All you need is… Aroha


A couple of weeks ago I took one of my best friends to Sydney airport. She’d come out here from the UK to give living in Sydney a try but it wasn’t her favourite thing and she decided to leave. I always knew there was a possibility of this when she came out here and was as prepared as I could be but it’s still left me with a gap in her departure that I’m hoping will disappear with time.

It’s certainly not easy to make friends and find the big circle of friends that I had back in the UK, and the argument is that’s it’s about quality, not quantity, and other arguments might also cover off the fact that I have Mr OC, and that many of the stresses I’d felt from my way of life in the crazy hectic SE of England have disappeared. And all of this is indeed very true.

However, since the start of this year I have waved goodbye to three of my good friends in Sydney and with each one it gets a bit weirder and harder. Truth be told, they’re living the life of riley in other parts of the world and I’m dead happy for them.

So, what about me, still here in Sydney nearly 18 months on? I think the most honest description is that the honeymoon period with Sydney has worn off – reality is the… reality. And when you look at it, it’s not a bad reality at all – it really isn’t. I’ve been so lucky to get a good job with nice people, and I live in one of the most beautiful places… I’ve been lucky in love and I’ve been so happy! By comparison back in the UK, I had become stressed and I’d lost the purpose of things. I guess I felt like I was trapped but by my own doing. At the time I decided to go, I felt that if I didn’t grab the opportunity to go do something a little bit ‘big’ and crazy right then and there while my heart was willing and my brain was daring, then I’d lose the momentum and probably stay in my home town until I was on my death bed. And in many ways that would have been no bad thing – I loved the ease of things – the social buzz: I loved the hostessing in my beautiful little flat, I had a cat and lots of nice possessions, and a circle of friends who were always coming in and out my front door and whose front door I was always welcome through. I knew everyone, and I knew everything – where to go for things I wanted, and what options I had available.

Here I have to search, I have to build, I have to start again. Combine that with the practicalities of managing finances and properties both here and in a country thousands of miles away, mix it up with dear friends getting engaged and whose wedding plans and, perhaps even…. Very sadly… wedding days I won’t be able to be a part of and suddenly, the reality here seems a little grimmer. Flights back to England cost a fortune and I am limited to my 20 days annual leave. It doesn’t go very far when you have to travel for a day just to get back to your friends and family.

So… when the friends I make here start disappearing too or one of them decides she doesn’t prefer it here, which  is not what you felt… you feel doubt. Fear and doubt creep into your mind – ‘am I doing the right thing? Is this really where I want to be?’ Should I be here… do I want my future here? Am I ready for that future here? It’s a future very far away from 95% of the people I love…

I’m fighting the tears back on a bright sunny morning because I saw my brother James walking down the prom as I sat on the bus, and my heart lurched right into my mouth…

…except I didn’t see him, because he’s not here.

Yep… It’s hard. It hurts like hell sometimes.

And then I remember – I’m here because I love and am loved. I love my man and I wouldn’t change life with him for the world. I love me – and I came here for me. I love my family and friends… and because of their love for me, I can be strong when I feel weak and when I’m not sure if what I’m doing is right.

And I’ve learnt a new word which describes it perfectly:

Aroha is a Maori (and now New Zealand English) word with many layers of meaning. The light translation is love.

Teacher and tohuna Ruth Makuini Tai explains:

“The word Aroha holds a premier position within the Maori language of Aotearoa New Zealand. Maori language and practise holds the memory of a time when the force of Aroha was understood and respected by all. Aroha is the creative force behind all dreams. Aroha defines great leadership, ensures personal success, inspires us to go the extra mile. Aroha means Love. However when we explore its roots Aroha yields a profound message about love that is not widely understood.

ARO is thought, life principle, to pay attention, to focus, to concentrate
RO is inner, within, introspection
HA is life force, breath, energy
OHA is generosity, prosperity, abundance, wealth”

Aroha may be described as the binding force of all that is.*

I am blessed to have love and I am blessed to have been able to come here and still feel that love. I am lucky to have the life I do with the people I love – even if they’re not right on my doorstep anymore.

Moreover, I’ve been welcomed into another family with no questions asked. The OCs are kind, generous, fun (slightly crazy too but who am I to judge  – I’m a nutfest). When I’m with any of them – be it here or in NZ, I know I’m cared for. That means a lot. And it’s something I’m very grateful for. Most people need a sense of family, and a sense of belonging. Some find it in community, some find it in work, some find it helping others less fortunate, some simply find it in a circle of friends. Some start their own families, which is something I aspire to. Some adopt the families of others. Whatever one it is, it’s nice to have ‘family’ – whoever they are – whoever you choose your ‘family’ to be, not just to receive their love and care, but to give your own.

Friends have looked after me and welcomed me into their lives here in Sydney too, and I hope I can give back something of that to them and to anyone else ‘new’ who shows up here in our lives. There are several people who I couldn’t have made the new start here without and people who continue to invite me and care for me – and I don’t think these people realize just how much it means to me.

Oh, and whilst we’re ‘giving thanks’ – I should probably give a nod to Skype and Facebook. They are somewhat of a help.

All joking aside…

Thank you all for your Aroha… I am always sending mine right back like a boomerang. You know who you are. And hey… all in all, I’m doing good.



2 thoughts on “All you need is… Aroha

  1. Wow hun, this is the first time I’ve read your blog – you are a fantastic writer! You’re doing the right thing staying here – it is hard to leave your comfort zone and move halfway across the world but it’s (to quote a cliche phrase) ‘character building’ and your life will be so much richer for it:) Don’t you dare leave Sydney! xo

  2. I have just a small inkling of how you feel because, in 1963, I left Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) and my family and friends and everything I knew and set sail from Cape Town for England. Plane flights were very expensive in those days and a 10 day cruise to Southampton appealed to me! Like you, I felt if I didn’t take the risks there and then I would lose my courage and impetus and spend the rest of my life regretting it.

    I knew nobody (and nothing about England) but, from the beginning, felt very much as if I belonged here. You are blessed by finding someone, so soon, whom you love. I spent a very lonely first year in England but eventually made friends with whom I am still in contact today. Forty seven years later I am still here with a very happy personal life, a wonderful wider family and friends and a strong feeling of belonging.

    I have only been back to Africa four times in the past 47 years! There is no perfect life and every decision we make seems to involve some sacrifice and copmpromise.

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