The beginning of the end

I just my dropped my good friend Felix at the airport, delivereing him to his flight to London. As we were driving out we stopped off at a bank for him to buy some pounds. While I was waiting in the car bFM were playing Bat For Lashes’ beautiful, nostalgic and melancholic song Laura. The version they were playing was from last year’s Laneway Festival and listening to that recording just made all those happy memories come flooding back, carrying with them the stark realisation that our time in Auckland is entering it’s recapitulation.

Close friends will probably read on incredulous that it’s possible for me to feel any sort of emotional attachment to a city which I so openly ridicule and mock. I admit this took me by surprise too, but as much as Auckland is frustrating, the last few years have been fantastic.

When we arrived here we were both on the unemployment benefit. We didn’t really know many people but those we did know proved to be a gateway into a whole cool scene which we immersed ourselves in. We were carefree, work-free and still with savings. These savings rapidly evaporated, but thankfully Alex got a job. I followed, eventually - I’ll be forever greatful to the help I received from the New Zealand Government, it’s just a pity the National Party are doing everything they can to ensure that others can’t receive the same.

Looking back, I’ve acheived a lot more in these 4 short years than I ever thought possible, most surprising of all finding a way to earn money. In a lot of ways the money thing, while being perhaps the most traditionally important factor, doesn’t really impress me or concern me that much. Most important to me is that I feel more sure of myself than I have in a long time. It’s probably a generational thing, but I’m finally working out what I want to do and where I went to spend my time. I’ve got some good projects going at the moment, and I think I’m beginning to understand how I want to divide my time between them, though I must admit, I’m still not fully decided yet - nor do I think I’ll ever be.

One of those is my own music. Just creating this Facebook Page for myself as a musician was terrifying. I haven’t even put anything up there yet. Through a variety of things I’ve done here in Auckland, I finally have the confidence to realease some of my own musical work. I didn’t have that before. Not even close. Sure it’s still terrifying, but I’m going to do it. I’m not sure why I feel more confident doing this now. I do think my songwriting is better than it has ever been, so that could be it, but really, something has changed in me, and the thought of people listening to some of my most vulnerable thoughts no longer terrifies me. If I’m honest, it excites me.

I can’t not mention the work I’ve done in tech. I have a good consulting career now, and have been involved in a few startups as well as running a startup community. I’ve probably done too much. Rowan Simpson would argue that I wasn’t focusing on my startup enough and that’s why I haven’t succeeded. I don’t think he’d be wrong. But I don’t necessarily regeret the work I’ve done keeping The Distiller alive either.

Behind all of this has been Auckland. It truly is a funny place. Massively multicultural, amazing food, infuriating local politics, beautiful city suburbs, depressing sprawl, shitty bars (except ~4), amazing nature stuff (I particularly loved the surfing and mountain biking), annoying public transport, expensive and in the end, long-term unobtainable. It is a city of contradictions. And villages.

I never knew that a city of 1.5 million people can feel claustrophobic, but Auckland manages it. The people who inhabit the cultures and subcultures of the CBD (myself included) are so cut off from the rest of the city that it may as well not exist. I’m even happily in a long-term realationship and I find this annoying, my single friends say it’s awful. Auckland is a city that’s always nearly ‘there’, then the thing that was going to help it gets taken away from it, and they get lumped with some shitty alternative instead (see: commuter rail, stadia). Despite this it’s actually quite a nice place to live.

Alex and I have lived in one of the city’s central suburbs, 3 km from my office with a backyard with fruit trees, a gourmet supermarket around the corner, and some cool bars too. We are 10 min walk to a major shopping and entertainment strip, 30 min walk to the office and there are a number of beautiful parks close by. What Auckland lacks in civic ambition and density, it makes up for in sprawl and comfort. If you have the money it is an incredibly easy city to live in.

Auckland tends to be split between those born and raised here and those who moved - in my experience at least. I’m one who moved here, most of my friends are as well. Most of us came for one/some of the following reasons: it’s warm, our friends were here, it’s the biggest city in NZ, we didn’t want to move to Sydney or Melbourne, a job was here, we didn’t want to deal with accruing interest on our student loans. Very few of us came for Auckland.

This bestows Auckland with an interesting role in New Zealand (for non-Aucklanders): it is our dress rehearsal. We come here to experience living in a ‘big’ city, to get a bit of the hustle and bustle, but mostly as a conditioning exercise before we jump to somewhere ‘better’. It’s been a constant thread the last few years, meeting someone great, only to go to their leaving party in a few months. It’s just the nature of Auckland for a lot of us. We don’t necessarily love it, but we do enjoy living here sometimes.

I think this is where I am. I’m leaving soon, in January. Heading to London because American immigration law is just too damn hard. I want to live where the world happens, not where it filters to. But this time I want to be ready when I go. When I came to Auckland I was actually on the back of starting up my personal music too, only I never really liked the songs I was writing and never released the EP I recorded with my ever-patient father. I’m not making that same mistake this time, I’m sick of watching my friends play great shows and not being able to do the same.

So that’s it for the next few months. I’m going to get my musical side ready, to hit London with at least some proof, even if momentum is lacking. I’m also going to try and enjoy as much of Auckland’s summer as I can before we have to leave our flat. There’s nothing in the world quite like going for a swim after work at Herne Bay Beach, or knocking off work early to go and surf at Muriwai. I’m going to miss that stuff a lot. But that took a few million years to form, I’m sure it’ll be waiting when I get back. Now it’s time to go, to prioritise and look ahead, even if where we’re going is so predictable as to be cliché in New Zealand now.

Here’s to summer.