There’s a half told story about a girl who went to University to become a Marine Biologist.
Not for very scientific reasons (she’s now prepared to admit) but because it sounded like an adventure. And it was. She moved from her home to the furthest point on the continent on which she lived to study coral reef ecology and fisheries science and chemistry and to drink beer that cost $1 per pot (middy) and to meet other totally amazing people on adventures (some even for scientific or educational purposes). This story is not the rest of that story, although one day it would be worth telling. This story is about what happened at the end.
In October, at the almost end of 4 years of study, she decided that after University she would go on a great travel adventure to do aid work in a community in South East Asia (exactly where is sketchy for reasons that may become obvious). It was organised through the University, and she collected and filled out all the paperwork, but had yet to hand it in. At the end of her third year of study she had done a “practical” component of her degree, and through the University had ended up spending 5 weeks in Kakadu National Park doing vegetation surveys and flying around the most beautiful place she had ever seen in helicopters and on air-boats over the floodplains, and she imagined that it could be possible another such adventure awaited her overseas. Handing in the paperwork would mean she would be committed to go and would have to leave her handsome dark-haired boyfriend (who still had some study to go) which she didn’t like the idea of, and it would mean moving on from the only other place in the world (apart form her farm) that felt like home. And so she dawdled. And one day, she went to the doctor (and this story has been told before) and found out that she was having a baby (who by chance was a baby girl who would arrive in her world 2 weeks after she would graduate) and she went home and chucked the paperwork in the bin. And started a completely different adventure.
Today, that baby who is almost 19 years old now, left home to go travelling in South East Asia. She’s starting in Vietnam. It would be cool if her Mum could say she had been going to Vietnam, but it would just be to tell a good story. In truth her mum can’t remember, which probably indicates that in her heart she knew she wasn’t going. Not that year anyway.
When she told her daughter the story, her daughter said “Thank you for having me Mum”. And this is what her Mum would have said.
No, thank you for having me!
Thank you for being the best adventure and teaching me more than University and being more fun than flying in helicopters and as good at drinking beer as me when I was 18. Thank you for showing me that even in the crappest parenting moments, it gets to be OK because you can’t take all the credit and you can’t take all the crap. Thank you for looking after me when I was shaky and for letting me look after you when you were. Thank you for reminding me what its like to be young and letting me borrow your clothes and hang with the wild youth and have playlists in Spotify I don’t have to make up myself. Thank you for helping me learn the art of letting go (oh sooooo many times) and how to trust you to be responsible for yourself. Thanks for all the baking you used to do and for painting me pictures and writing me love notes.
I am so frickin totally goddam proud of you I could burst. And I think you are brave and crazy for travelling overseas, by yourself, with plans that (to me) I could only describe as sketchy and for that I think you are one of the most special and amazing human beings that I have ever gotten to know. I am not sure I could be brave enough to do what you are doing, and now I will never know because the adventure I chose was one with you in it, and you helped make me braver and cooler than I thought I could ever be on my own.
This is my bon voyage letter. I wanted to stick it in your travel journal, but when I opened it I found this photo of us tucked inside, and I could not write.
LOOK AT YOU. There are no more words. Bon voyage baby.