In 1992, Queen Elizabeth II dragged a Latin phrase out of antiquity, and gave it modern prominence. I remember the speech well. When the Queen uttered the seemingly inoccuous Latin phrase, snickers (I mean – the smothered laugh variety – nothing to do with chocolate) went up simultaneously around the world. Did she just say Annus? Oh, wait, that’s Annus, with two n’s – right – got it. Given the events of that year, Queen Elizabeth had certainly endured her annus horribilis – or, ‘worst year’. My annus horribilis usurped almost all of 2010. Certainly not for the same reasons as the reigning Monarch’s annus horribilus, but just as horrible.
Horribilis or Mirabilis?
The year started okay, but took a steep nose-dive somewhere around the middle. I can’t account for how, when, or why, but it deteriorated rapidly.
While the ‘Annus Horribilis’ was unfolding, I kept thinking, “Something good will come out of this”. It became my Mantra. But while I was stuck in the middle of the ‘horrible-ness’ of the year, I struggled to really believe any good would come of it, no matter how hard I tried to convince myself.
I guess we all have bad days, but when a whole year falls apart at the seams, you know you have to do something different.
And that’s exactly what I did.
I packed up my car and drove
I left the city behind, and headed North-West. Away from the surf, sand, and Starbucks; the busy shopping centres and growing trend of ‘chocolate’ cafes, and from the friends I’d hung out with.
But not before kicking 2010 out, and welcoming 2011 in, with open arms. I don’t normally celebrate New Year’s Eve, but I did that year. I booked into a hotel in Brisbane, and watched the clock strike midnight over the Brisbane River, with fireworks lighting up the night sky and the water. As 2010 rolled out to sea, 2011 beamed over the horizon, and I knew things would be different that year.
A long way from home
Isolated – compared to the city I left behind – and yet surrounded by amazing people.
My sojourn in the bush began in January 2011 and was meant to last for six months, but six months turned into five years. Five years of isolation – time to reflect and grow; it’s amazing how strong you can be when you have to. And it’s amazing how your annus mirabilis can emerge out of the toughest moments.
The place that I was to call home for five years had no sand, or surf; no shopping centres full of trendy shops; none of the friends that I used to hang out with. And it was a four-hour round-trip to anything that even remotely resembled a city, or a Starbucks. But I loved every minute of being there. My annus mirabilis lasted the whole five years in that quiet little region.
Time to watch the grass grow
Going from a busy city to a small town gave me perspective – I found out what peace sounds like. When you are immersed in city life, you rarely stop to think about any other existence. The hustle and bustle of a metropolis keep propelling you forward, and you think there is no other way to live. And then you sit on your verandah, in a town of less than 2000 people, and listen to the grass grow outside your door. It is then you realise there are two sides: the noisy and the quiet – the busy and the slow – the near and the far.
After five years of the quiet, I needed the noisy – but not the noisy I had left behind. I wanted something in-between. The not so near, and the not so fast.
I found it in Murwillumbah, where I have the best of both worlds. The not so far, the not so quiet, and the not so slow, is right here in my own backyard.
A thirty minute drive to the busy and the noisy is easy when I want to be immersed in all the Gold Coast has to offer, including the sea, the sand and the Starbucks.
Now I am content to sit on my verandah and hear the muffled sounds of life around me – not the sounds of constant traffic – or the grass growing. Just the peaceful sounds of life – not intrusive – just there.
My annus horribilis is a distant memory and has never been repeated. Now, every year is an annus mirabilis; each one gently rolls over to make way for the next great year.
Life in Paradise just keeps getting better.