The downside of moving to the United States of America on the day Donald Trump was inaugurated as President was…everything.
I’m not being dramatic. It’s mathematical: There is no upside, ergo it’s all a downside.
By the time the election was called in his favour, I was already five months into the six-and-a-half month process to move my life to the U.S., so it was too late to turn back.
Nevertheless, it was a lifelong dream, and as I said approximately five thousand times (every time I was well-meaningly asked “I guess you don’t want to move there now?”): I wasn’t going to turn an existential defeat into a personal one. I wasn’t giving up my lifelong dream for anyone.
And besides: did I make it work or did I make it work? I had an incredible time in New York for three years: learning shit at the Upright Citizens Brigade, starting a podcast with my BFF, being a background actor on one of my favourite TV shows (and several I’ve never seen), learning the art of comedy writing at a one-of-a-kind comedy writer’s summer camp, being shortlisted for NBC’s Late Night Writer’s Workshop, GETTING MARRIED? I loved my apartment, I loved the winters, I loved the excitement, I loved the musical theatre, I loved the life.
But the weight of the world still gnawed at me. The cruelty being enacted by the government; inside the borders, outside the borders, and particularly on the borders, weighed us down. The spectacular joke that is the American healthcare system weighed us down. The “invisible” class system that infiltrates every level of American society, particularly in corporate workplaces in New York City, weighed Will down. The things that I had taken for granted in Australia: a standard four weeks annual leave, superannuation, bread that doesn’t have sugar in it, weighed me down. That last one isn’t even a metaphor. The sugary bread—which is cake. It’s JUST CAKE. You are making sandwiches with SLICES OF CAKE—started weighing me down. There’s nowhere better in the world to stress eat than the United States of America. I highly recommend it. But the root cause of the stress eating was no fucking fun.
But this is what I wanted.
In the weeks leading up to the U.S.’s midterm elections in 2018, Will and I had a heavy conversation that had a very simple premise: What if we just left? We very carefully handed the decision back and forth for weeks. Every time one of us did a heavy sigh, or had a bad night’s sleep, or started clawing at the cakebread, the other would bring up The Question: carefully, like a recently jostled champagne bottle, lest we make the decision too abruptly and lose an eye.
Every time one of us asked The Question, we got a tiny bit closer to an answer. And then, one day, the cork popped: it was decided if things didn’t swing back toward the left in the midterm elections, then it would be panic stations because they may never, so we should plan an escape now and deploy the plan in November if things went pear-shaped.
“Escape”. That was the specific word we used. In hindsight that seems very melodramatic, but at the time it was, at worst, only slightly melodramatic. I’ll be honest, the word felt right. So, we laid out the logistics, the requirements, the pros and the cons, and by the time the elections were upon us, we had our contingency plan.
As it turned out, the midterm elections went surprisingly well. “Escape” was not necessary.
The morning after the midterm elections, the thought remained in our minds. I can’t remember which of us started the conversation, but I know what was said:
“I…sort of…still want to enact the contingency plan.”
And we enacted the plan.
Now, to move a small dog to Australia (or any size dog, but we happen to have a small one) requires about six months of scheduled vet visits. A six month wait put us just about at the time of our lease ending, so we had our time frame built in.
In the middle of that six month wait, I had a potential writing career opportunity that threatened to derail the whole thing. It didn’t pan out obviously, I just want to point out that it wasn’t just a six month waiting stint. It was six months of managing somewhere between two and seven “what if?” scenarios. Nothing was settled, nothing was final, nothing was certain until we were sitting on the plane.
On August 15, 2019 we sat on the plane.
On August 17, 2019 we landed in Melbourne.
I’m writing this over two and a half years after the fact, so I can say with the benefit of hindsight that we moved into a two bedroom house that was modest in size, bordering on “poky”. But having just come from a 1 bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s 148th St, it felt palatial. Will went almost two whole weeks without stubbing his toe on anything.
Ten days after we arrived back in Australia, we picked Mattie up from quarantine (a term that, back in 2019, only referred to something you did with dogs when you brought them to Australia), she let out a high-pitched keening noise for 25 straight minutes, we vowed to never put her on a plane ever again, and we started building a new life, again. I reconnected with my old friends, started going back into the office after three years of working remotely (a term that, back in 2019, only referred to something you did in extreme circumstances such as, for example, an employee with a particularly niche set of skills fucking off to America), and Will started adjusting to a new life of savoury bread and no ozone layer.
My chapter of living in another hemisphere ended, and his began.