So one of the lesser known true facts about me is that I’m a fully qualified Marine Biologist.
I graduated with a bachelor of Applied Science in Environmental Studies with majors in Marine Biology and Human Geography. I’m such a die-hard golden child I also graduated with an award for the highest achievement across all subjects in my degree. On the day of the ceremony I was torn though because my truly ethical green friends wanted me to boycott the prize because it was funded by an evil mining company that was going to mine in an amazing marine reserve, but the prize was $500 and I needed it desperately to pay for the home birth of my first child.
I collected my University Degree and Award clearly the MOST PREGNANT graduate in the room, golden child’s greatest fall from grace. My greatest achievement (the first of four) was born at home two weeks later, to a talented Marine Biologist whose midwife was partially funded by an evil mining company.
When I was 17, and unsure what to study at University, I thought Marine Biology sounded really cool. I was a farm girl, liked the beach and dolphins, and the only place in Australia to study it was in North Queensland or Tasmania – both far enough away from home for me to start my great dash for independence. North Queensland seemed warmer and although not a conscious decision, Townville is actually geographically probably the furthest place in Australia away from the town I was born. On final enrollment/subject selection day at the main campus, I discovered they were offering an Environmental Science degree for the first time ever, and it could be done in conjunction with Marine Biology, and so I changed my degree for something that seemed a bit more like home. Who would have thought?
Studying Marine Biology on the Great Barrier Reef was fairly magic. The field trips where we scuba dived, and counted coral, and camped on islands were amazing. We dissected a lot of fish though. And had to do Chemistry Prac on a Friday from 8-10am when Thursday night was the biggest night of the week at the Uni bar. I was brilliant at Fisheries management, and the guys were hunting me to do Masters with them, but I didn’t want to be an enforcer or try to manage something that seemed unmanageable – because there were people who’s livelihood depended on it, and there were breeding grounds that were decimated, and it all felt too challenging. And I didn’t want to do aquaculture and breed fish (plus I sucked at chemistry), and just studying one tiny part of the bigger system didn’t make sense to me. I loved ecology and systems and the bigger picture. I needed to understand the why, and then what that meant to people and how they felt, and I wasn’t entirely scientific in my focus. No scientist would say “true fact”. And I became brilliant at passing exams, and writing essays at the last minute, and I never used the internet once, and only got caught out using an outdated book ONCE in all four years. I loved learning, and those people I shared that life with, and the taste of independence (with the safety of total love and support from my family all those 1000’s of km’s away) – but in the end what I’m qualified in didn’t define who I am or who I would become.
Sometimes when we’ve been at the beach, one of the girls will ask a questions about shells or seaweed or fish or wave dynamics, and my guy will say “Sounds like a question for a Marine Biologist” and I laugh. But then somehow, more often than not, I know the answer and the scientist in me tells them something in the teachy way I do when I’m being a scientist.
Last week I went snorkeling twice, for the first time in more years that I care to admit. And I remembered how below the surface is a whole ‘nother world, and when you dive down all you hear is the rush and silence of water, and for a moment in time it’s just turquoise blue and you can be anything you want. I loved that other world once, but I forgot it was there, and so now that I’ve seen it again I’ve started remembering. Remembered who I am, and how I got here, and what I did to do that, and what I needed to learn. And then I remembered this……
Did you know that the barnacle has the longest penis relative to body side of any animal in the animal kingdom? Another lesser known true fact. Lucky I remembered that one. The reason? The lecturer explained it to us by making us lean forward and look at the person three seats down on either side, and then told us if we were barnacles……well…..unforgettable really…..
Never forget who you are or what you’re capable of, and when all that is enough find a bizarre true fact to give you some perspective.