• Kerryn Siems

Part Three - Life Down Under


Moving to Australia was one of the biggest and most undeniably terrifying things I ever did. While I would love to tell you that everything just fell into place when I arrived, I would be lying. I mostly fell completely apart. From arriving at the airport to driving in the dark to where I would be living, I felt completely helpless and deep down in my gut I was lost. I suddenly realised how far away I was from everything I knew and that this wasn’t just a holiday. I had moved.. This would be home for the next six months. The jetlag was almost unbearable. Falling asleep at 4pm only to be wide awake at 2am. I’d finally fall back to sleep when everyone was about to leave for work which meant the house had to tip toe around me. I felt so in the way. And not that anyone made me feel this way, I just did. Eventually I started to push out my sleep until later in the day and routine started to sink in but it took about three months before I properly adjusted. I had also never experienced home sickness before and to be completely honest, when I had heard people talk about home sickness, I had brushed it off as nonsense. Well home sickness is a very real, very unsettling emotional roller coaster. Especially when there is a huge time difference and your people are sleeping when you need them.

Between the jet lag and unfamiliar territory, I was also still dealing with the remnants of my broken down relationship in the UK and the anger, that had become so deeply rooted in my heart, was like a sediment I couldn’t break down. I once again found myself unable to build connections and struggled to trust people. I am so thankful for Abbie and her amazing family who embraced me as one of their own and helped me through the trials of adjusting to a new life in Australia. While I didn’t have work, I was often home at Abbie’s by myself and after about a month living in Geelong, her Mum Sandy suggested moving in with them. Sandy always had a couple of overseas students living with her so there was generally someone around the house and she thought it would be better for me. The gratitude I have for this woman is infinite. When I finally started to function and was a little less zombie, Sandy drove me all around Geelong so I could drop off resumes and find some work. When I did get a job in a bistro she would drop me off and pick me up, whatever the time. Nothing was ever too much for Sandy, and even if it was, I’d never have known. She never judged my ridiculous decision making and included me in everything they did. If it hadn’t been for the unconditional support and love Sandy, Abbie and their family showed toward me in the beginning of my time in Australia, I don’t know whether or not I would have stayed.

The visa that I was only allowed me to work in any one place for a maximum of six months at a time (hence the original idea of six months time out) and there were other conditions I had to meet if I wanted to stay longer than twelve months in Australia. Towards the end of my time at the bistro, I got into a funny conversation with some customers over what dessert they should order. I had never thought much about how I ‘sold’ myself as a person but had always loved hospitality and thrived in the environment. I love being able to offer the best customer service possible to every customer I come into contact with, I don’t know what it is, it just makes me so happy. It so happened that these customers were the directors of G.J. Gardner Homes in Geelong, a very successful and well known new home building company. I wasn’t sure if it was all just a bit of a laugh but the owner made a joke about whether I’d be interested in selling homes seeing as I was so good at selling desserts and by the end of the night, I chased him down and gave him my number. I figured I had nothing to lose and said if he was serious, to give me a call. The next week I received a call and about a month later began working for G.J. Gardner Homes.

As most of you know, I was with GJ for five and a half years, the longest term I have served with an employer in my working history. When I started working there I was still partying a lot and looking back was pretty disrespectful of my new position. I would often arrive for work intoxicated from the night before, stinking of cigarettes. I had also managed to get back onto the drugs so was operating on nix to no sleep. Sometimes, I just wouldn’t turn up at all, without so much as a phone call. In the back of my mind, I knew it wasn’t doing the right thing and that I wasn’t giving it my all. I would often question the motives behind my behaviour, feeling so guilty and ashamed for taking advantage of the opportunity I’d been given. I desperately wanted to be putting more into the role but the more I tried, the more I seemed to slide backwards down the hill. I wanted to give up so many times but something held me there. Somehow (with the support of Sandy and a few of my colleagues) I managed to keep my head above water long enough for a miracle to take place in my life.

One day, one of the sales guys asked me if I could fill in for them at a Business Networking meeting and I very reluctantly (my anxiety around social events was off the charts at this stage) said yes and went along. Everyone got to speak for a few minutes about the business they were representing and as we went around the room, one man introduced himself as Tim Leposa, owner of and personal trainer at ‘Fit for Living’. I had just recently given up smoking after 10+ years and thought maybe some training could help me lose the weight I’d gained from replacing the cigarette cravings with food. I signed up for personal training with Tim and started the next week. It still wasn’t the light bulb moment I had envisioned but I really did enjoy the training sessions and learning new things. But, like all new opportunities that presented themselves, I was mostly drunk when I got there. Habits come deep rooted and I had some deeply rooted bad habits.

During my time training with Tim he mentioned a Friday night group that he and his wife Amy held at their house every week and one day invited me to go along. I mostly said thanks but no thanks but over time my curiosity grew and I went along. The night involved sharing a meal with a bunch of people I’d never met and doing a Bible Study, neither of which I really wanted to entertain. But something stirred inside of me after that first night at their home. An unusual feeling I couldn’t describe. Was this it? Was this my ‘there has to be more to life?’ answer? I began attending every Friday night without fail (even if I was going out that night, I would go to Tim and Amy’s place first!) and found myself desiring to know more and more about the man they called Jesus. Over time, I felt something in me start to change. It may sound absurd but I was no longer drawn to certain things that had before consumed me. No longer did I want to be out all night and spend all of the next day in bed. I was no longer drawn to alcohol or drugs and really began to recognise the person I was when I was drinking. I began to really dislike the feeling of losing control. Giving up alcohol made me quite anxious to begin with because I didn’t know myself without it. I had relied on it for so long as the only way of being social that it had become a crutch.

Getting to know myself was a process and at times, extremely challenging. But a challenge I was willing to take and a process I was willing to go through…..