I’ve gotten used to the view from my bedroom window.
Central Station’s clocktower is the centerpiece, an Australian flag waving in the wind atop it. The dark red youth hostelling association building neighbors it, and a Catholic church juts out between the two. In the distance, I can see the business district of Surry Hills, the blue-mirrored buildings I walk by often. Directly across from me is a grey building that belongs to the University of Technology, Sydney, and just beyond that is my favorite BYO dumpling spot. If I tilt my head to the left, I can see Sydney’s iconic skyline glistening in the afternoon sun.
I have to leave in a few days. I’ll peel the polaroids we’ve collected over the semester from our kitchen wall, and I’ll pack stuff my Vans into my suitcase, which were once white and are now a greyish-brown.
I am looking outside of my bedroom window again, and I see that the leaves are turning yellow. Somehow, this makes it seem like the right time to leave. This isn’t the same Australia that it was when I got here—the air is cooler, the days are shorter.
For months, I’ve been unsure of how I’ve felt about this whole experience. As I look out from my bedroom window, I realize that I’m going to miss this place so much that I feel uneasy. It’s not just Sydney itself, but that I could never replicate my time here: the things I saw, the people I saw them with. I feel nostalgic for something that hasn’t even ended yet.
I don’t want to leave, but I don’t want to stay here longer. I think that means that, like Marie Kondo writes in her book Spark Joy, I should thank what has brought joy into my life, but let it go when it no longer serves me.
I think Joan Didion does this well in “Goodbye to All That,” (1967) which is possibly my favorite essay of all time. Didion moved to New York City when she was twenty and fell in love with it, “the way you love the first person who ever touches you and you never love anyone quite that way again.” After years of living there and never losing her fascination with the city, she realized that she “was very young in New York and that at some point the golden rhythm was broken, and I am not that young anymore.”
In my opinion, Didion is writing that we all need different things at different stages in our lives. NYC was what Didion needed in her twenties, and I think Sydney was what I needed these past few months. But, like Didion describes, that ‘golden rhythm’ has been broken, and I’m ready to move along. Still, I will always think about and be changed by the time I’ve spent here, just as Didion feels inclined to reflect upon New York years later.
And so, in the spirit of joy, it’s time to say “goodbye to all that.”