Towards the end of 2011 I was feeling a little better, but still not great. My debt continued to hang over me like a dark cloud. I was exhausted but couldn't sleep. But most of all I hadn’t had any fun in ages. I missed laughing. And I missed having adventures.
One night I logged onto Facebook and wrote a post straight from the heart. It hadn’t been a great two years but I was ready for change. And I wanted to start with doing those things on my bucket list. Kayaking in the Marlborough Sounds. Learning to snowboard. And walking many of New Zealand’s famous bushland tracks. Who was going to join me?
I turned off the computer and went back to bed. In the morning I rolled over and picked up my phone to see a private message. It read, ‘Nic, I would do all those things with you’.
OMG! I sat straight up in bed and re-read the message ten times. It was the cool boy from school I had had a crush on many moons ago. Had he really text me? Surely he wasn’t serious? Or was he? And why message me now?
I went to the same school from the time I was five years old to the time I left at 18. Part way through my Form One year, when I was eleven, a spiky haired boy turned up. He had trouble written all over him. But there was something about him I liked.
We hung out in the same circles over the next five years but hardly spoke a word to each other. I thought he was too cool to speak to me. I later learned he didn’t talk to me because he was too shy. He thought I was out of his league.
We lived down the road from each other most of our lives. He would bike past me on the way to school. Racing by without even a wave. Again I thought I was too geeky for him to acknowledge me. But apparently he was trying to impress me in the hope I’d notice him.
There was a park across the road from his house. My friends and I would hang out there on the weekends when they came to stay, hoping we would catch a glimpse of him. We never did. He once threw rocks onto the roof of my house, hoping to get my attention. But my Dad appearing on the porch, arms folded, scared him away pretty quickly.
We lost touch after we left school. Many years later we became ‘Facebook Friends'. He didn’t post much, but I knew he was now living in Australia. We had a couple of brief messenger conversations but that was about it. They always ended with me thinking I still wasn’t cool enough for him to talk to. And him thinking I was still out of his league.
Now here he was again. Sending me a message out of the blue.
For the next two hours I kept re-reading his text. Wanting to write back but not sure what to say. Finally I plucked up the courage and sent him a short message back.
Over time private messages became text messages. And text messages became phone calls.
I still wasn’t sure where this was going. He was in Australia. And I was in New Zealand. There was no way this was going to go anywhere. Or could it?
A couple of weeks before Christmas we got hit by another small earthquake. I don’t know what it was about this one but it broke me. I’d had enough. I was tired. Physically, mentally and emotionally. Later that night, when we talked on the phone, he could hear it in my voice as well.
A couple of hours later he called back. He had a few days off over Christmas and wanted to come see me. He had a friend he could stay with if that was going to make it easier.
‘Don’t be silly’, I said, ‘you’re more than welcome to stay here. It would be nice to spend some time together and I’ve got a spare room’.
That conversation sealed our fate.
I didn’t tell anyone he was coming to stay until a week before he arrived. The first thing my mother said was, ‘wasn’t he the naughty boy from school’?
He wasn’t flying in until midnight. It felt like the longest day of my life. I was so nervous that I paced back and forth for hours. Counting down the minutes that seemed to pass so slowly.
As the first passengers embarked from the plane I hid at the back of the crowd. Would I recognise him? Would I even like him? What if he didn’t like me? It was either going to be the best three days of our life, or it was going to be a disaster.
Then I saw him. He was a lot shorter than I remembered. And he looked completely different from when we were at school. He saw me and smiled. It was the same smile I remembered. I had found my shaven-headed, tattooed builder.
At five o’clock the next morning he woke me to say he couldn’t sleep, and was it ok if he took my two dogs for a walk? They were standing either side of him, looking up at him while he patted their heads. At this point I knew I was in trouble.
Later that morning we had the first of many ‘what do we do now’ conversations over brunch. Having spent less than 24 hours together we knew it was too early to be having ‘that' talk. But with only 48 hours before he flew home we also knew we didn’t have a choice.
‘I know it’s a big ask. But if you do decide to move to Australia I promise to look after you. After everything you have been through you deserve it. And the dogs are non-negotiable. They come too’.
We knew it was crazy to be considering it. But neither of us wanted to get into a long-distance relationship. And we were too old to be mucking around. So if we were going to do this one of us had to move. He had a house. I didn’t. It made sense for me to move. But was it complete madness? And how on earth was I going to tell my family?
The day before he left we plucked up the courage to visit my parents. The next stop was my sister’s place. If anyone needed to approve it was her.
We didn’t tell anyone we had talked about me moving to be with him. But if it was going to happen, we knew he needed to get the Judkins stamp of approval. Especially after the ex-husband fiasco.
The day he flew home tears were shed. What if this was all there was going to ever be? What if we never saw each other again? What if he got home and changed his mind? What if …?
But something just felt right. And deep down I knew that everything would be ok. That this was going to be the start of something very special. I just needed to trust my intuition and pluck up just 10 seconds of courage to follow it.
If there was one thing I had learned from my marriage it was to trust my intuition. I didn’t do it back then. I didn’t listen to the screaming voice in my head, telling me that this wasn’t the right guy for me. I didn’t listen when my gut told me I was making a mistake. I learnt my lesson the hard way.
After just three days together I handed in my resignation at work. I gave notice to my landlord. And I plucked up the courage to tell my family I was moving to a different country.
That was a hard thing to do. They had never been the biggest fans of my ex-husband. And they had made it clear they would let me know if they thought I was making the same mistake again. But they gave me their blessing. And for that I've always been grateful.
A couple of months later I was standing at the end of my driveway. It was two o’clock in the morning and I was waiting for the taxi that would take me to the airport. Meg and Toddy had left the day before to stay overnight in the doggy hotel. We were going to be boarding the same plane later that morning. Heading for a new life.
A life in a new country. A life in the ‘middle of nowhere’. A life that we knew nothing about.
Had I done the right thing? I thought so. And I knew so.
It was a gamble. But it was a gamble that paid off. All it took was 10 seconds of courage. The courage to follow my intuition and my heart. Sometimes that is all it takes to change our lives forever.