Moving to Perth where I knew no one taught me how to not feel lonely
All the Lonely People: I was unhappy in Ireland, but I’ve been given an opportunity for a fresh start in Australia
‘When I made the decision to come to Australia, I knew something had to change. I was already lonely and unhappy in Ireland. In my mind, the only thing worse than coming out here was staying at home and nothing changing.’
I have moved 17,000km away from Ireland to Perth, a city where I knew no one when I arrived, apart from my boyfriend. He managed to get a job down the mines almost immediately on a fly-in-fly-out roster, and suddenly I was facing reality of life on my own in a city I didn’t know.
When we first moved here, I would have classed myself massively, chronically, ALONE (big capitals stress how alone I felt). I know plenty of people emigrate on their own and settle into new life, but as someone who has battled with anxiety and low self-esteem, suddenly the goalposts had moved a few metres. I have always worried about what other people think of me, and about fitting in. I didn’t know one single person, and I was in a different culture. I felt crippled.
When I started a new job, I missed the easy Irish friendliness, and people bringing you out for lunch. My new work team were polite but distant. I spent the first few weeks eating lunch on my own in a small deli with my back to the road to make sure no one from my company spotted me, the sad Irish girl who eats on her own with no friends.
When my boyfriend was off, I would ring and persuade him to drive into the city to meet me, and if he couldn’t, I’d spend the time on the phone while eating so at least I didn’t look like a loner. Two bites and my lunch would be gone, as I was keen to minimise the potential loner period. I would run back to my desk, strongly disliking those who hadn’t invited me out.
But as the weeks went on, something changed. My frustration at being left out led me to be blatantly honest when people asked me about the move. I would reply that I did not know anyone out here.
Suddenly I had said something right. People were quick to invite me to dinner or coffee. I found myself saying yes rather than turning down offers. I went out with complete strangers for a drink and left with a return invite to do it again next week. Slowly my weekends have filled up, and I’ve started using two hands to count the people I call friends here now.
In Ireland, I would never walk into a bar first to wait for someone. I never wanted to look like I was alone. The voice in my head would say people were thinking I’m weird or a loser. It was paranoia though, and combined with constant negative thinking, this had kept me permanently on edge, anxious and unhappy despite being surrounded by great friends and family. And let me tell you, that is loneliness much worse than being in new country on your own.
Loneliness is a wall that you have let build up over the years, keeping others out and you in. Loneliness is seeing life continue on past you and you’re unable to break out of yourself to join in again. Loneliness is trying to find who you used to be amidst clouds of anxiety and depression, but never quite catching up.
Maybe I hadn’t taken into account how I would feel out here, being away from people I know. But when I made the decision to come to Australia, I knew something had to change. I was already lonely and unhappy in Ireland. In my mind, the only thing worse than coming out here was staying at home and nothing changing.
And now three months on, I have surprised myself. I have learned to network, chat, and just be myself a bit more. It was a challenge I badly needed. The pace of life is different here, more laid back and calmer than home. I’m not saying I have left my demons at the airport, but I have definitely managed to banish them a little.
So now, when it hits 12.30pm and I have a free hour for lunch, I am happy to go across the road to the deli on my own and eat at one of the window tables. I don’t worry anymore because let’s face it, nobody notices. And sometimes being alone is not the same as being lonely.