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Anchor

After a year in Sydney, I felt stagnated, and the urge to move again was rising. I knew it wasn’t long until I was washed away, and if I didn’t wade out now, then I’d be lifted off my feet and swept somewhere not of my choosing. I’d been submerged before, and it took me years to climb to the bank.


Here I was – I had failed to find an anchor, so I chose to run.


Approaching Melbourne by train at dawn (Photo: Patrick Lyne)

I was disappointed when I couldn’t find any creative people in Sydney. One year in, and it felt like I was the only aspiring novelist in the whole city. Not true, I know, but that’s how I felt, surrounded by suits and people with places to be. Meanwhile there I was, living in a crappy apartment, writing bad draft after bad draft, and working casual jobs that no one else wanted.


But one good thing about only having two bags and living in crappy apartments is that I can get up and leave almost anytime I want. So that’s exactly what I did. 


 I decided to take my pursuit of writing seriously, and a degree sounded like a decent idea. After I got accepted into RMIT’s creative writing program, I packed my bags, booked a ticket to Melbourne, and rode a 12-hour night train down the coast with fuck-all plans. 

I wasn’t sure what would happen if I tied myself down to a three year degree, but hopefully the rope would be strong enough when the tide caught up.

 

**********

 

When I got off at Southern Cross, the first thing I did was call up some places to stay. I sat in the station, flipping through my cheap Woolworths phone until I settled on a backpackers with alright ratings. Check-in time was later in the day, so I had some time to kill.


As per my anima, I gravitated toward the state library, and I waited for it to open. To me, a city’s state library is its heart – a solid landmark that could dictate my sense of direction like the red hand of a compass. 


10am, and the security opened the doors to a surprisingly big weekend crowd. I looked for the nearest quiet space, found a couch at the back and gave in to train-lag.


Snored a couple times, likely disturbing the students nearby. My body was at a weird angle, but I had a refreshing nap nonetheless. When I woke up, I took advantage of my energised brain and took a squizz at Google Maps.


Melbourne CBD was a far cry from Sydney’s more open, bigger roads. Tell you what though, Melbourne was fuckin cold. There I was, in the middle of autumn, feeling like my homeland of Tasmania had followed me across the strait. But Melbourne’s coldness is more like an open palm than a closed fist. In Tasmania, you can really feel the closeness to the South Pole. Here, the wind is more bark than bite. Still sucks though.


When the time came, I lugged my duffel bag and backpack through the streets toward the backpackers.

 

**********

 

Later, I entered RMIT for the first time through the Building 8 entrance. I didn’t have my card yet, and had to run in when someone came out the door. I walked up the stairs, came out onto the landing, and the first thought I had is still vivid in my mind.


What the fuck is this?


 Knew it was a tech university, whatever that meant, but, I dunno. I should've expected a big building since it was the heart of the CBD, but I’d seen pictures of UniMelb and in the back of my mind I think that’s what my psyche craved: a REAL university campus, the type you see in movies. The type embedded in society’s collective unconscious – that archetypical shit. Not a bunch of buildings clustered randomly in the city like fallen Jenga pieces. But hey, it was better than rotting away in Sydney with no direction in life. But Sydney was probably the best place to rot away, to be honest. Or maybe that’s just my inner Tasmanian speaking. Growing up in a city with no jobs or opportunities, valuing a big city like Sydney is easy. I loved my gym and I loved Bondi. Probably the two things I miss most, along with the weather. But the torrential rain I could do without.


I looked around a bit, getting my bearings in the place where I would spend most of my time during the following months.


Soon, I guess exhaustion got the better of me and I headed back to my bed for the night.

Only to be met by a party in the lounge. 


Was blasting it downstairs, right next to the cheapo 24-bedder. Complained, and the nice girl put me in one of the rooms upstairs. About 12 beds, a lot quieter.


Remember sitting up, watching vids on my phone with the bunk blinds closed, thinking about what I’m gonna do next. Had no idea really. But even though I was basically homeless with limited funds, I felt chill. This time, I had an anchor.


I lulled off to the sound of someone snoring, like I did in the library earlier, and I wondered how long I’d last before the urge to move came again.

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