When I was nine years old my dad drove me to Toronto Pearson Airport. He sat me down on a bench and told me something I will never forget: some people live others merely exist. Explaining the importance of observation, I was left transfixed. I spent that afternoon in Terminal 3, quiet and observant. People came and went. We remained. Eating my ham sandwich, I realized there was more to life than my small reality. Walking back to the car, I vowed that one day I would become them. That one day I would travel and see the world for myself. That one day my reality would become the world’s reality.
The first time I let go of my mother’s hand was the day I walked into my kindergarten classroom; bright-eyed and ready to learn. Helping me hang my backpack onto the designated hook provided, my teacher asked me what I wanted to be when I grew up. I smiled. I wanted to be just like her. The day I purchased my backpack was the day my mother let go of me altogether. In explaining (for the millionth time) that in order to backpack Europe you have to actually backpack Europe, we finally reached an understanding: the world was mine and I hers.
My mother holds my hand, a tear in her eye. I smile. She smiles. We can hear the roar of a plane’s engine in the background. To me it’s soothing. To her it’s unnerving.
“So, I guess this is it then,” she affirms. “You’re finally going through with it.”
“Mother,” I try to interject. I don’t need to hear this now. Not when I’m about to leave for four months. I repeat: four months. That’s it. I’ve been gone longer.
She puts her hand up, silencing me. “I want you to know that I’m proud of you. And, I love you.”
With one last hug my mother pushes me towards security. She doesn’t look back. I’m surprised. I do. I hesitate at the entryway. He doesn’t come. Now, I’m scared. No. I’m terrified. This is it. There’s no turning back. I’m alone. I mean, truly alone.
Richie Norton once said, “To escape fear, you have to go through it, not around.” That’s what I did. I picked up my bags and walked through the metal detector.
Stepping through the threshold of my fears and into the abyss of the unknown, I was fearless, unafraid, and seeking adventure.