Part One: From Denny to South Hedland
As a child, I developed this unhealthy idea that the key to happiness was to be pretty, rich, and perfectly abled. It was this illusion that torture my mind and turned my thoughts against me for years. Each day I would wake up, paint a smile on my face, and pretend I belonged in that world. I was desperate to be accepted, to fit it and not stand out. Over the years I had been told to “Love myself” but I had no idea how! When I finished school, I struggled to stick to a decision partly because I couldn’t envision myself succeeding at anything. Next thing I knew I was almost 21 and still no further forward from when I left school. Something had to change, and it took a break up and being stuck in a rut that brought me to the decision to leave home and travel to Australia. I had no idea how Australia was going to “fix” me, but I knew I needed to go.
Making the decision to leave and leaving, happened within a few months. I knew if I had to much time to think about it all I might realise how bloody scary it was. If you have read my other blog pieces you will already understand how I lived in constant fear of being judged for having a movement disorder so this was really throwing myself in the deep end. Deciding to leave also meant giving up on trialing different medication for my jerks which was not a bad thing because the side effects could cause more issues than the condition itself. I was lucky because I had the support of my family and friends which made the whole process easier. I think my parents were simply happy for me to finally stick to a decision and commit to it instead of finding an excuse to go out and party every other night. I had a close friend who was also traveling in Australia at that time so it gave me some comfort to know I wouldn’t be completely alone. When I left I had about $2000 Australian dollars, no plan, no job and nothing to lose from trying. If anything, I was hoping to lose my anxiety somewhere in Australia or preferably somewhere over the ocean whilst flying there.
I am not going to lie and say when I first got here, I was automatically transformed into this confident young woman who wasn’t afraid to be seen. In all honesty, the first couple of months were a struggle and I felt completely in over my head but I didn’t share that with anyone except my parents. Without dutch courage, I struggled to speak to strangers on my own, which can be tough when you’re living in a backpackers and sharing a room with strangers. I remember one night, I lay on the top bunk, unable to sleep because I was worried that if I jerked, the bed would creak and wake the person below so I just lay awkwardly tensing all my muscles. My mind was an expert creating scenarios to be anxious about which only made my jerking worse. About a month after landing in Australia I ended up in Broome, which was beautiful, but it wasn’t exactly filled with job opportunities. As I said, I left with no plan or idea what I was doing, I didn’t even realise how big Australia was and that winter existed there until after I arrived. Broome is a popular place for tourists and the most common jobs for backpackers were in bars and restaurants which was not ideal for me because my hands aren’t the most reliable. With my condition, my hands can jerk and spasm without warning so there would be a high chance by the time I got the drink or food to the customer that most of it would be on the floor which wouldn’t exactly be good for business. I thought about whether I should apply for a job and drink alcohol before my shift (my condition is alcohol responsive which means when I have several drinks the jerks stop) but then I realised that its probably against most company policies and could lead to alcoholism. Whilst I searched and applied desperately for a job my money was starting to run low and I was on the phone to my mum most days because I had no idea what to do. I was only in Australia for 2 months and I honestly thought I was going to have to accept defeat and go back home. Just the idea made me feel like a failure. I switched my diet to 2-minute noodles and cheap booze so I could try to make my money last as long as possible. I vividly remember sitting alone in the backpackers clutching a phone book and looking for companies to call. I was mainly applying for cleaning jobs and I looked for Nanny jobs on gumtree. My parents ended up sending me some extra money so I could pay for the backpackers, but I knew that if I didn’t find work in the next few weeks I would have to start looking at flights home. Then one day out of the blue I received a call, It was from a single dad from South Hedland and he needed a nanny ASAP for his two younger children. Without hesitation I took the job which I know doesn’t sound completely sensible, but I promised everyone if he didn’t have two children in the car when he came to pick me up I would run!
Lucky for me it ended up being a genuine job which meant my Australian dream was still alive and taking me to the Pilbara. The man that hired me was called Anthony and he turned out to be one the nicest most respectful men I have met. I cared for his two young children, a little girl aged 5 and a young boy aged 3. Later Anthony’s girlfriend, Jess moved in and we developed a friendship that still stands strong to this day. I nannied for them for 7months and together we created amazing memories and binged watched “Breaking Bad” together after the kids fell asleep. I genuinely cared for them and felt like part of the family and to this day I am thankful to Anthony for taking a chance on the Scottish backpacker in Broome. From day one my friendship with Jess felt so easy, we are convinced we must have known each other in a past life because we just clicked instantly. What I most thankful for is the way that Jess challenged the way I viewed myself. Despite wanting more for my life, I never believed that I could ever amount to anything but Jess believed I could. She was so confident in her belief that she even convinced me to take on new challenges and face my fears. One of the challenges took the form of a weekend job in a café that Jess was managing (I was not making or serving coffee for obvious reasons), I was a nervous wreck but I was there and I wasn’t alone. I was learning to get comfortable with the uncomfortable and some days I could even pass as someone who knew what they were doing. I still had a long way to go in learning to love my self unconditional but things were slowly starting to shift.
After 7 months of being a live-in nanny for Anthony and Jess, it was time for me to move on to the next step in my travels. I had decided that I wanted to spend a second year in Australia and to extend my working holiday visa I had to complete 3 months of farm work within the first year. So, I went back on to good old Gumtree and advertised myself as a “Hardworking Scottish Girl” looking to complete her farm work. It didn’t take too long and I had been contacted by a lovely lady who lived near Margaret River with her husband and 4 children on a farm. It made me nervous letting people know about my condition in case they doubt my abilities and decline their offer but after a few phone calls, they offered me the job. It was such a relief when I found not to be rejected because that was always my biggest fear when looking for jobs. It was arranged that I would start before the New year so, I spent Christmas in South Hedland with Anthony, Jess, and the kids, then on boxing day, I hitched a ride from someone I knew down to Margaret River. When it was time to head off I was in floods of tears but I was leaving with friends for life and a newly chipped tooth to commemorate my last night in Headland (Story for another day but I blame tequila).