Previously: I finished my PhD in 3 years and 2.5 months, or 1,175 days. Simultaneously during very many of those days and for 600 afterwards, I toiled as a postdoctoral researcher doing work I mostly loved for people I mostly hated.
When it finally came time to leave, I applied and interviewed at a number of places, running the usual gamut. I failed to make the shortlist for a job later filled by someone without publications or PhD. I tried to describe my unique selling points to a university undergoing such dramatic restructuring that it was unclear what their own strengths and weaknesses would be by the time of appointment. I was petted by the head of department and led into a meeting by the small of my back, where a panel demanded to know how I could contribute to analysis of gender. I was interviewed for my dream job; lunched by leading scholars, led across parquet floors, and ultimately pipped at the post by someone with a decade more experience. Then, finally: deliverance.
I left England in August 2015. Having been in the same small town for nearly five years, I smashed my previous lifetime long-stay record purely accidentally. Unlike the relocations of my childhood, I was totally aware that the small college town I was leaving (populated by split-flap displays of friends, co-workers, indie businesses, and miniature routines in constant, clicking rotation) was one that I will never be able to return to.
Unlike my departure from Sydney -- which was too soon -- this move came too late. For each memory where we eat olives watching the sunset turn the canal into lava beneath fuzzy cygnets, there is one where we stand in the pouring rain, waiting freezing eternities for busses, miserable with anticipation and cold silence. In that time, I had pints of cider handed to me by fingers crescent-mooned with dirt from plucking apples for weeks before, and I had an entire tray of beers sloshed over an hour-long hairstyle and new birthday dress. People met, dated, became engaged, even became married in those years and I wore the fascinators and drank the wine, and kept drinking the wine as people fell out, broke up, got divorced.
I visited every establishment in a four-mile radius from where I lived, and I became a regular in the places that felt like home. If you've ever felt that "sometimes you want to go where everyone knows your name", I can recommend living in a glorified village for upwards of five years. If you would like just one fucking night of being nobody to everybody now and then, I recommend living in a real city.
Due to scheduling, moving day goodbyes were stretched out into moving fortnight farewells. By the time the actual morning of departure came, I was totally emotionally strung out on vertigo-of-the-life [is this a real concept for anyone else?]. My boyfriend and I paced around the nearly-empty one-bedroom flat, tallying up how much of the deposit I was set to lose and weighing how much effort we could be bothered to summon in defraying these costs. I had lived there for a year alone. Over a year previously, the place had stretched to the seams to accommodate him, with overflow going into paid storage at first and then on to his mother's at last.
All of this stuff combined didn't half fill a 7.5-tonne moving truck. And yet, when I stood outside in the shadow of the cathedral and our sum possessions, I was shocked at the volume. I left New York with two suitcases. I left Auckland with two suitcases and one small box. I left Sydney with two suitcases and two large shipping boxes. I left England with a half a truck full of things, a slip of paper, and emotional baggage that I still feel as though I'm unpacking.
I sat in the passenger seat of my northern boyfriend's two-door Ford Fiesta (a make not available in America) and watched our past recede behind us. I tried and failed to capture the sun spotting over no-longer-our garden, where we will never again gather a dozen friends under misting rain to unevenly burn food in a BBQ made by Boy Scouts out of half a keg. I thought about how strange it was, our way of developing emotional relationships with physical places, of inventing stories to make that relationship reciprocal. I also thought then -- as I'm thinking now -- of the last episode of Six Feet Under, where Nate says, "You can't take a picture of this; it's already gone". I turned to share the poignant moment with my partner of four years, straining to summon a tear to my eye. "Never saw it," he grunted, flicking the indicator to slide us onto the motorway pointed towards THE SOUTH.