It seems like a lifetime ago I was stepping off the plane at SFO, 2 gigantic suitcases in tow, full of my most important clothes and sentimental possessions, ready for the unknown journey that was ahead of me. I quickly learnt my wardrobe wouldn’t equip me for the San Francisco fog (don’t miss ya Karl!), nor would the endless polaroids I brought over stop the ache of being away from my loved ones, but I was ready to take this adventure by the horns and ride it for the first planned 18 months.
Well, those 18 months and then another 3.5 years extra, to say my life is drastically different to the life I knew in October of 2014 would be an understatement. Yet as unexpected as these years have been, I couldn’t be prouder of where I am today.
I wanted to get something to commemorate that journey, but also acknowledge the roots I’ve established in all the days leading me to where I am now. I was inspired by seeing President Obama’s portrait last year (fitting as he was still president when I arrived, again how the world has changed!) – here was the once most powerful man in the world sitting in front of a wall of leaves and flowers. Yet they weren’t just any flowers, each flower represented his roots and where he comes from in life – chrysanthemums, the official flower of Chicago, jasmine evoking Hawaii, where he spent the majority of his childhood, and the African blue lilies for his late Kenyan father. If you know me well, you’ll know that I LOVE flowers and plants, so the idea of flora representing me and where I’ve come from seemed like the perfect second tattoo.
So, to represent my roots, I chose eucalyptus, in particular, the silver dollar variety that is found in both Australia AND California, my two former homes. I’ll never forget driving to see the Golden Gate Bridge in my first week in San Francisco, feeling so homesick and unsure of the decision I’d made, until we drove past a grove of eucalyptus trees in the Presidio, right by the bridge. The familiar smell filled the car and at once I felt at ease. Over the years I’ve bought eucalyptus branches to scatter around my apartments and eucalyptus candles to let the scent fill the air – nothing makes me feel at home quite like being surrounded by this plant.
But there’s something else about eucalyptus that was very meaningful and powerful to me too. Eucalyptus is highly flammable, and devastating bushfires have ravaged across both Australia and California, only spreading faster through these trees. 6 months into moving to the States I felt like my own life was going up in flames and I was close to moving home to Australia. My marriage was up in the air, I’d lost a job and I was away from the people who meant the most to me. Yet I stayed and decided to work through those flames, though some were put out in ways I never expected. The best thing about eucalyptus is that despite how flammable it is, new seedlings open up once burned and thrive among ash-rich soil. I’ve experienced a lot of heartbreak and pain over the years I’ve lived in America, but I’ve also experienced tremendous growth and love amongst the ashes of what I lost.
I am so glad I decided to stick it out here, and grateful for the way my life has unfolded since then. I’ve been blessed with friends who’ve become my second family, two jobs that have fulfilled my wildest dreams, and a home that’s become my sanctuary in a world of unknowns.
I am beyond lucky to have roots that have kept me grounded as I’ve moved overseas to grow. Thank you so much for being on this journey with me. Cheers to half a decade with you America, and to a future of decades ahead.