Most people I know here in Timor-Leste know three key geographical facts about my life: 1) that I’m from Perth; 2) that I lived in Melbourne before I came here; and 3) that Felix, my boyfriend, is currently studying in Melbourne. So it’s understandable that in most conversations about my departure, people are asking whether I’m returning to Perth or Melbourne.
Lately, I’ve been telling them, “oh, actually, I’m going to Katherine.”
Not a lie! But of course, not the whole story. And because I love knowing the miniature of internet strangers’ lives, I’m sharing the same with you: my post-Timor-Leste plans, or in Tetun, planu, until the end of this year.
Here we go.
When are you leaving Dili? Tomorrow, on the early flight to Darwin.
And then to Perth? Nope, not just yet. A dear friend lives in Katherine, in Australia’s Northern Territory, and I’ve wanted for a while to see the Territory’s natural parks. I’ll go south from Darwin to Katherine later tomorrow, spend a few days with my friend, swim in some gorges, and head back to Darwin for a flight to Perth on Saturday afternoon.
And then you’ll be in Perth? Yes – for a day! I’ve timed my return home with a Raynor family holiday to Phuket, so very very early on Monday morning I’ll be back at the airport with my parents and most of my sisters for our family holiday. (It actually felt easier to fly to Thailand from Australia than it did Timor-Leste but feel free to jump in if you reckon I’ve planned this wrong).
And post-Phuket? Felix in Perth! Felix in Perth! Three of my family members – my teacher mother and older sister, my high school student younger sister – are shackled to Australian school terms and holiday times, so the week we’re taking together covers Easter – which is also Felix’s mid-term uni break, so he’s coming to Perth! He’ll arrive the weekend we return and we have six or seven days together – definitely more than enough for me to convince him it should have been his number one choice of city to study in, right?
And then? Soph! in Melbourne! In Melbourne! I’m visiting Felix for his birthday in late May. I was originally toying with the idea of moving to Melbourne then – until I realised that between all the holidays I’d only have two or three scrappy weeks in Perth, and that late May is the edge of Melbourne’s coldest months – which I struggled with even moving there from Perth, let alone from the sun-blazed tropics. I’ll likely visit again over the winter – and hope Felix can come and visit me in Perth during his longer, semester break in July – but I’ll spend the winter quiet and content in temperate Perth, settling back in and calming right down.
What about work? You may have noticed that I’ve mentioned a lot of holidays and hardly any work here. I am unfortunately not unexpectedly rich; I’m planning on scraping together ad-hoc freelance comms work and writing for the rest of the year (omg hire me please lel), and the sale of my Dili car will fund a few of these flights. Staying at mum and dad’s in Perth I won’t have to pay rent (lol mum is this right?) – which I’m really grateful for – and between my savings and occasional writing income I think I’ll be fine to not work full-time until next year.
Which is my plan! I’ve told a few people that my only goal for this year, really, is to not accidentally find myself in full-time work or study for the rest of this year. I’m tired, I’m pretty burnt out work-wise, and I also know what I’m like – I adore structure, certainty, someone else telling me what to do, so I’m extremely liable to panic-apply for a job because I’m uncomfortable with the idea of not Doing Very Much (have you seen that ‘have you internalised capitalism’ list going around? It’s like, a biography of me). But right now, that’s the very thing I need.
I went straight from my competitive, academic high school to an intense double degree that took me nearly six years of full-time study – during which I was volunteering at Oaktree and interning at a magazine. I was employed by the magazine immediately after graduating; mere days after I was made redundant my Oaktree friends suggested applying for paid roles on their team in Melbourne; I got that role, moved interstate, and worked for nine months on the fundraising campaign Live Below the Line – which sent me on a comms collection trip to Timor-Leste. A couple of weeks after returning I was like oh, I’m a little burned out, maybe I’ll change jobs, hey that Dili trip was good…
And if you’re reading this far down you very likely know what happened next.
So, since I was twelve years old I’ve had full-time structure and certainty – even in the unstable times between jobs I’ve had options before me; things to grab at. I’ve been offered and have taken a lot of opportunities, and I’m not dismissing that: I have been really lucky. But I know right now that what I need, with my belongings in boxes and no one expecting very much of me, it’s time to sit at mum and dad’s dining room table for a while; make coffees at the bench, walk into Subi to get a haircut and meet a friend, rummage through the op shop on the end of the street, play with the dog, borrow books from the library, ask my sister what she’s listening to at the moment, sit in the park with Kat and a croissant and watch the sun’s streaky light through the Moreton Bay figs. Sit in silence and stillness and quiet for a while; don’t thrash for an answer – wait for a path.
When the weather warms up and when I feel ready to move myself again, I’ll head to Melbourne to be with Felix. My loose plan in a September-ish relocation – and then a Christmas return to Perth, of course – and then studying again next year; a year-long grad dip to gain more and more specific skills (I would do a master’s but I don’t have enough room in my HECS debt to do it – see above re six-year-long law degree – and a year-long course has me and Felix neatly finishing our studies at the same time).
I’ve told a couple of people here in Dili that I’m hoping to visit in August this year – partly because it’s a lot easier to leave a place when you can pinpoint when you might be back, but mostly because I’m hoping to pitch and have commissioned some articles about the 20th anniversary of Timor’s independence referendum and Australia’s subsequent role leading the INFERFET force that helped secure peace after Indonesian troops withdrew. I was toying with this idea when a freelance photographer I worked with on a few stories last month told me that of course I could do freelance comms work, I could be just like him, I could pitch website stories and brochure copy and report proofreading to INGOs and aid programs and organisations with money and create this work for myself, instead of just waiting and hoping for someone to call.
So, that’s what I’d like to do – if I can find enough comms work to fund a trip, and enough journalism commissions to make it really interesting, I’ll be back for a few weeks later this year.
Then, at the end of next year, Felix will finish his degree and will return to Timor-Leste. I joke with my colleagues here that I’m then going to make him marry me and I’ll also come back (one of them has even picked out the venue our wedding reception will be in, and another’s volunteered to stand in for my uncle in the dowry negotiation) – but breathe, Felix, hau halimar deit – right now I’m very, very content to look no further into the future than the start of this coming Australian winter.
As I prepare to leave Dili today I feel very comforted by the fact that I’ve got a couple of clear pathways for a return if I choose to take them; but that I’ve also got a home in Perth and a home in Melbourne waiting for me on the other end of all of this.