We have finally made the decision to stay here next year…which is funny, because if you’d asked me three months ago I would’ve said no way. I would’ve said I was worried about being isolated with a new baby, that I missed friends and family, that I didn’t feel there was any point staying.
What’s changed? Well, I know the weather has, and I admit that has an impact, but I also know that come early next year it will be horrible again. The heat and mosquitos will send us scuttling back into our air-conditioned house and I’ll wish I was taking the kids for swims at Sydney beaches rather than being holed-up here. But the decision is bigger than that.
A large part of it is J’s job. This year, he has had his own class and in the last few months he’s felt like he’s finally starting to make progress. A new program has started, called ‘Learning on Country’, which creates stronger links between the classroom and the local rangers. The land and sea rangers are key sources of employment here, and many of the kids say they wouldn’t mind working for them when they leave school. The rangers have already talked to J’s class about snakes, and led them on an excursion to some wetlands. In a month or so they are planning a three-day excursion to a nearby island. J feels like he’s part of something that could have a real, positive impact. He is also aware that teacher retention is a big issue in remote communities: so often, teachers come, take a year to bond with their class, then leave. If he can help it, J doesn’t want to be one of those teachers.
As for me, I definitely feel more a part of this community, but there are still very few people here with whom I can have a deep and meaningful discussion. I really do miss my family and Sydney friends, who have known me for most of my life. But I know they’ll still be there at the end of next year, and are always on the end of the phone. I also feel like community life is slowly seeping into my body. The laidback lifestyle – the lack of commuting, stress and financial pressure – does make me wonder how we will adjust back to the rush, high costs and frenetic pace of Sydney. I enjoy being able to be present and unhurried – little things, like being able to walk L to preschool and stay there with him an hour or two if he wants me to, seem like a precious luxury, especially while the kids are small.
L and R are happily oblivious to the fact that we’ve been making a decision at all, but L has said that he likes it better here than Sydney. He’s an outdoor boy, happiest when he’s exploring in the bush with friends, his whole body smeared in dirt. Staying means we’ll need to make a decision about sending him to school. His birthday is late April, which means we can either send him next year (and repeat him when we move back to NSW if we need to), or hold him back and send him the year after. I think we’ll wait until closer to the end of the year to deal with that one.
The new baby is also a factor. Its imminent arrival means I won’t be working much in the coming year. I can still write freelance scripts from home but I can do that from anywhere. A key reason for moving back to Sydney is so I can try to get in-house work in a script department, and feel like a real part of a team again, but that won’t be happening until at least 2015 so we have a bit of time up our sleeves.
J and I have both told our families, and we feel good about the decision. It’s been a while coming, but it feels good to have set a course. We have surprised ourselves by saying it out loud, but neither of us is ready to leave in a few months. Looks like 2014 will be spent in Arnhem Land!