It’s the morning of that day.
For almost six months I’ve been planning this. Organising the funds. Scheming up a bucket list. Enduring the loss of dignity of fainting on my first round of vaccinations. Then being made to lay on the doctor’s exam bench like a child for all those to follow. Squirreling away all of the necessary accoutrements of travel that I never previously knew existed. Scam protecting credit card sleeves. Shirts with inbuilt insect repellent technology. Shampoo containers with suction cup lids to stick to the wall. Compression cubes to make the transport of all of this junk possible.
For three weeks I’ve been saying goodbyes. It’s not as though I’m leaving forever, but still, each of these has taken its toll. Each of them forces me to acknowledge that these people are family to me in the absence of my own. Each time knowing I would think of what I wanted to say later. Letting go of work has also been hard. The structure and sense of purpose that it brings to me. Driving past the clinic I’ve caught myself looking in. Wondering about the daily turmoil inside. Wondering what role I should be playing in it. Feeling guilty pleasure about accelerating away. It’s the same love/ hate relationship that I’ve always had with my work. People who know me well have said that I can expect it to get plenty harder yet.
For the past week I’ve emptied my house. It had been nice to be able to finally warehouse the scattered stockpiles of stuff under my own roof. And I enjoyed it for a year. Organising the chaos. Finding a place for everything to fit. But this last week was a blur of things getting hurled into boxes and stacked in precarious towers in storage. I took photos of drawers and bookshelves so that after all of this everything can go straight back to its place. Maybe the girls from work were right all along. Perhaps I am deserving of one of those behavioural acronyms. Strangely, it wasn’t difficult to condense all of that clutter into one backpack. A bag of things that will ensure my survival over the next six months. When I test its weight I’m certain that there will be more in it than I actually need.
And now it’s the morning of that day. I expected to be excited. I expected some anxiety. I expected the edge to be taken off my invariably ravenous appetite and for my eight hours sleep to be a shade less comatose. I didn’t expect the mind-numbing, bowel-clenching fear. And I didn’t expect it to strike me down while still on Australian soil. The three quick-stepping trips to the toilets in the last hour are an indictment on my usually reliable storage capacity. The jarring interruptions of announcements over the PA system cancel any my efforts at control. The thought of boarding the plane makes my stomach flip as though my body has just realised that it is going to fall.
There are no more jobs or obstacles to distract my mind and body from what is about to happen. There is no more hiding from, or denying what I am about to do. For a time, I am walking away from my life.
It starts now.