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.