be a part of me.

Gippslandia - Issue No. 30

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