As many of you already know, in March of this year, my long term relationship ended, and with it my time living on the Gold Coast.
For two years I had been caring for my fiancé, who suffered a debilitating back injury at work in January 2017. I thought the past 24 months had been hard, dealing with a constant barrage of financial, health and home-related stress, but nothing compared to how hard it was to walk away from a nine-year relationship and start a new life 800 kilometers away. Within the space of two weeks, my life on the Gold Coast was over, and I was headed to Yeppoon, a hour’s drive from Rockhampton on the Central Coast of Queensland.
In the past three months I have experienced the strongest grief I have ever felt; for my relationship, for my beloved beach-side home in Coolangatta, for the life I left behind. This grief has been fraught with confusion; did I give up too early? Should I have stuck it out for longer? There have been a lot of confusing feelings, a lot around my self worth, and I’ve certainly doubted whether I made the right choice.
During this massive life upheaval, I used writing to process my grief. I wrote two flash fiction short stories: Home Is Where The Heart Breaks, in which I reflect on suddenly having to leave my beloved home on the Gold Coast, and Hypothetical Child, about the impact that my decision not to have children has had on my life. The Hunter Writer’s Centre in Newcastle, New South Wales, holds an annual writing competition called the Grieve Writing Project, that publishes an anthology of flash fiction and poetry on the theme of grief. In April I submitted both stories to the project.
It has been a huge challenge to leave my old life behind and start anew out in the world on my own. I have experienced a period of anxiety and depression more severe than anything I experienced over the past two years caring for my partner. I have felt completely separate from my former self, disconnected from my passion for writing. I have been very reluctant to accept my new reality, and embrace my new surroundings here on the Central Coast. With the help of mental health professionals I have worked through a lot in these past months, and I have finally reached a point where I feel I can allow myself to accept my new reality, and be vulnerable enough to feel happiness and joy again as I move forward. As part of this healing process, I have decided to share these stories now. I hope that by sharing my experiences, it helps those who are going through the same experiences. If any of my friends ever feel like they need, I’m always open if you’d like to talk, whether for advice or just to listen.
Home Is Where The Heart Breaks
I never thought I could love living somewhere as much as I have loved living on the Gold Coast. For the past year and a half I have walked on the beach every day, taking my troubles to the ocean. Breathing in the fresh air, feeling the sand and seawater between my toes, I forgot about my problems for an hour. This place has nurtured me through what has easily been the most challenging period of my life.
We moved from Broadbeach to Coolangatta six months ago in the hope things would get better. Our unhappiness followed us; we had become more like housemates than lovers. We weren’t living in the space together, merely existing alongside one another. It was painful and depressing, yet I still loved the unit itself- the balcony off the back, the little yard, the tree-lined park just over the fence where locals played football and walked their dogs. I walked from Coolangatta to Snapper Rocks every afternoon, and watched the surfers ride the waves at sunset. Amidst my misery, I felt so lucky to call this place home.
And then I just left; I could not bear the misery a moment longer. I returned only to pack and move out, and by then I had already been erased from the home Richard and I shared. The week I was gone he took the pictures of us down; he couldn’t stand to keep looking at them after we split. It was ‘too painful, he said. I find myself feeling similar about the Gold Coast in general now; a place I was once so proud to live, I can barely stand to look at a picture of, because it is a reminder of something so treasured being taken from me too soon.
Separating from Richard, I didn’t anticipate everything else I would have to separate from as well. The family, the friends, the home. I don’t know what makes me feel sadder- leaving Richard or leaving this place.
It feels unfair that Richard gets to stay here, and I resent him somewhat for it. This lifestyle is wasted on him- he doesn’t appreciate living by the ocean the way I do. I have friends and a community here, yet the situation dictates that I’m the one that has to leave.
There is still so much I want to do on the Gold Coast, so many places to explore. The seaside bike path from Bilinga to Tugun, the sunflowers in Kingscliffe and the mountainous Byron Bay Hinterland. I always thought I’d have more time to prepare myself to leave, but my time here has run out. I need to let go of the way I thought things would be, but I’m just not ready yet. I don’t understand why, but the journey of life is moving me on. It’s time to go now, and I have to say goodbye.