As the plane hovered low in the sky and the expanse of Canberra spilled out through the Qantas window, I cried. And I'm talking bawled my eyes out so hard a very lovely cabin crew member asked me if I was ok. With Lake Burley Griffin glinting up at me, I found myself surprisingly devastated about the interstate move ahead of me, to a city I felt uncertain about.
But no, I wasn't facing a move to Canberra, the city which author Bill Bryson lauded, "why wait for death?". The despair came because I was leaving it.
Having grown up in Brisbane, followed by a couple of jaunts living and studying overseas, my move to Canberra back in 2010 for a job was met with confusion from many. I may have got a less shocked reaction if I'd shared news of a potentially fatal diagnosis.
People call Canberra many things: soulless, boring, a desolate wasteland of public servants and politicians. But I couldn't have found it to be more different.
To be fair, when I arrived, Canberra was a very different place. Back then we were still a long way from international flights, and even further from an international test cricket match. The extent of dining on Lonsdale Street consisted of Lonsdale Street Roasters, Debacle and Zambreros, and the idea that our bars, restaurants and even wines could frequently be recognised nationally seemed rather unlikely. Goodness, we didn't even have an Ikea.
And I was a bit confused by Canberra at first - all these people speaking a different language of acronyms and apparently unable to merge in traffic. And I can't even tell you what those initial winter mornings do to someone raised in Queensland. But it didn't take long for Canberra to utterly charm me with its uniqueness.
In mid 2018, a job forced my partner and I to move interstate fairly suddenly, cue the tears on the plane incident. When circumstances changed exactly a year later, the world was yet again our oyster.
To clear our minds and get away, we booked an impromptu trip to Canberra, to catch up with friends and binge on ridiculously good coffee. And as we walked outside the prettiest tiny airport in the world, we both felt an overwhelming sense: we were home. While I was initially dragged to Canberra for nothing more than a job, all of a sudden, there was nowhere in the world I'd rather live.
So a few short weeks later, we packed up our whole lives yet again, and moved back to Canberra. In the middle of winter.
Maybe I only packed my rose coloured glasses for the trip back, or maybe the distance and time away had a particularly fond impact on my heart. But is it just me, or did Canberra get even better?
The coffee tastes better, those winter blue skies are brighter, even the Brodburger tastes even more delicious.
As I drove in a few weeks ago, the sight of my first 'Lane One Form' beaming from the asphalt embraced me like a well-worn jumper. And I needed that jumper - those sub-zero mornings don't really get any easier.
Like a niece or nephew you haven't seen in a month, it feels like Canberra grew up while I wasn't watching. All of the town centres are proudly showing off emerging, grown-up skylines, which I for one am a big fan of. Trying to get around to check out all the new eateries could quite easily take up a full working week.
And dare I forget the new shiny, red centrepiece gleaming proudly from the north side. Having formerly lived right on Northbourne Avenue, I spent more than a year playing, 'guess which road is going to be closed today?' during the light rail construction. The sleepless nights from the night works were as real as the gentle rainforest music I used to mask the noise was ineffective.
While I feel I sacrificed a chunk of my sanity for the construction, I can't tell you my joy at my first trip, whizzing out to Gungahlin. Now I'll jump at even the tiniest excuse to hop aboard.
I must admit, I have spent more time than usual sitting in my car since I've been back. And no, not in actual motion, but instead waiting at my destination because I've grossly overestimated how long it would take to get there. I don't understand the science, but it really does seem to be 10 minutes to anywhere.
These car stints have at least been great for catching up on my ever-growing podcast list.
Having renewed appreciation for the reduced travel time, I've even started doing something that I never did in my previous 7.5 years living in the capital.
In probably my most un-Canberran move yet, I've started to embrace trips to the other side of the lake, the revitalised Captain Cook Jet heralding my bold move each time I cross LBG. It turns out there's a whole other half a city down there.
As I drove in a few weeks ago, the sight of my first 'Lane One Form' beaming from the asphalt embraced me like a well-worn jumper. And I needed that jumper - those sub-zero mornings don't really get any easier. But there was no doubt about it - I was home.
Before I left, I was adamant Canberra wasn't forever. And while that may still be the case, it now doesn't sound like too bad of a sentence after all.
- Jil Hogan hopes to move back to Canberra permanently one day.