I’ve just got back to Perth after my four week stint in Albany and after a pretty difficult start, I must admit the place has really grown on me. In fact, it’s moved from being “not really a good fit for me” to right up the top of the list of potential places to return to longer term. (Ok… admittedly it’s the top of a very short list of two so far, but still, it’s at the top!)
So why the change of heart? It’s hard to put a finger on, but I think it’s a combination of different things.
Firstly, the brief relocation to the lovely Middleton Beach area where I was literally two doors down from a gourmet produce store / cafe and a trendy bar and right on the doorstep of a very scenic beach with fantastic running tracks. It was pretty much like being back home in South Perth and I very rapidly started feeling happier and more optimistic. The lesson here: seeking out places and activities that make you feel like your usual self is massively important for reducing loneliness and homesickness.
Secondly, I actually made friends. Sure, I expected to meet people that I could socialise with and would be company for the time that I was there, but I didn’t necessarily expect to meet people that I already think of with great fondness and really hope to stay in touch with in the future. It may have started with a slightly awkward appearance at a RMO house party where I didn’t know a single person and felt really old. But one thing leads to another and before you know it you’ve made genuine connections, gained friends, and then friends of friends, and then you don’t want to leave town because of all the awesome people you will miss.
Thirdly, while initially I thought Albany might be a bit “too big” in terms of how hard it would be to become part of the community, I have now come to appreciate some of the perks of relative anonymity compared to a smaller town. Dr David Chessor summed it up nicely in his notjustagp.com post on the topic, but I reckon there is an inverse relationship between hospital / workplace familiarity and town anonymity. So while you might be a littler fish in a bigger pond in a regional centre, at least that means you can be left to your own devices on the weekends to potter around as you wish without everyone knowing what you’re up to. In the context of being a single doctor, I’m increasingly aware that the dating game is hard enough without the added scrutiny and gossip that might occur in places where everyone knows everyone. There is certainly something to be said for being able to fly under the radar!
And finally, while Albany might be a bit more chilly and rainy compared to more northern towns, I’ve come to love the way that the sky and the ocean look different every day, and the rainbows are some of the best I have ever seen.
When I first started this locuming journey of discovery, I feared that I wouldn’t ever find a place that I felt connected to enough to want to come back to more permanently. But au contraire! Now I’m more worried that I will love every place I go and be devastated to leave every time. Admittedly not a bad problem to have! It’s comforting at least that even after only two placements, I have come to the realisation that there are awesome people everywhere and it just takes an open mind and a touch of social bravery to make great friends wherever you are.
Next stop – Kununurra in June. It’s got some pretty big shoes to fill now!