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A Lifetime of Longing


It’s 15 years ago this month since I left Australia for London. I never really said good-bye properly, because I fully expected to return within a year. I wasn’t intending on making London my permanent move.

I’m still not convinced that it is.

“Have those years flown by,” a friend recently enquired, I replied, “Indeed they have.” I’m sure she meant what she said next in a positive way, “Well, if you’re lucky, you’ll get to do those 15 years over twice more and still have some time to spare at the end.” The thought disturbed me. In that moment I truly grasped just how quickly our lives slip by.

I recall, clearly, the night before my departure. I drove to my favorite beach and sat on my own, watching the sun as it set over the ocean. Dolphins played in the surf, and I wondered what was waiting for me on the other side of the seas and continents I’d be flying across the next day. I’d never been to the UK.

It was unusually hot for the season, and I lingered as long as I could. I savored the warmth and enjoyed the almost tangible feeling of freedom that flowed through my veins. I knew I was on the cusp of an experience that would inevitably change me. I just wasn’t sure how.

I rose to my feet, and as I did so, I felt the sand trickle between my toes. The evening breeze caught the skirt of my white dress and suddenly it was swirling around me. It was an ethereal moment, marking the passing from one world into another.

I met my friends for dinner, and we cheerily squeezed a few too many bottoms around a tiny table at my favorite pizzeria, forcing our sweaty legs to cling to one another. I felt as though their limbs were physically pleading with mine to stay. I could feel uncertainty creeping in.

But I was determined; quietly thrilled with myself for finally doing something I’d longed for and talked about for so long. Plus I felt so brave to be going on my own.

I’ve always longed for something: not for things, but for experiences and to be with the people I love. When I lived in Australia, I longed to be abroad and living a very different life – the one I’m living now. Now I long for my country and the people I miss the most ‘back home.’ I also long to travel more and to live in other countries; to learn their language and way of life; to forge the kind of friendships that only come when you’re deeply immersed in a community.

I’ve learnt that longing is simply a part of who I am.

Maybe that’s how it is for many of us. Perhaps a lifetime of longing is what keeps us moving forward and living life to the fullest. I’m just grateful we don’t need to be entirely content, in order to be blissfully happy.

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Esther Zimmer is an Australian writer, lifestyle coach and personal stylist based in London. She believes everyone has a calling, and it’s not necessarily just one thing. The home she shares with her husband, David, is filled with art and books, and her favorite pastime is packing a bag and heading somewhere new. Esther writes about life, relationships, body image and travel and can be found at

9 thoughts on “A Lifetime of Longing”

  1. Yes, longing is part of life. It sounds as though your friend, who suggested you’ll get a “do over,” might not be on the same page. She’s probably longing for you as well. xoxox, Brenda

    • I agree! Is it even possible to go through life without longing for someone or something? Perhaps. But I don’t want that kind of life, I appreciate that longing means I love and am loved and that there’s still so much life to look forward to, God willing! Essie xx

  2. I think you hit on something with “the longing” being what moves us forward in life. My husband and I had our first real honeymoon…hell, our first real VACATION!…as a couple last fall when I won a cruise to the Bahamas. Ever since immersing myself in those crystal clear turquoise waters, it’s as though they cast a spell on me and I’ve been dreaming of going back.
    And, my middle daughter, 27…the globe trekker…has announced her intention to quit her job at a high-powered DC law firm in order to join the Peace Corps for a two-year stint in Colombia helping people develop entrepreneurial businesses. She spent a year after high school living and learning in Bolivia, and it was the start of something big. But she realizes the downside is to be away from her eldest sister and her niece and nephew for 2 years. Kids change a lot in that time…and she’s been able to visit them every month in Chicago…that family piece you talked about, Esther.
    I must admit, there’s a longing (ah, there it is!) on my part to have some of the experiences she’s had. To travel encumbered by worry over finances. To experience new places, people, cultures. But I know now that I want it for myself!

    • Wow, that’s quite some story in itself, Val! It sounds like your Bahama experience set something in motion for you and your daughter’s bravery has only cemented those feelings of longing. I don’t know your personal circumstances, of course, but is there a way to experience new places, people and cultures in some small way – even if you can’t take a big trip? I really believe in creating big visions for ourselves and then looking at ways to bring that vision to life, even if it’s not the entire picture, but just a piece of it. I have a friend with three children who wishes she could explore Latin America, which just isn’t realistic for her at this point in time, so I’m helping her make her way around London’s Latin American restaurants by country! No, it’s not the same as an actual trip but eating new foods, meeting new people and taking photographs wherever we go has been so much fun – it’s certainly given her something to talk about! Just a thought. Esther xx

      • Thanks, Essie! Getting a job was a big part of starting to visualize the possibilities ahead of me. I think spending a lot of time over the past several years with physical ailments opened the door to depression, and being out and about every day, “dressed-up,” with hair and makeup done is a good start. The cruise, and Tortola in particular gave me a new goal…save for travel in the budget. And dream BIG!

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