(Written from 6th May, almost 3 months since leaving)
So the Australian adventure is here, changing me in more ways than I ever could have imagined. Life has become so much bigger, so much more beautiful. I’ve proven to myself and the world that I, Jonathan David Kline, can take on the world, then thousand miles from home. The days of a small secluded life in rural nowhere have been behind for quite some time, and I find that the opportunities in Australia are far more than I ever had back home. I love it here. I really, genuinely do, and a giant part of me wants to stay here forever. So with the future ahead of me, my eyes set on Australia and all the adventures I’m experiencing in this great new world, what do I really miss from home?
To be honest, a lot less than I thought at first (I’m sorry to all the people back home reading this, especially my Dad, but bear with me). I even boast about it to all my friends. They talk occasionally about how much they miss this or that, whether it be the food, or New Paltz, or friends, or any other range of things. But honestly, I don’t miss home like I thought I would. In terms of food, I don’t really eat much to begin with, so whatever keeps me fed is enough (usually pizza, grilled toasties, and chicken parm). I’m not from the city, so I’m not attached to New York style pizza, grilled toasties are easy to make anywhere, and although initially I missed having chicken parm come with spaghetti, I kinda like that it comes with ham and chips (fries) here. As for New Paltz, I was only there for one semester before coming here. Though I loved that semester, I don’t have the same attachment to it as others. Going back will be nice, but not something I’m extremely looking forward to. That ties into friends as well: I only got to make so many friendships at New Paltz due to only being there for so long, and once I go back there’s only a few faces I’ll have actually missed. Outside of New Paltz, truth be told I don’t have more than two or three close friends, who I only see once or twice a year anyway.
This isn’t to say of course that I don’t miss SOME food, New Paltz, and friends back home. But in many ways, I’ve found more success here than I did back home. While I miss some restaurants (and especially cheaper food), I’ve found several places I like here that can substitute. Plus, I’ve become half decent at making my own food, and do so just about everyday (which doesn’t sound like a huge accomplishment until you’re out on your own without a meal plan like at New Paltz). I miss the small town feel of New Paltz, and even though Deyo was kinda crappy I miss my old suite, which had legroom, occasional crazy, and most importantly, free laundry. But I’ve come to appreciate Victoria University enough (it’s not the greatest school); classes are easier and students and professors friendly. I won’t say I like UniLodge (we’ve had to evacuate for a ‘fire’ every week), but I enjoy being able to cook my own meals, play games of pool, and hang out with friends. And friend-wise, I feel I’m much more comfortable and able to enjoy being with friends here more than I sometimes was at home. Now, I’ll actually seek to hang out with mates, watch movies, play games, and importantly for me, not be as afraid of women or parties/drinks as I used to be. The friendships I’ve developed are ones I never really had back home, and even though inevitably I won’t be able to keep them all once home, I feel like now I know how to make friends, how to be social, and once home how to keep friendships going.
But when it comes to friends, there’s one I truly miss with all my heart, and whenever I’m asked, “don’t you miss anything from home?” is my immediate response: my sister. Two years younger than I am, Shelby has been my best friend since day one. We had an incredible childhood full of memories and jokes we make to this day. After losing our mom, we toughed it out together, working to push through and build the other up (I needed a LOT of it). Always supportive, always there for the other, and at the same time always making fun of the other or making complete fools of ourselves. So when I first started looking at study abroad, the one thing that was holding me back above everything else was being so far from Shelby. At New Paltz, I was still close enough I could come visit when I wanted, and we still talked on the phone every single day. Now, I was going to be geographically further from her than ever before. Not to mention, this being her senior year of high school, I’m not there to help her through and experience such a huge part of her life. Performing her senior year acting troupe show, getting her driver’s license, going to prom, deciding where to go to college, walking down the stage at graduation… and I’m on the other side of the planet.
Yet even though I’m so far away from home, I still feel close to home, if not closer (if that makes sense). I’m still able to talk with my sister at least once a week but usually more. I don’t always enjoy the time difference, but we’ve come to manage and have worked out the best times to call each other (usually my late morning, which is NY’s late evening). I still get to be a part of my sister’s life, watching as she develops into a new woman. Just as this trip has changed me, it’s also changed her, making her more independent and ready to leave the nest, and as a brother I couldn’t be happier. I also try to talk to my parents at least once a week, who I also miss a lot. My dad is always excited to hear from me, brightening up his day whenever I call, and mine as well. I think even more than Shelby he wants me to come back soon, and I can’t blame him. As excited as my family is to hear all my interesting stories taking on sharks in the reef and crocodiles in the jungle (I may have borrowed those stories from Finding Nemo and Crocodile Dundee), I’m just as excited to hear stories back home about how the deck furniture is being replaced or my dad got his crown replaced. Because even though it’s not always interesting at a glance, it’s home.
Being so far away has made me greatly appreciate everything about home that I sometimes took for granted. I miss the dishwasher, free laundry, my computer, the deck swing and hammock my family is beginning to set up once again. One big thing I really miss having is my car; which is definitely one of the first things I’m using once I get back (hopefully on the right side of the road!). Not that I mind so much using public transportation or my feet for shorter distances, but there’s some days I just want to drive in the countryside, or not walk fifteen minutes to the grocery store. Although generally speaking the weather here is better, I miss the change of the seasons and the beauty of spring. I miss hanging out with my cousins after church on Sunday or being at my grandparents doing yard work. I miss baseball games and bike riding and building things. Home cooked meals my stepmom would go out her way to make for us, sitting at the couch watching Jeopardy while eating said meals, and then a walk to the falls after dinner as a family….
Despite everything here, there’s just some things back home that will always hold a special place in my heart. No matter where I go, or how far, or for how long, home is always home. Maybe one day Australia could be home. Maybe I won’t always stay in the same place I grew up. Maybe what I have at home isn’t meant to last forever. But there will always be something special about my life in upstate New York, that no matter what happens I will always treasure and cherish.