It was time to fly the nest. All I had was a double bed and "warm wishes" from my parents. It sounds brutal, but at 17 I had everything I needed. I had found the cheapest apartment I could find and with that, was heading to Kings Cross. It was grubby, it was the red light district of Sydney, and it was my new home.
Everything was exciting, my eyes were wide open and this was my first experience of true independence. I had just started studying drama at the National Institute of Dramatic Art and, for a young, aspiring actor, I was involved in dramatic, imaginary and fictitious situations daily. Kings Cross was a place of characters and coming home, this was real life.
There was the "troll couple" next door who received regular visits from the police. There were the shady underworld figures and underbelly characters at The Bourbon and Beef Steak bar who, although terrifying, kept an eye on me while I worked the night shifts.
There were the evening conversations with the "barker" of one of the many nearby strip clubs. A young Lebanese man always trying to get people through the door. I was living in a melting pot. Every nationality and type of person on Earth was thrown together within a few square kilometres. It was a human zoo, and I loved it.
The people of Kings Cross became my friends. They adopted me into their society. This community was filled with kindness and acceptance, and everyone looked out for each other.
Living in Kings Cross taught me to think about the world and people a little differently. It uprooted the beliefs and attitudes that were inherent growing up in Australia at that time. I thank my time in Kings Cross for that. These attitudes were impossible to keep when you were part of this unstable yet amazing community.
But King Cross eventually got the better of me. I was emotionally burnt-out and it was time to move on.
Several years on, I am lucky enough to travel regularly for my job and I am always searching for places that recreate the feeling that Kings Cross gave me — from a safer distance.
I have been back since. They have cleaned it up now, a lot of businesses have closed and it doesn't have the bustling, raw energy that it used to. But neither do I, so maybe it is still there and I just don't see it anymore.