Photo: Jordan Voth / Flowers: Wander and Rose / Dress: Michelle Hebert
If anyone would have told me two years ago that I would be living in a completely new country, in a city I hadn’t even heard of, with a man who I met on the internet, I probably would have believed you. I have always felt like my life was going to take me to more places, in more extraordinary ways.
Growing up in Australia, on the outskirts of Sydney on 5 acres of land living with my grandparents, my mum and my younger brother, I always felt quite disconnected from those around me. Photography became my medicine and muse for coping with family heartaches and my young adolescent years. I never tried to fit in because my aspirations and goals were always larger than most would think possible: my vision exceeded my reality and my capacity.
Through photography, I came to know of a young conceptual photographer named David, who lived in the suburbs of Los Angeles. We were a whole ocean away, and for once I felt like I connected to someone: something. For years, the idea of meeting David and understanding why I feel so drawn to his soul lingered in the back of my mind, and after 4 years of friendship, letters, packages at my door and messages in my inbox, I followed my heart and my soul and flew over to travel the US with him, alongside some of our mutual photography friends.
On the 22nd of May 2015, at only 18 years old, I felt an overwhelming wave of love at Portland Airport immediately as David scooped me in his arms to greet me after traveling for almost 42 hours. An instant connection, that affirmed all the dreams over the years of what it could be like to experience life with him. But deep down I had a knowing that falling in love with this beautiful soul would be painful. He lived a world away, and I don’t know that I was really prepared for what it would mean to be his now, wife.
After a year and a half of long distance, with 3 trips to the US and David making 3 trips to Australia, as well as meeting halfway in Vietnam once too, we closed the distance. It took lots of time to get here. We were engaged in April of 2016, submitting my visa to move to the US with him in July and were approved in late October. I moved 2 weeks later and we were married on December 8th.
February 16th was 3 full months living abroad and it’s been simultaneously amazing, as well as heart-wrenching. We had no guests at our wedding. We chose to elope, informed all our family and friends and wed in the beautiful desert of Joshua Tree in California.
A week before the wedding we had bad news back home, a loss and heartache of something so dear and close, and I wished in that moment I could hug my family so tightly. Except, leaving would mean forfeiting my visa, my new life and everything we had strived so hard for. I had to swallow the hurt and continue living life. I have never cried so deeply the way I did that day.
The day of the wedding, I was enthralled. This is the day David and I had only imagined would come to life when we were so young, 5 years ago. My heart was so full, and I wed the man of my dreams, who stood in front of me and declared his love and his desire to always keep me safe. I had a dress handmade by my lovely friend, Michelle, and flowers that reminded me of home by my friend Abigail, and the love of my life standing by my side.
We moved back home to Portland about 3 weeks later, after spending nearly 2 months in Southern California where David grew up. On New Years day, we started the drive, and I was absolutely glowing. I hadn’t been back to Portland in over 6 months and I couldn’t believe I wouldn’t have to leave it, or fly away, or say goodbye anytime soon or ever again. We drove up, 17 hours later, a snowstorm and night in a small town below the Siskiyou Summit, a lot of trips to In-n-Out, a car full of everything we owned and no place to move into. We secured our dream apartment a day later under the most amazing circumstances. By far the biggest blessing.
The routine started setting in and I still couldn’t understand why I wasn’t content. I was happy, oh my I am still glowing. But being happy and content have proven to be two separate feelings. I realized that for the first time in my 20 years of life, I have a safe, secure home. Something I have always felt I lacked in my life. I have security, predictability and no toxicity or even worse, fear. For the first time in my life, I can heal from the hurt I experienced during my life and my young years and even the past few years.
I find myself crying over the silliest things, in the grocery store, in the bathtub, in the middle of the night. I am happy. But I am healing, and the hurt of past wounds are coming to surface and I am letting them go, one by one. One FaceTime call with my best friend, my mum or even my younger brother, and I am thrilled the whole conversation through. The second the phone call finishes, I am a heaping mess. Dreaming of the Australian summer as I get used to the freezing winter, dreaming of my Mum seeing my beautiful little apartment and the sun leaking into the windows in the morning and dreaming of what it would be like to have my car in my new country, a drivers license even and the ability to be independent. Wishing I could have my best friend over and cook dinner for everyone. It’s those little moments that I am truly missing.
It’s the small moments of accidentally veering to the other side of the road when I drive, or forgetting I can’t instant bank transfer, learning how to read Fahrenheit and weigh Lbs. and keep to the right when walking on the sidewalk. Those are the moments when I feel hopeless and helpless and I wish I could be back in the comfort of my old home.
Although I wouldn’t trade my new life for anything in the world, I am learning how to live again. Fully, and fearlessly and selfishly. My days are new and I feel like a young child, taking my first steps, but that is the joy and the sadness of moving across the world. It’s both beautiful and sad, and every single day is a journey to understand more and learn more and be more.