Person jumping silhouette at a beach

On Unwanted Comfort and Leaps of Faith

Originally published in Edition 6, 2018: Unfurl.

I never liked my hometown.

To me, Perth was a kind of suffocating mess. Quicksand to escape.

 

After graduating high school, something strange happened; in the summer between Year 12 and moving to Canberra for my first year of uni, I became madly comfortable in the city I once hated. Somewhere between finishing and buying a one-way plane ticket, I began to adore the place. It became not just the place I grew up — it was home.

 

I fell in love with Perth for everything. I loved the people there, and its through that lens I viewed the rosy remainder of the city. I grew almost unnecessarily fond of it all—grotty skate parks, a tiny live music venue one train stop away. The way a “busy beach” was quarter filled by any other world standard. The perfect bagel place and the best hot chocolates… even a restaurant dedicated to hummus! And I began to watch, really watch, the way the sun danced over the ocean as it set.

 

Just as I began loving my city, I had a plane to catch. Canberra. I became terrified—what if I hated it? If everyone hated me? Would it be too cold? Would I hate my degree? I felt myself teetering on the edge between craving departure and cherishing every second I had left to stay, nauseous with indecision.

 

In packing photo albums and tickets into a box before leaving, I was reminded, somewhat uncannily, of a feeling I had had a few months prior. Holding a seashell between my fingers, I looked back to a trip I had taken in July 2017 to New Caledonia.

 

On the first day of that trip, I expected to snorkel. I walked down a white sand beach and over a reef on the Isle of Pines, excited to jump underwater. The second I neared the edge of the basin, ready to swim, I looked at the drop – several meters and filled with movement – and shuddered. I noticed the sun on my back and turned, facing the shore. I smiled, watching children chase each other with coconuts, building sandcastles.

 

I fell into this kind of paralyzed state between wanting to jump in and to wade to the shore.

 

I remember reading once: “All you need is thirty seconds of courage.”

In those thirty seconds, I jumped.

 

The second I opened my eyes, I knew why. Schools upon schools of every colour of fish surrounded me. Forests of coral erupted into view next to me as I laughed inaudibly, surrounded by fluorescent orange fish the size of the palms of my hands. Every way I turned, I’d see new colours and shapes. I felt my energy unfurl, and my heart exploded with pure joy. I felt different, new; happy.

 

And so fucking grateful I took the jump.

 

It was remembering this, as I held the seashell between my hands driving to Perth airport, that gave me the strength I never knew I had to leave the place where I had become so comfortable. I knew the Perth sun and how it felt on my back, and the idea of jumping into the big bright pit of Canberra was terrifying.

 

I held onto that feeling and allowed it to fill me with strength as I went through airport security. This was just another jump, I thought.

 

Not to compare my life here to the ocean, but wow! You all are so beautiful and colourful and bright. Every day I am surrounded by splendour and life. My life is so rich here, so filled with goodness, with laughter, with that full, warm feeling in your heart that happens when you are truly content in a very specific moment. Time stood still underwater in New Caledonia, and every second here holds some kind of special permanence in my spirit that is nothing but a treasure.

 

I can’t even imagine what my life would have been like if I didn’t have those thirty seconds of courage.

 

Because now, now I’ve been forever changed.