‘Will the guilt I feel for moving to Australia ever go away?’
Guilt casts a grey cloud over a sunny life here but if I move back, will I regret it?
Will Cullen with his wife Michelle and baby daughter Olivia in Sydney.
Before I moved to Australia, back in 2010, my friend who was already living in Perth told me a story. While out working one day, he bumped into an elderly Italian man and they started to chat about where they were from. As they parted ways, the elderly man said something to him that still echoes in my mind.
“I think about home [Italy] every single day, but I know if I was to move home I would miss Australia, so what do I do?”
Ever since arriving in Australia myself, I have felt at times like a Looney Toons character, the ones who walk around with the grey rain cloud hovering over them.
This small grey cloud follows me around even in the 38 degree summer evenings here in Sydney. But the difference between me and Elmer Fudd is that while his grey cloud may be one of impending doom or bad luck, my grey cloud is of guilt.
“Guilt for what?” you may ask. Well, you are not the only one to wonder. My Aussie wife (my girlfriend at the time) asked me in our first few months together why I felt guilty for living in Sydney and doing well for myself. Why would I feel bad for being in one of the most beautiful places in the world, working in a big company and being happy and healthy?
I am not sure if it is a primitive inbuilt instinct that we have to be close to our parents or family, or maybe I am just a product of my family environment, and not all families are like this.
At times, I find myself going for a stroll around by the Sydney Opera House and thinking, “ Wow. I wish my Ma, or my niece or X Y and Z from my family could see this”, and that’s when the grey cloud appears, the guilt cloud.
My life couldn’t be better here. I have a wonderful wife, a gorgeous four-month-old baby girl, a good job, great friends, and very nice roof over our heads.
“Then what are you on about, guilt?”
I am the youngest of three boys. My eldest brother lives in Saudi Arabia, where he is teaching English. I’m here in Australia, and my middle brother is living up the road from my ma with his wife and two kids.
My brother has to juggle his own life, his kids, his wife, work and then taking care of or making sure my folks are okay. The guilt makes me think I should be there to help him. The guilt makes me think that as my parents are getting into their mid-60s, I’m here and losing valuable time with them as each day goes by.
The guilt makes me feel that my little girl is missing valuable time with them and the rest of my family, and she will “make strange” when she sees them.
As I write this, it is my godchild’s confirmation tomorrow, and the guilt sits on me heavily knowing I should be there as her sponsor, yet all I can do is send a card with my love and apologies.
My parents came to visit last Christmas and as I sat with my da on the decking in the summer evening having a drink, he uttered the sentence I’m sure a lot of people who live away from home hear:
“Why would you want to come back, look at the life you have here, it’s amazing.”
He means well, and is trying to make me feel better, but I know in his heart he wants us back. As he says it, I can hear the torment in his voice and in his heart. That just adds to the guilt.
My wife now understands, after spending time with my family, how hard it is for me to be away from home.
A lot of people don’t like to admit to their guilt about living abroad. Some don’t want to talk about it, for fear of further upsetting their parents.
I don’t go around with my head hung low feeling sorry for myself all the time. Life is too short and I go about my life happy with my amazing family here. But the cloud is never too far away.
The question I ask myself is, will it ever go? Will going back to Ireland make this cloud disperse, or will the cloud just make me miss my Aussie life?