It seemed that I had only just gone, and I was back again. That’s the mind-bending thing about international travel, or maybe any kind of travel. One minute here. Then gone. Then back again.
I imagined before I began travelling to the US for ‘work’ about the kind of person I’d have to become to do that. And then the next thing I was doing that, and perhaps I became that person after I’d done it the first time, not before I went.
The becoming of something (someone) new is a magnificent thing. I’m still awkward at airports and unsure where to go and need hours and hours of extra time to get over the awkwardness and be someone who travels for work. I still find it hard to wake people and ask them to jump out into the aisle so I can go to the toilet. I still want the window seat so I can watch the world above the clouds, even though I will always have to ask someone to move. I still deliberate too long before asking. I’m nervous about public transport (buses, airport trains, regular trains, trams). The only time we ever had to catch the bus was the school bus, and it came right in our farm front gate and picked us up (all four) near the front of our house, and then drove right through the middle of the farm to the ‘automatic’ gate my Dad installed at the other end. This gate was big and heavy and had a lever on it. When the bus bumped the lever, the gate would swing open and waver there long enough for the bus to get though before clunking shut. It had to shut because we often had sheep in that paddock. The bus was driven by the same family throughout my childhood – by the granddad and the dad and the mum and two of the aunts and later on by the cousins. Nothing much changed – not the drivers or the route or the bus or the people on it – and this was exactly what I liked about it. The familiarity and the known. I had a childhood steeped in this.
Once the sheep in the paddock had lambs and on the way home from school the sheep didn’t move very fast and one of the lambs was hit by the bus. The sheep in the paddock stressed the driver and stressed me because I couldn’t bear any animal getting hurt ever (which when you grow up with livestock is just not a reality). I watched out the back window of the bus as we drive away and I fretted about the lamb, so much so that my brother agreed when we got home to walk back with me. I’m not sure how far, maybe 4km. We hadn’t long got to it, it was still alive but kind of crumpled, when my Dad arrived in the ute. He looked sombre, and mostly because I guess he knew what had to happen. I spent the ride home trying to convince him (the life weary sheep farmer who’d seen fly-blown haunches, and stuck lambs and drought and tailed lambs) that the lamb was OK. Not long after we got home, he took it outside and knocked it on the head. The kindest thing to do with a lamb with a broken back, even though I was sure (always) that I could love it back to life.
The becoming of something (someone) new is subtle. One day, when I had a daughter of my own who was obsessed with animals (especially chickens) I had to be the one who did the kindest thing when something was sick (unless my Dad came to visit and I could get him to do it). I learnt that sometimes to love something (someone) you have to let go of everything you imagined and let it be what it is. And for me, all of my becomings have not happened in a massive bolt of lightening, just one day I noticed that I had become. On my flight home from San Francisco to Sydney (14 hours by the window) I was the seasoned traveller to the couple next to me who were coming to Australia to do a cruise on the Sea Princess from Sydney to Port Douglas. I knew where all the buttons were to do all the things, and where to find the flight time info and how to fill in the customs forms and why. I was the Marine Biologist who had been to all the places they were going and could tell them stories of diving on the Great Barrier Reef. They don’t want to snorkel because she’s scared of sting rays, but the will be going to Australia Zoo. I was someone who had travelled for work to a country on the other side of the world and it was a natural as all the other things.
The becoming of something (someone) isn’t actually a thing that requires specific focus and energy. It’s just a thing that’s allowed. As in you don’t try, but you don’t stop it either. Sometimes I think I’m still 20, but some how I became 44 and all of that is nothing to do with age. When I was 20 I dreamed of travelling the world, and instead I became a Mum. And that was one of the most glorious becomings of all time. Not that I knew what I was doing or if I was any good at it. And every time I had another child I had to adjust the becoming to reflect the number of children (and one day step-children, who are like your own children but require something else again – to me it was something I had to dig deeper for but when I found it it was worth it. The extra time and the depth. Like a part of me unexplored).
When I became a life coach, part of me decided that’s that what I would do but I didn’t actually become one until it was just this thing that I did without thinking about it. It just unfolded. The only thing I had to do was decide. And that’s it really. You choose. And it (you) can become. I think the worst thing to do is not choose. If you’re a person who’s surviving the not-choosing you’ll know what I mean. You know the becoming is there but sometimes it’s easier to pretend it’s not.
It seemed that I had only just gone, and I was back again. That’s the mind-bending thing about international travel, or maybe any kind of travel. One minute here. Then gone. Then back again. But I never come back from anywhere (or anyone) quite the same. Somehow I have become something more. And that in itself is pure magic.