By: Stuart White 17-12-2020
A FLIGHT, A CRUISE AND A PATH OF THORNS
For the past few months, my daughter has been working tirelessly, packing up her life in South Africa to relocate to Europe. Moving continents is stressful and packing up your entire existence, selling an apartment and trying to scrape together as much money as you can from selling second-hand furniture (there’s no money in that), knowing that you will have to re-create it all again in a few months, in a currency where South African Rands compare more with Monopoly Money than the real thing, moves the experience to a whole new level of horrible.
Six months of chaos and count-down and then on D-Day – her departure date – she misses her flight. Stranded at the airport a new air ticket costs her R13K (initial flight R3K). Excess baggage cost R4k (initial allowance - two 23kg cases). That’s 20 thousand bucks before she even boards her flight. Now, for perspective on the gravity of this situation, these combined costs equate to 3 months’ salary for her or, presented differently, the net profit of much of the money she has scraped together from selling this item and that, bargaining for the best prices etc. The savings gained from the early booking have vanished and, in a nutshell, a huge financial cock-up prevails. Not to mention, though I shall, the hours of crying, stress, disappointment, frustration and anger at the airport, culminating in significant physical and mental cost.
Talking of anger, I am spitting mad too. I am mad at her, the situation, and myself for not playing a more proactive parenting role helping mitigate all of this. I have missed international flights before (in one instance with family in tow and had to re-purchase all 4 tickets – ouch). I’m guilty of having been caught out too many times because of my weak administrative skills (read laziness) with things like winging it when it comes to the weight of my bags etc. After too many personal instances like this and the pain associated with screwing up and feeling battered by life’s administrative travel challenges, I eventually figured it all out. I started being responsible, took fewer unnecessary risks and finally understood with great profundity the proverb that a stitch in time saves nine! To watch others experience the same, however, is excruciating. Especially when it involves your nearest and dearest.
I seek comfort however in something I once read from Napoleon Hill;
“The strongest oak tree in the forest, is not the one that is protected from the storm and hidden from the sun. It’s the one that stands in the open where it is compelled to struggle for its existence against the winds and rains and the scorching sun”.
I know that you don’t always get what you want in life, but what you need. I believe that you are always being called higher, bigger, or better. Whether it is God that’s the driver of that, the Universe or some other higher power within you or elsewhere it doesn’t matter but life by its very nature will constantly challenge us by presenting obstacles. Today it was my daughter’s turn. But even though challenges help us grow, develop and evolve, they are not enjoyable or pleasurable - crawling through thorns comes to mind.
I am trying to counsel myself that there is no point in me feeling her loss and pain (although I do) and her too. It feels unproductive, a waste and a double hit! Maybe that’s what parents do. But what’s the point in experiencing double pain – surely it makes better sense for only one to shoulder such feelings? Who was it that said parenting was like deciding forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body? I am conscious that in the process of her growth and development I have made this about me, and it is not.
As I write this my daughter is on her flight. I am blessed that she will meet me in Europe before her new adventure and while it feels horrid that she starts her new adventure with a needless dent in her net worth I know that there are valuable lessons to be learnt here. Like all lessons they can only have an impact if we are prepared to process them and decide to learn from them, change etc. As I said to her on the phone just now, “It has been an awful year so far, why would you expect the end to be any different? - If you want to jinx a period let it be now.” I counselled that the possibility of starting the next year with a clean positive slate is far too appealing so maybe it is good that any bad karma crams completely into 2020!
Just before take-off she reported that there was an empty seat beside her – a luxury and blessing during a 11-hour flight. Even in the darkest of moments, it’s amazing that the human spirit seeks out the positive. The only other potential happy ending to this unhappy tale would be that a handsome, successful hulk occupied the adjacent seat, they fall hopelessly in love and lived happily ever after. It happens in Hollywood all the time – think ‘Knight & Day’, with Cameron Diaz and Tom Cruise. Sure, they had a few ups and downs and adrenaline-charged adventures along the way, but at the end they literally drove off together into the sunset.
In that scenario the trials of today would be forgotten, the experience labelled serendipitous and we could all conclude it was money well spent.
I’ll let you know when I pick her up from the airport. Tom Cruise is filming in Europe,