The Transition Trip
When the job offer finally came through, I gave myself permission to breathe again. That oppressive feeling of being in a situation that fills you with disgust and you just can’t save face for anymore — unclench the fist, exhale the CO2. The burden shifts from mental health survival mode to looking forward. New Zealand requires 4 weeks notice which seems incredibly long but each week, I feel myself letting another component of stress go - difficult relationships and random ill considered requests. The expectations to uphold appearances to the very last breath aren’t going to make a difference. The need to make sure this new arrival gets a full tour and understands all the components and connectors that exist or don’t exist and the history of what has been tried and shelved. By week 4, I come to the acceptance that I am fully replaceable and this baby that I have held onto and wanted to suffocate and protect with everything won’t miss me at all.
I organise my farewell drinks and feel a little bit cautious about who will or won’t come. Our CIO is also signing off with me on July 2nd and I worry that Scott’s farewell, with free drinks and catered food will consume all the energy. Everyone seems to peter out by 4:30 and I get to the pub feeling a little demoralized that there are only 2 people occupying my 30 person reserved space. Oh its going to be so depressing if no one comes. But they do. Everyone comes — all the people I haven’t seen in months and the officemates that never come out. They all come. There is so much warmth and good spirits, reunions, standing room only. The beers and chips appear faster than I can keep up with. It’s a memory that will stick with me for a long time to come. 5 hours later and we’re booked in for a private Karioke room. What better way to party than screaming songs of freedom behind closed doors. By half past 3am we’ve outdone most of the college kids and drag each other home.
It takes until Sunday to fully recover but on the morning of my flight, I’m wide awake — at 5:15 — trying to convince myself to soak up the last hour of sleep before what will surely be a very long day. I treat myself to a fancy breakfast, and get the ride to the airport from a very accommodating flatmate at 7am. I cant get the online check-in to work but am not too concerned, until I get to the airport and they force me to buy another $100 ticket and bumped to the next flight because I was 35 seconds late to check-in. Fuckers. No bags to check, no security to go through. The flight hasn’t started boarding yet and they wont even let me on. Thanks Air New Zealand. One of my most grinding pet peeves is when people inconvenience others for petty reasons and when it gets to that level of petty, I really struggle to let it go. So unfortunately I spent my hour long flight vacillating between thoughts of how to weasel $100 of value back out of Air NZ and how this wouldn’t characterise the rest of my day nor was it a symbolic foreshadowing of the weeks’ adventure to come.
Luckily my afternoon in Christchurch is filled with good company, food markets, and a mini walkabout of new murals and city highlights. I so appreciate the shared experience and at the same time have mental attacks of social anxiety — in one moment just wanting to get to my B&B so I can be alone to cry about being alone. (pretty comical when you're not in the middle of it)
But when I arrive, the host is so welcoming and the place is so beautiful and homey that all my concerns and what-ifs melt away. I aced it. The fire is pumping. The carpets are plush. We have full access to a clean homestyle (not hostel style kitchen) spa towels, and my room is huge, warm and plush. I have a family inherited habit of being unnecessarily frugal and I think this is one of the first times that I have splurged on accommodation — and boy — it felt excellent. And it’s even more satisfying that the tinge of guilt or self deprecation from knowing that I could have settled for less were absent.
I place myself too close to the fire and settle in.
Do I have an intention for this trip? I always feel like I should. But I struggle to pinpoint anything. Maybe I’m not that desperate for a mental reset. Maybe all my ducks are already organised. Relationally then, what I can foster in myself to be the person that I want to love? Find an interesting article to read every day? I definitely wish I was more on top of current events, climate change policy approaches, technological discoveries on the horizon, learn Te Reo? Basically, take more time to be curious. And… don’t overburden myself with too many ‘shoulds’!
On Monday the mountain is closed and so I happily curl up in my plush bed with the electric blanket cranked up and an audiobook to doze of to. I take the 7 minute walk across town and pickup 2 $3 puzzles from the second hand shop and hunker down. On Tuesday the weather deteriorates and the mountain is closed again but the puzzle was finished.
By Wednesday Mt. Hutt has fresh layer of powder and it snowed the whole day through. The whiteout conditions didn’t phase my full day beginners snowboarder lesson because I was limited to the kids learner section. Edge, turn, smack, get up and repeat. On one occasion my board slipped out from under me and I splatted straight onto my tailbone. OH MY $%^! I felt the impact reverberate all the way up to the top of my spine and I knew that that fall would stick with me. And it did. That night the pain was excruciating. Laying in bed, struggling immensely just to turn over, I thought there was absolutely no way that I would be able to endure another day on the snow.
But when the morning came, some robot demon inside of me got me up, dressed and back up on that mountain top. God bless Ibprophen. The teacher at the end of the day before said that I could do another lesson on the magic carpet I was over it so against his advice, I took my broken ass up the lift to the Highway 72 learners run. To spare my sore bum I sacrificed my elbow and my knees but I kept at it and graduated from edging to heal side C curves to a full S. Then I tested myself on other beginner slopes and realised the confidence I was building was a false one. So I joined back with up with the afternoon lesson (another level up) and we practiced more S curves and I unlocked the toe side turn to a heal side edge. We practiced mini jumps and I could control my speed and direction. At the end of the day I felt good about what I had accomplished but I also had doubts that I would ever be able to tackle even other beginner runs, much less an intermediate run.
As I hitched a ride back down to the pre-chains required parking lot I debated if I should switch over to ski lessons and give my body a break. I took advantage of the hot tub both nights and blasted the electric blankets but on day three, I regretted my first run. If it wouldn’t have been such an administrative time suck, I would have traded that board in for skis and gone to hang out on the kiddy slope. But I got back on the lift and did another lesson. And after lunch, by some miracle, we went down Broadway Run, the first intermediate route. I was afraid of speed but well in control and that felt pretty stellar. 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 times down that run until the lift closed! I conquered my aspirations just in the nick of time!
I hurriedly returned all my gear and even though the parking lot was already 70% emptied out, I caught a lift from the first car I flipped a thumb at. I had 8pm dinner plans 3 hours away and a weekend of hot pools to soothe my now broken body. I made it just in time to grab a much needed shower and my trusty friend treated me to the most amazing well orchestrated dumpling dinner that I have ever experienced. Every item on the plate had a fancy description and was delectable, close your eyes soak in every bite sort of good.
The rest of Hanmer Springs is a tiny two block town main street with one main attraction, thermal hot pools — which is basically a small theme park of hot pools, some with Sulphur, others with a smattering of other minerals like potassium, some with jets, others with lights. If I had known better I would have stayed the whole day. And if it weren't for the fact that school holidays were in play, I would have happily extended my South Island trip until my Visa permissions came through. Regretfully, I hopped on my prescribed flight home to wait for Immigration services to do its part.
All reset and nowhere to go.