At the beginning of this year, I decided this was going to be a year of personal growth for me. And of course it was, like every year is. Whether you like it or not, time passes, you grow older, good stuff happens, bad stuff happens, some things change, some things stay frustratingly, exasperatingly, the same. You break up with someone. You renew your visa. You move home. Meet new people. Call your parents. Book holidays. Try a new class. Fill out your timesheets. Say goodbye.
One of the things that has forced me to take stock recently is having to detail every one of my absences from the UK for the past 4 years as part of my Permanent Residency application. I have had to look carefully through my passport, noting all the stamps that have shown my movement through various air and sea ports since 2006. Tellingly, the number of days I have spent outside of the UK has crept up every year, but most especially this past year. 2009 is the only year I've taken two trips back home in twelve months. When I first came over, it was more likely to be 18-24 months between visits to Melbourne. My visa stamps tell a parallel story: here's me with short red hair in 2003, shiny with sweat after running to the post office in 40 degree heat to get my passport picture taken in a lunch break; in 2005 with long, mousey hair (my first English boyfriend prefered it natural); in 2006 with even longer hair piled over one shoulder, chubby with happy domestication; and in 2008, resignedly single again, Winter-pale with newly bobbed hair, rugged up in a friend's left-behind Winter coat.
My newest passport picture will show me with a short fringe, dyed honey-blonde hair, my face a little gaunt from the stress and lack of sleep of the past 5 months or so. Everyone I've seen on this trip has commented on how thin I am, and how pale ("You've turned into a pasty pom!"). I hadn't realised.
So what have I achieved this past year? I've been to four new places - Brussels, in Belgium; the Cinque Terra in Italy; Tolmin in Slovenia; and the Scottish Highlands. Undergone a four day Introduction to Psychosynthesis course, during which I had a profoundly moving experience during one particular therapy session. I've started volunteering regularly at a local Primary School, reading with a couple of gorgeous year 1 and 2 kids. Completed a four day acting course. Moved home twice. Given online dating another go (tentatively, because my heart isn't quite in it). Taken up knitting like every other single girl did in the noughties, although all I have to show for it so far is one rather wonky scarf which my Dad is going to be the proud recipient of come Christmas Day.
And I've decided to move home to Australia after I get my citizenship. Apparently I qualify in February, a full year earlier than I expected to. I'm not counting my chickens though, because in my experience? Those Home Office motherf*ckers like to change the rules every 6 months or so, just to mess with my mind.