A year ago I woke up in New Zealand, exhausted from an overnight flight from Australia and adjusting to being two hours ahead of time. Upon arriving, I had a vision of what my life would be like here: I would finally be moving in with my long-distance boyfriend, I would work hard in my new job to continue my fast career progression, and on weekends I would fuel my adventurous side by exploring the incredible landscapes of New Zealand.
My reality couldn’t have been further from what I had imagined.
I split from my boyfriend three weeks after arriving, found a share house in Wellington, and have spent the past year working in order to travel and pay my rent.
Has it been a difficult year? Yes. Would I change a thing? Definitely not.
I remember watching a TED talk last year that has stuck with me ever since. It was a talk on the secret to living longer. Let me guess: eating a Mediterranean diet, exercising five times a week and not smoking? False. Instead, the researcher revealed that studies had shown the top two predictors for longevity were close relationships and social integration, or how often you interact with people throughout your day.
After watching it last year, I felt doomed. Oh God I’m going to die at fifty. My job basically consumed me. If I wasn’t working, I was thinking about how to impress my boss and what I needed to learn in order to get the promotion I wanted so badly. Yet the other half of my life was spent dreaming of travelling. Where should I go next? How much annual leave will I have?
Money was never an issue, but my quality of life was.
Before I moved back to Adelaide last year, I was working in a rural country town, forty minutes from where I grew up. For over a year I lived alone because the town was so small that there was no one to rent with. I worked, worked and worked some more. If I wasn’t working during the day, then I was on call at night, and spent at least every third weekend in that tiny hospital laboratory. I had more money than I’d ever had yet when I look back at those seventeen months all I remember is working, my three-week holiday to Vietnam, and my two-week holiday to New Zealand.
But when I look back on the past year working here in New Zealand, I think of all the incredible memories made with my friends here. I’ve travelled all over North Island, been to festivals, hiked my way around Wellington, and had the joy of showing my Dad, aunty and cousin around this beautiful country. On top of that, I’ve now ticked another country (Hawaii) off my list and, in three weeks, two of my best friends will be here to explore the South Island with me. If the research proves to be true, I’d say from this year alone I’ve gained another twenty years of life.
Today at work my friend walked into the tearoom looking incredibly stressed, far from her normal vivacious self, so I asked her what was wrong.
“Ugh it’s Kane. He’s being such a child! I don’t know why he is being like this”.
My stomach dropped. This wasn’t like her to be sad. I remembered when she first came to me four months ago and out of the blue declared she was thinking of breaking up with him. I listened, offering an unwavering ear for her to express her feelings and clear her mind. She ended up going through with it. Neither of us knew what would come of the break up, but in the months that followed I have watched her flourish into the happiest, most content human.
“I’m so glad you broke up with him”, I told her.
“Me too. I am actually so in love with my life”, she replied.
After hearing that, I couldn’t help but smile, because so was I.