When I moved to Melbourne I hoped to find a job and some friends, but wasn’t sure how long I’d stick around. Really, I just hoped for some personal growth and career clarity… with some adventures along the way. What I didn’t expect (nor think about the importance of) was finding a group of like-minded girlfriends that would become my rock(s).
Now that I can reflect on the person I was pre-Australia and who I am today, it has become clear to me how much I owe to my girlfriends– the fabulous group of soul sisters I encountered entirely by chance. This group of amazing ladies helped me grow into a more confident woman and showed me the true meaning of acceptance.
On my second day in Melbourne, I found myself eavesdropping on two girls in a shop. A comment was made about the cold—it was about 12 degrees—and it was my time to shine. As a Canadian abroad, you can always pop into a conversation about weather and know that your comment about being able to handle the cold will always get a smile. (It should be noted, however, that by the end of my stay in Australia, I was putting on a fake Aussie accent so people wouldn’t ask me anything typically Canadian. That early on, though, I was still riding the foreign-charm-wave.)
The sales girl was Swedish, so she understood winter like I do. The cool Aussie customer had her own connection to Canada, so it was friendship fate! Despite thinking I would never be cool enough to be friends with a long-skirt-trendy-hat wearing gal like her, I accepted her invitation to go to dinner that week with her and her girlfriends. (Before I leave the store scene, I’ll mention that the girl working in the store became a great friend of mine, too. Best shopping day ever!)
A week later, I stood like a fish out of water outside a restaurant on the north side of town. I was a long way from my south side home, and I was feeling doubtful and insecure. I was worried the girls would think it was awkward for me to accept the invitation. I was dizzy and a bit nauseous, but I didn’t know if I should admit to being hung over—I had no idea if these girls liked to party (LAWL).
Was I overdressed? I was wearing faux leather pants and massive heels (first and last time in Australia), with my hair perfectly curled and red lipstick—probably the least Emily-ish thing I could have worn. I was also alone because these girls were now 40 minutes late. You can see how I, the most insecure person in Melbourne, was spiraling into a panic.
A group of girls (who are chronically an hour behind schedule, it’s not personal) dressed for a sailing party walked in, extending apologies and asking me questions. They were friendly and genuine without making me feel like a weirdo for sitting alone waiting for my mystery friends. I felt an instant yearning to be friends with these people, but wasn’t convinced they’d feel the same about me.
I soon found myself invited to an Arrested Development slumber party where I was delighted to see that, like me, these girls liked to eat! It was course after course, snack after snack, and even themed desserts. Girls after my own heart. Slowly but surely, I was wine-ing and dining on the regular with this group of hilarious and wild ladies.
It takes being away from your usual girlfriends to realize how scary it can be trying to make new, real friends. I didn’t even realize how much I needed people that were real and genuine until they were put in front of my face. I desperately wanted to be part of the group, but I was realistic in my expectations. It’s not very often that a group of cool girls take in someone off the street—literally. I decided that all I could do was be available without seeming too desperate, and hope for the best. I spent more time thinking about this cluster of relationships than about any guy I was interested in! I felt like my happiness in Australia was dependent on the development of having solid girls around me.
I’ll hop into the present for a second. Since I’ve been back in Canada, I’ve had many questions about my “best memory” or my “favourite experience” while abroad. I’ve changed the story depending on the audience and whether I feel like being funny or serious. So here’s the best experience I had abroad, in Australia for sure, and possibly ever:
Just before Christmas, I made the last-minute decision to take the weekend off for a girl’s weekend in a beach town called Lorne. The weekend was something out of a movie. I’ll set the scene: Eight girls, unlimited food and alcohol, a gorgeous beach house, a birthday girl, glitter, hundreds of nail polishes, iPhones loaded with new Beyonce, the first heat of summer, the crashing ocean in the distance, spring animals, a Mexican restaurant, and a cheesy/ hoppin’ club. Not only was it a blast, but I exited Lorne feeling like a new version of myself.
I think that weekend will stand out for every one of us that was there. The vibes were calm and positive. No one left the room to go on their phones. No conversation was left off the table. Whether we were having a group conversation of a private heart-to-heart, there was a feeling of acceptance and freedom that floated all through the air. The worries I had while abroad seemed to be pacing around Melbourne, while a clear version of myself was lounging in Lorne. Although we were only away for 48 hours—not nearly long enough—it was like we had all gone to therapy/massage/yoga and back again. I never felt so secure about my current life choices, my future aspirations, or even my appearance. It was the best feeling to see myself, an individual, fitting into a group of confident women who all had something unique to offer.
So what did I gain from these girls? Firstly, I learned how to shop in awesome second hand stores, how to do the Melbourne Shuffle, and how to cook some amazing vegan dishes. I learned to be self-assured, trust my opinion, stand up for myself, and be confident in what I had to offer the world. I learned to be accepting and non-exclusive. I learned to chill out, go out, and be exhausted while serving coffee on the weekend. I learned there’s not a lot in this world that pho and a Beyonce dance party cannot fix.
Most importantly, though, I learned that the power of an army of girls is enough to carry you through any adversity—and if you’re with the right group of girls, that’s exactly what they’ll do.
Thank you, to every single lady that was in my Melbourne life. Each friendship came into my life when I needed it the most, and each person was so important to my growth in my time away from home. Wonderful girlfriends defined each pocket of my life in Melbourne. I’ll extend the dedication of this post to all my girls, at home in Canada, and all over the world.
I love you all!