It’s funny, last year I missed my end of year post because there was so much going on, and instead, I wrote Preparing to Leave Australia in February. Why is that funny you ask? Because this year instead of writing 2023 in review, I could be writing a post about preparing to return to Australia… AGAIN!
My life is always pure chaos, but I really enjoy doing these posts because I forget just how much can happen in a year. If you want to know why I’m returning to Australia, you’ll have to scroll right down to the bottom, because that’s a recent revelation, but I guess I’ll start from the beginning!
A Civil Union
One of the first things I did this year was enter into a civil union with the love of my life. He is the most kind, sweet, caring, generous, smart, stunning and nerdy man to walk this planet. I’m so incredibly thrilled that I was able to bag such an otherworldly human to call my own.
For anyone who doesn’t know what a civil union is, it’s basically an official recognition of a relationship that sits between defacto and marriage. It’s recognized as similar to marriage in most countries (apart from Denmark apparently, but more on that later) and we called it our unreligious marriage!
Moving to Europe
With Mathias finishing his PhD and subsequently his visa running out, we knew we had to leave Australia and started preparing. We were both constantly applying for jobs, me globally remote and him postdocs through Europe. I knew I couldn’t start operating a business as soon as I moved, so I needed a job to help get us through until we got settled. I managed to secure two globally remote jobs to help us with the very expensive move (which we still had no idea where we were moving to by the time we left) but unfortunately, by March (the month we left) they had both fallen through. Incredibly unlucky, but not the end of the world.
So we headed off to Europe, first stopping in Sweden to visit his family while he continued looking for a postdoc. It was so nice to meet his family in person, something I was quite nervous about with Mathias always telling me how different his family was from me. But they definitely exceeded my expectations, and don’t seem to mind that I’m a little wild and quirky. They were so warm and welcoming and it felt like an instant new family!
In about 2 months or so, Mathias had been offered two incredible positions. One in Germany and one in Denmark. He chose the one in Denmark at DTU because it’s one of the best universities in the world, and is close enough to his family via train. Before the ink was dry on his contract, we’d packed up our stuff ready to make ourselves a life in Denmark!
My Novel Was Published
My novel Fallacies of Tomorrow was published the week after we got to Sweden! I really tried to stay positive and upbeat about it, even though my publishers are the worst collection of humans. I was overwhelmed by the support I got from everyone and the feedback that I got from the people who read it! Yes I know it starts incredibly slow (it was intentional) but many people said it was addictive when you got through the first half, and that was so nice to hear!
I got my first royalty cheque at the end of June and was so shocked by what it said. In their statement, they recorded that I had sold 3 copies. I know that’s not true. Multiple people told me they pre-ordered the book directly from the publishers before it was even published. But with everything happening in my life, I decided that it wasn’t a fight I was ready to take on. My publishers have consistently ignored me, lied to me, and manipulated situations to their benefit. It shouldn’t have surprised me that they would fuck me on the royalties as well. But I’ve ranted enough about how much I hate my publishers, so if you want the full story, check out “I Fired My Publishers And They Ignored Me”.
I tried to keep writing through the year, but by this point, all motivation or will to write was basically dead. I’ve got 4 novels that are 95% finished, but I’m not sure they’re ever going to make it all the way. Maybe one day I’ll pick them up again, but I don’t think that’s going to happen any time soon. I’m so burnt by what’s happened with Fallacies of Tomorrow that the trilogy it was planned to be will only ever be that one novel that I’m pretending doesn’t exist anymore!
Moving to Denmark
While we were in Sweden, we had been staying in this incredibly cold basement apartment, so were excited to get out of there and start our new life as soon as possible. We booked an AirBnB for a month while we searched for our next home, and that’s when we stayed in the creepy deserted town of Nivå if anyone happened to see my reel of the abandoned shopping mall there! The apartment hunt in Denmark was incredibly confronting and not what we had prepared for at all. The cost of housing/moving here is out of this world. They have a thing called a move-in cost, which for most places is 3 months rent, plus 3 months bond, plus last month’s bond. Some places ask for more than that, and very few ask for less.
There were places we were seeing that cost over $60,000 AUD just to move into! But eventually, we found a beautiful place about 45 mins away from Copenhagen and was close to Mathias’ new work. We got super lucky with it only cost around $18,000 to move into. It definitely took a big chunk out of our savings, but still left us enough to furnish the place and get by for a few months. I had some freelance clients that helped us get through, but money was tight. All I needed was to get my work permit, find a job and all would be well. I applied for the permit less than a week after we moved in, and the official website said it would take two months! Easy, right? Well… it definitely hasn’t worked out like that.
Attempting to Start a Life in Denmark
So we’d found a place, moved in, applied for the work permit, Mathias started his job, and all I needed to do was wait! All the extra time gave me so much freedom to paint, write, and work on GroTru, but the waiting eventually got too much. Things with immigration weren’t working as we’d hoped. They let us know that they typically don’t recognize civil unions, and didn’t believe we had enough proof to satisfy them as cohabitating partners. We had leases showing both of our names, but they wanted to see things like joint bank accounts, joint loans, engagement and kids. We didn’t have any of that stuff! So they said just wait and see what happens.
After 3 months with no response, I called for an update and they told me to just keep waiting. By this point, I’d fallen into a pretty heavy depression. I was so isolated, I had no friends or family around, the time difference was hard trying to call people, we had to be really careful with our money, and there was no end in sight. Just the knowledge that any day I could get a letter saying that I could stay, or that I had to leave the country immediately. I felt so bad that I was depressed when Mathias finally had everything that he was looking for. A great paying job, a beautiful house, and being back in Europe. But all I could do was wallow in my misery.
I lost so many aspects of myself during this time. I stopped doing yoga, painting, reading, and even just leaving the house. I’m the type of person who loves the work I do, but without being able to work and not being able to have a business here, I felt completely stuck.
I wish this part had a happy ending and that everything got resolved, but it hasn’t. As I’m writing this now there’s still been no outcome. The only update I have is that it will likely take 10-14 months to get an answer, because they’re putting our civil union case through the family law courts to decide whether they will acknowledge it or not.
Finally something positive to write about! It has been a wild and brilliant year with GroTru! If you have no idea what I’m on about, GroTru is a company I’ve co-founded with a business partner in the US. It’s a platform that focuses on helping Black & LatinX entrepreneurs gain access to capital – something that’s a big problem and a solution the community desperately needs. My role there is as CMO & CFO, taking on all the financial stuff, as well as marketing, brand, product and development. I’ve got a fun litte demo you can check out if you’re interested here!
In the middle of the year, we had a huge pivot after getting lots of market feedback, and managed to recreate the platform and head into our beta launch just 3 months after the pivot. We’ve made so much progress, secured some powerful partnerships with corporate and government organizations, and I believe we are very close to securing a pre-seed/seed investment! We’ve had our strategy session for next year and have some very ambitious goals which I can’t wait to dive into!
Other Business Stuff
It’s really been a struggle for me this year not being able to operate a business. It’s like the very core of who I am! But I have been able to make some significant changes, and have some other business ideas I’m working on. Probably the most significant of changes is that I’ve closed down my marketing company. I wanted to go in a different direction, and the brand I had for the company just didn’t align. I’m shifting into more sustainability focused and ethical marketing, and don’t really want to work with businesses that don’t share these values! So after I think 4 years, Booming Businesses International has closed down, and in place of that, I’ve created Bee Green Marketing, so we’ll see where that takes me!
At the start of this year, I had finally perfected my algae based clay after lots of experiments and infinite spreadsheets. I did this about a month before I had to pack down The Hoodwinker to move to Europe. I had planned to start it up again with exclusively plastic free designs as soon as we got settled, but unfortunately that never happened. And of course, in classic Ayla style, I never saved the recipe once I’d perfected it! So I’ll have to start the experiment process again when I move back to Australia, which leads me to the part I’m sure you’re waiting for…
Returning to Australia
I put off making this decision for so long, because it’s just not something I wanted to do. But things changed (or didn’t in some cases) and Mathias and I came to the decision that it was the only option. Mathias was offered a job at DTU outside of academia as the head of computational biology for some new department with the purpose of finding new discoveries that DUT can patent and turn into businesses. I’m probably explaining this wrong, I’m not very “sciencey”. It’s an incredible opportunity for him, so he’s going to accept it!
But me living in Denmark just isn’t working. I don’t have a work permit, I can’t speak the language, and I don’t meet the education requirements. Not to mention I have no friends/family around and it’s sooooo bloody cold! I don’t want to be a stay at home girlfriend for the foreseeable future. Even if the work permit does come through by some miracle, the language and education are still a huge barrier. So my only option is to return to Australia.
The plan is for me to get a job and build up my savings again (I don’t have enough to invest back into my businesses when I return) and pursue a masters degree. Hopefully with that, one day Mathias and I can both live in Europe and start our life again. Mathias will be able to apply for a visa that gives him permanent residency in Aus, but he can’t apply until June 2024, and the process will likely take about a year. It definitely isn’t the end of our relationship, we’re just going to need to make it work long distance for the next year and a half, unless we can find another way to be together before then.
It really is heartbreaking having to leave him, but there’s no other viable option. I haven’t come to terms with it yet, and I still can’t fully grasp what life is going to be like without him next to me each day. And really, I probably won’t know until I have to live it. I do I know it’s going to be damn hard and will take a long time to get used to. But I’ll be very glad to have my friends close again to help me through. Living in Denmark has definitely changed me. I now want things that I’ve never wanted before, and I finally have an appreciation for life in Australia. I never though I’d be happy about moving back there, but I have to say, I am looking forward to daily life and all the little things I’ve missed.
So that’s it. That’s my 2023 in review. It definitely hasn’t bee the best year. It’s actually probably been one of the hardest years I’ve ever had mentally. Barring my teenage years that I’ve mostly blocked out haha. But there has definitely been some good sprinkled in there as well. I’m looking forward to 2024, taking back control of my life and getting some excitement back for the future!