On the bittersweet joy of two more years down under

On Friday afternoon, I found out that my sponsored visa – the last of countless I’ve applied for since moving to Sydney almost six years ago – had been approved. It is a decision that – like all visa applications – was completely out of my hands, and one that has kept me very busy since I applied last October. With his approval, I can stay in Sydney for at least two years. However, whether I actually ever get permanent residence or citizenship depends on fate.

When my attorney called me to bring me the good news, I was barely able to form an answer. I muttered an incoherent thanks and sat in a sense of stillness and silence as I wrapped my head around the consequences of the call.

Because while the approval of my visa is on the one hand a reason to celebrate, to be happy and to be elated about the new feeling of stability it gives me, it also brings an overwhelming feeling of sadness, sorrow and longing. The respite was huge; the feeling of a weight being lifted from my shoulders; Because as much as I’ve almost got used to living in a near-permanent state of limbo, when it comes to whether I can stay in Australia long-term, knowing that I can stay another two years is a problem knowing how to stay no one else feel. But the joy and relief I felt was marked by an almost suffocating sense of longing for my family back home and the knowledge that my new visa brings freedom and liberation and a greater sense of permanence; it also brings a sentence with it as I am stranded in a gilded cage unable to leave Australia to see my loved ones in the UK.

It has been an unthinkable time since I last saw my family – and with no sign that international travel restrictions between Australia and the UK are about to ease – it’s impossible to know when I will be able to return home . The thought of getting on a plane, falling into my father’s arms; sharing a cup of tea with my mother in her kitchen, spending the afternoon with my sisters; Seeing the many friends and family members I haven’t seen in almost two years feels almost abstract. I know that one day something will happen. I just have absolutely no idea when.

As I continue to count the days until I see my family again, I will continue to thank God for the friends who have become family, for my daily swimming in the ocean, and for the unchanged joy that life in Bondi continues to bring me every day. Because on the days when I see a sunrise like the one pictured – and even on the days when I don’t – I know that at least for the time being, I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

When my student visa was issued almost two years ago – which meant I was allowed to return to Australia after a particularly traumatic series of events – I made a promise to myself that hell, hangover, or flood would come; If it was raining, hailing, or shining, I would make up for as many sunrises as my body allows.

And so the pain of longing for my family is omnipresent, as is my love for Bondi, and every day when I see the sun rise over the ocean I am forever grateful to call Sydney home.

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