Coming home

Publicity director, 48. Returned to Bendigo, Victoria, in 2015 after 29 years away.

I left Bendigo when I was 17 to go to uni, thinking I’d never come back. Leaving made me realise the world was much bigger than that little pocket and the friendship group I grew up with.

I studied in Warrnambool and then moved to Sydney. Then my little sister Peta got sick with ovarian cancer and the world ground to a halt.

I transferred to Melbourne to be close to her, but she didn’t make it. She was 21. That derailed me and made me realise that life is short. So I went travelling. The world was a safer place then, I felt like the universe was supporting me. I stayed in the UK for five years, but then the visas and opportunities ran out and I got homesick.

I came back to Melbourne and ran my own PR business. It was exhausting and stressful, but I loved it. When a huge development commenced next door to my townhouse in South Melbourne, I knew there was no way I could live next door to something that was seven storeys up and three down. I thought, “Bugger it. I’ll go back to Bendigo until I work out what to do.”

I knew I could run my business and maintain my [city] friendships from Bendigo. Initially I thought I’d give it 12 months, but once I got back here I really enjoyed the lifestyle. It’s what I needed to slow down because while I’d loved it, I couldn’t maintain the pace of life in the PR world in Melbourne.

For a long time I didn’t tell clients I was based in Bendigo because I was nervous about their reaction. When they found out they were surprised, but I’ve always made sure my commitment was to my clients; I didn’t miss meetings or photo shoots.

I love living in Bendigo, even though I sometimes feel like I’ve failed in some way, being back where I started. I do remind myself that I’ve travelled the world, working in some incredible locations and with some amazing companies and businesses.

The return has been emotional: there are a lot of memories here of Peta. I walk, run, cycle and drive past many of the places and spaces we lived and loved together, so sometimes those memories are overwhelming. But they’ve become quite comforting; they’re good to have.

One thing that does disappoint me about living here is that when I have spare time – usually on a Sunday afternoon – I might want to go to a homewares shop or buy pot plants or have a nice meal, but things are not open. I have to remind myself that this is part of living in a small country town.

I’ve started a second little business here where I make peanut brittle and sell it at the local markets. I realised that if I called a business Bendigo Brittle, then I couldn’t just pack up and go back to Melbourne. So this is it: I’m not going back to Melbourne.

Published in The Age, Saturday 14 October 2017