Much of a Muchness… And Other Australian Epiphanies

Did you know Australians not only drive on the left side of the road, but also walk on the left side of the sidewalk?

Also, they call sweaters “jumpers” but don’t have a word for the denim dresses with overalls we all wore in the ‘90s.

And they say “how are you going” rather than “how is it going?”

This is one of my favorite games right now—dissecting the subtle differences between American and Australian culture. My friends and I will point out idioms, products, or cultural norms and hold them up to the “Yank” way of doing things. (And, like the dork I am, I’ll try the phrases out, attempting the flattened vowels of the Australian accent, sounding only vaguely British and mostly absurd.)

It’s hard to believe I’ve been here for almost two weeks now. At the beginning of June, I flew for sixteen hours over the entire Pacific Ocean and arrived in the Northeast coast of Australia. Two friends (whom I technically hadn’t met yet) greeted me and ushered me to their apartment in the heart of Brisbane.

Seemingly seamlessly, I joined into the rhythm of their lives. I recognize the rare gift I’m receiving of generous hospitality. Delicious meals shared and a welcoming intentionality as these people share their home, their food, their friends, their time. And the genuine excitement as we tour their Brisbane favorites—a steady stream of “Oooh! We’ll have to take Allie to (fill in the blank with yet another delightful Brisbane gem)” adding more to the Explore List. 

In the midst of this new shared urban life—picnics by the river, subway rides into the city and (my new favorite hobby!) Monday night Beer Yoga, we have started to settle into a rhythm of normal life. All three of us freelance writers. All three of us somewhat new to the lifestyle of doing what we love. Sharing companionable silences punctuated by keyboard clicking. Sharing meals and conversation in the afternoons. Sharing “just one more episode” looks after a particularly cliff-hanging ending of Orphan Black in the evenings. 

Kinship is a novelty after so many months of solitude.

One Australian idiom has been echoing in my head, as I adjust to life down under. Mick tossed it out as we were exploring downtown Brisbane, discussing the various public transportation systems in the city. “It’s much of a muchness.”

“Much over muchness?” (I have to ask people to repeat themselves often. Even though we’re both speaking English… I still need translations.)

“Much of a muchness.”

The whimsical phrase seemed to describe my life right now. Because to my untrained ears, the phrase sounded like a stretch beyond immensity. A thing too much to be contained by one four-lettered “much.” Immeasurably immense.

And life feels pretty immense right now. I’m struck in odd moments by my reality. Attempting to share who I am when Kamina introduces me to someone and faltering for a succinct answer. Being in such a different time zone from everyone I love—it’s almost always Tomorrow here. Still trying to wrap my mind around the whirlwind of events this past year. (And realizing there’s no end in sight in the Big Life Changes department.)

For all the uncertainty and trailblazing, it seems I’m in uncharted territory. And in grasping for a way to describe it, “much of a muchness” feels right.

But that’s not actually what the phrase means. It doesn’t mean beyond infinity. “Much of a muchness” is an idiom conveying the very little difference between two things. Like “six of one, half a dozen of the other.”

This also rings true. Because as much as my life feels like an immensity difficult to wrap my mind around, it also feels exactly right. Traipsing around the west coast on my own or sharing life with Australians? Six of one, half a dozen of the other.   

In all of the absurdity that’s come to make so much sense, there’s a certain level of shoulder-shrugging acceptance of it all. Of course I’m here in Australia. Of course I decided to come stay with my Australian friend for two months. Unconventionality has been my m.o. for quite awhile now. (Maybe it’s because I’ve spent the last year of my life staying in strangers houses, but the spectrum of what’s “normal” for me has expanded.)

It’s all much of a muchness.

Not because I’m super brave or anything. Mostly because I’ve been practicing. Following Eleanor Roosevelt’s advice of doing one thing each day that scares me. While I don’t desire an endlessly nomadic lifestyle, residing outside of my comfort zone these past ten months has been an excellent teacher.

Learning how to be brave in the solo-adventures brought me to depths I didn’t know existed. And now, as I enter back into community, even at the other end of the world, I’m finding new ways of being just as brave. But wherever I find myself, there I am. Still me, gifts and struggles and insecurities and splendor. Every bit very much of my muchness.

Everything Is As It Should Be

What is my life?

This is the question buzzing around my head.

Resurfacing when I lay in bed at night trying to wrap my mind around the events of the last few months.

The incredulous exclamation whispered with a laugh as I try to prepare for the upcoming ones.

A genuinely baffled and utterly delighted curiosity towards this whirlwind of a story unfolding.

Allie Illuminated | danner boots

A quick recap for those at home:

  • Last September, I left everything familiar and certain to travel around the west coast. I always knew the very next step, but plans or visions of any bigger picture were fuzzy at best. Eight months of adventure, discovering new friends and the hidden treasures of the Pacific coastal towns, all while launching a freelance writing business from scratch. The immensity of all that happened within me during this solitude and unprecedented independence is still hard to wrap my mind around.
  • In moments yet too fragile to put into words, I explored the outer regions of myself. It was a most beautiful emptiness, but the season of solitude seemed done around March. I wanted to keep traveling for a bit, but to adventure towards or with people who knew me well. So when an opportunity to stay with a dear friend in Australia presented itself, this nonsensical adventure made all of the sense in my soul. Which is why I booked a two-month flight to Brisbane, that leaves on Tuesday.
  • So in the last few weeks of being alone in the remote parts of Northern California, I stumbled into a plot twist. An unexpected, nearly unbelievable but ironically perfect gift. I met someone. I met a California mountain man,  to be more specific. With a depth of kindness that takes my breath away and an adventurous soul that feels like home. And, dear reader, this is very new. A story that is still just his and mine, and one that I’m not ready to share in this context. But a beautiful game-changer, with a weightiness impossible to ignore.

Endings and beginnings. Leaving and arriving, only to leave again. It’s as if I’m sitting at a train station. Just returned from this immense journey that changed me in ways I’ll still be discovering for years, and about to embark on another adventure of epic proportions. The whir of trains leaving, seasons ending, and the rush of anticipation, announcements, and countdowns to leaving has me feeling swept up and thunderstruck.

In the now rare moments of quiet, I poke around in the giddy jumbled pile of my thoughts and emotions. And I think “What is my life? How did this happen?!”

Fear disguised as wisdom would have me bridle my joy, hold back my happiness, guard against some future hurt. Worrying and playing out worst-case scenarios feel like the prudent things to do.

But I’ve lived enough life to know those tactics for what they are—feeble grasps at control rooted in mistrust. And regardless of the outcome, the times I’ve dared to be happy and chosen to enter into the moment have never ended in regret.

This time around, though, I’m feeling more able to dismiss the anxious thoughts. I’ve been trying on the thought “Everything is exactly as it should be.”

Months of healing solitude has produced a deeper sense of confidence in me. The nearly daily practice of stepping into the unknown has fortified my ability to trust. And the help of a dear friend and mentor, Julie has cultivated new and healthy thought patterns. I’m finding it possible to really believe in abundance and to recognize thoughts of scarcity as fear-based lies.

How do I know that my solo adventure on the west coast was the right thing for me to do?

Because that’s what I did.

How do I know that Australia will be Good for me?

Because I’m going.

How do I know all the moving pieces and sometimes overwhelming immensity of it all is supposed to be happening?

Because it is.

How do I trust that this story I’m in the midst of is the right one?

Because the One writing this story is trustworthy and Good. 

Tempting though it is to try and figure how all of this is going to play out, I want so much to be in this present moment. To not miss a thing. What’s happening has left me incredulous, but the story I’m in the midst of is so riveting.

At this train station, crowded with familiar faces of people who know me or knew me, as I share bits of past or upcoming travels, they say with eyebrows raised “I am excited to see what happens next!”

It’s all I can do to giggle and reply, “I know! Me too.”