england australia

A heart in two places | Kay Green – on her travels

by Kay Green

Kay Green, from Huddersfield, who started a new life as a single woman at the age of 50 and embarked on a year touring the world, concludes her series Shoulders Back, Deep Breaths with a reflection on her adventures and their publication in Northern Life.

This article celebrates the second anniversary of my contributing to Northern Life, and while I was waiting for my laptop to warm up this morning – trust me, that gives me plenty of thinking time,
as it’s getting old and it’s travelled a lot of miles with me – I was trying to work out whether the two years had flown or not. I realised that they hadn’t, they seem to have lasted a lifetime.

The editor’s introduction to my column describes me as being a 50-year-old single woman from Huddersfield; when in fact I’ve just had my 53rd birthday, I’m most definitely no longer single (much to my continued surprise) and I can’t claim that my permanent address is Huddersfield, West Yorkshire, or even the UK any more.

This last year or so, while I’ve been reflecting on and sharing my incredible experiences, I’ve deliberately tried not to reveal too much about where I’ve been at the time I was writing. I know I made it clear that I was back in Huddersfield in my last article, but I left the ending very open. I didn’t have enough space in the September issue to explain what my immediate future looked like, and besides I hoped you’d want to come back to my column and catch up with me again!

I landed back in Manchester on 24th February, exactly a year to the date I left. I liked the synchronicity that brought; it suited the completion of my incredible 12-month journey.

Long before I was due to leave Australia, I’d made the decision that I would be returning. For me it was a matter of when rather than if I went back. The immigration rules are very strict; because of my age I can’t get a temporary visa that allows me to work, and the application process for a permanent visa is long, complicated and costly. As a consequence it means I would need to accept
Phil’s incredibly generous offer of financial support, but my huge streak of independence means I can’t comfortably rely on him completely. I needed to be in the UK to see my family and friends, but also to find work and save up enough money to at least be able to make some contribution to our lives together.

I’m fortunate enough to have a lot of supportive people looking out for me. David and Del very kindly invited me to move in with them again. Being in Huddersfield surrounded by familiar things and my family should have felt like being home, but I was extremely unsettled. I missed Phil terribly, I found it hard to establish myself anywhere and I put myself under immense pressure to find work. My friends were as busy as they’d always been and because I hadn’t been in their lives for a long time naturally I had to wait for gaps in their diaries before we could get together. I was incredibly lonely, more so than I’d ever been before. I felt isolated, lost and very confused.

Even though I knew without a doubt that I wanted to be in Australia, the difference between what my heart wanted and what my head was telling me was a battle of epic proportions. In my unconscious moments my brain tried to trick me so many times with thoughts of staying in Yorkshire. It threw up options and possibilities; getting a job, buying a small house, and settling into a life surrounded by my special people. These ideas represented a future without fear or the torment of whether or not I was being selfish. My brain kept telling me it would be simple, it would be familiar, it would be safe.

I dwelled in consideration of the ideas for some time. I love my family and close friends immensely, and the thought of leaving them again made me incredibly sad. I make no secret of how important my friendship with my parents is to me; the thought of not being around for them, and being unable to be with them whenever I wanted, was my biggest wrench.

When I was a 50-year-old newly single woman living in Huddersfield, embarking on my unexpected fresh start, my deepest desire for myself was that I would become a better, stronger person. Every time doubts about my plans started to creep in, I replaced them with the surety of the fact that I had achieved my ambition and in many ways I’d become the woman I’d hoped to be; that deciding to see what my future held with Phil on the other side of the world wasn’t me being selfish, it was me being brave and true to myself. There was no doubt in my heart that I needed to do this, that despite my dreamstealing brain continually offering me the sensible, easy option, if I took that path I would regret it for the rest of my life. The panic I felt when I thought about leaving was a fraction of what I felt when I thought about staying.

Out of respect for my mum and dad I knew I had to confirm my plans and explain my feelings and reasons to them. I was dreading the emotions that the conversation would involve, but in the end we all dealt with it in a very calm way. It was probably one of the most rewarding conversations I’ve ever had with them. I didn’t ask for their blessing, but then I didn’t need to; they gave it freely with the generosity of spirit that makes them the amazing people that they are. The relief that came with their understanding my need to go was monumental.

I’m sure my memory is playing tricks on me, but it seemed almost as soon as I let go of the thoughts that I was being selfish lots of things came together within a short period of time. The rainy start to the summer was replaced by sunny days and long, light nights. My friends were used to me being in their lives again and my social life started up in earnest, and I got to spend some quality time with everyone. I managed to pick up more freelance writing work, a temporary office job one day a week that I loved, and I even had time to fit in some TV extra work.

I realised, despite the complexity of Australian immigration, the summer months I had in front of me might be the last time I would be in the UK for such a long period of time, and I made the most of it. I stopped resenting my need to be there and instead I started to see it as a gift. I was confident enough in the courage of my convictions to let myself feel at home without the nagging thoughts of having to stay. I still missed Phil, but we did a pretty good job of supporting each other; hearing his voice was enough to keep me going when it got tough to be separated for so long. In the end we were apart for seven months.

I can’t go into details about the sadness and pain that came with my leaving everyone. I can’t think about it for too long because when I do the lump I get in my throat is so big it makes it hard to swallow.

The day I eventually left, I refused to have anyone take me to the airport. I took the train instead; it was important to me to start the long journey to my next lifetime on my own. I have no idea what this era will bring, but I do know that the day I left Huddersfield I realised that as much as I was leaving home I was doing it so I could go home. My heart lives in two places now.