Throwback Thursday: Leaving on a Jet Plane

The following post was first written as an autobiographical essay over six years ago. It is fun to reflect on what has changed (and what hasn't).

Setting the scene: Six years ago I left my small central Victorian town to study business in America on a soccer scholarship.

Leaving on a Jet Plane

The early morning sun streaked in through the curtain, lighting up golden specs of dust throughout the room. Slowly as the sun rose, the room became more visible and the dark shadowy shapes could be distinguished. The doors of the wardrobe in the far corner were wide open, revealing a vast cavity and a dozen empty coat hangers. Two large pieces of luggage were sitting by the closed door, a daunting omen so early in the morning. Apart from the overly sized baggage the floor was littered with random assortments; a book, some discarded clothing and the packaging for several vacuum seal bags. The bed made the only other piece of furniture in the room. A silk overthrow lied thickly around me and her. Her make-up showing remnants of a tear streaked right cheek, her left hidden somewhere in the pillows. Even with her mascara running, and her hair a mess, sleeping there peacefully she was absolutely beautiful, Ivy; the love of my life.

As I brushed her short fringe away from her face, I gently woke her up, kissed from her neck to her eyelids. Her eyes however bursting open with the loud crashing at my bedroom door, my mother was never really as subtle as me.

“We’re late, everyone in the car!”

I rushed from my room to the hallway, tripping over my bags on the way. It was full of activity, a rare sight for so early in the morning. Bleary eyed and busy, my family were rushing around making sure everything was in order. We were a well oiled machine, Grabbing the heavy bags, my whole life packed into two suitcases, and lugging them to the car. Juggling my 3 year old niece; Elli, not used to being woken so early, double checking for my passport, my wallet, my ticket. Mum; usually calm and resolved, was running around with Jess, my always stressing sister, in some sort of super team, collecting all the things I had forgotten or left out, triple checking that everything was organized. They’re always there to help. My younger brother Mark, Ivy and me stood by the front door, not wanting to get in the way, an unspoken but unified silence over what was happening. Holding Ivy’s hand I was hustled into the car, the trip was beginning.

“All my bags are packed I'm ready to go I'm standin' here outside your door
I hate to wake you up to say goodbye
But the dawn is breakin' it's early morn
The taxi's waitin' he's blowin' his horn
Already I'm so lonesome I could die”

Not even 10 minutes into the trip I got a phone call, it was Maddy. Her and two of my closest friends; Holly and Kristal, were meeting us for breakfast, and joining us on the trip to the airport. Meeting them in the car park of McDonalds the growing group piled out of the two cars. I looked around at the people I loved. They are all out earlier than I would have ever thought; making an effort to say goodbye. They are stopping at nothing to make me understand that they love me, that I will be missed. We all silently hugged, not knowing quite what to say. I cried. Soundless tears falling onto my hotcakes. No one said a word about it, even though their usual jeers would have been unrelenting. The eight of us were definitely a sight to see. Being up much earlier than normal had given us a groggy look and the tears had left red rings around everyone eyes. Holding Ivy’s hand tightly, and a comforting squeeze from Jess and we were back on the road. A pair of cars, carrying those who I held so dearly. The car trip felt surreal. In the car behind us Mark who I was so protective of and my friends who had been through all the ups and downs. In my car Mum and Jess were in the front; my two pillars. Elli was sleeping peacefully beside me; my hope. Ivy silently crying whilst she held me; my love.

“So kiss me and smile for me Tell me that you'll wait for me
Hold me like you'll never let me go
Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go”

Another phone call pulled me out of my slumber. I must have fallen asleep on the way, 15 minutes away from the airport now. It was my second eldest sister; Bianca. “I’m just ringing to wish you luck, I’m sorry. I don’t know how to say goodbye. I love you lil’ big sis.” The onslaught of tears began again. ‘Lil-Big sis’ was what we had called each other since we were little.

Bing couldn’t get the day off work to come and say goodbye. We were often fighting, but all that seemed forgotten in the way of something much larger. Goodbyes bring out different things in people but universally all the insignificant things slide away. I was going to miss her.

“There's so many times I've let you down So many times I've played around
I tell you now, they don't mean a thing
Every place I go, I'll think of you
Every song I sing, I'll sing for you”

Arriving at the airport I began to feel extremely nervous, I think it was here that it sunk in that I was leaving. We all filed out of the car for a final time. Elli grappling to hold onto her mum. Ivy and I left to heave the baggage to check in, our hands letting go for the first time. Mum drove off to find a park; I spotted a small tear glistening on her cheek. Luggage in tail we made a beeline to the check in. Hustling and bustling with all the other passengers, we finally had done everything we needed to do; the bags were checked, my ticket scanned, my seat assigned. With half an hour left the only thing left was the thing we had all been dreading. The final goodbye.

“So kiss me and smile for me Tell me that you'll wait for me
Hold me like you'll never let me go
Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane
Don't know when I'll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go”

Waiting in the lounge, we met up with mum. Small talk passed over me; I was in another world. Afraid. Already I felt so alone, surrounded by the people that I loved, holding Ivy’s hand, I was scared. Colliding both figuratively and physically back with the real world I was thrown to the floor in an all embracing hug. Bing whispered in my ear “I wouldn’t miss this for the world lil-big sis.”

Smiling at me with all knowing looks I was met with the faces of mum and Jess, sworn to secrecy. Bing had made the trip down to the airport to see me off. Squealing with delight I forgot why we were all here and pulled her in close. The minutes rushed down and with a large entourage of my friends and family we made our way to the international departures gate.

Without speaking a word they separated into a single file line, starting with friends and ending with family. This was the hardest point, I knew this would be the last time I would see them in over a year. I made my way through, embracing each of my friends as though I would never see them again, whispering my goodbyes in their ears. It got harder as I went down the line, some of the strongest people I know crumpling in my arms.

It was so difficult I barely made it to the family end of the line. Bing my guiding light and idol told me how proud she was of me. Mark usually so emotionless sobbed into my shoulder. Jess; my best friend and wealth of advice, holding her daughter Elli, collaborating me into an all consuming three way hug. Mum, usually so strong held herself together while I hugged her, thanking her for all that she had done. The last in the line was Ivy. I had no words I could say to her that could express the way I felt now sobbing, I held her; one last embrace.

“I love you, always.” And I was on my way.

“Now the time has come to leave you One more time let me kiss you
Close your eyes I'll be on my way
Dream about the days to come
When I won't have to leave alone”

There was a strange feeling among the group, all upset to say goodbye, but something more than that. Afraid because goodbyes mean change. We were leaving the normal and entering the unknown. Over the time that I am away I’m going to change, and so are they. We were all nervous about what those changes would be, and how they would affect our relationships.

Scared and alone I stepped through the departures gate. I stole one last glance back at the line. Nervous and independent I took the last few steps through the gate, the last few steps away from everyone I love, the last few steps and I grew up.

“Cause I'm leavin' on a jet plane Don't know when I'll be back again
Oh babe, I hate to go”


What a trip down memory lane.

Reading this passage always gets me right in the feels. When I look back this is still one of the hardest moments in my life.

It was a pivotal moment in my life. I chose to follow my dreams regardless of how hard it was to walk away from my life as it was.

I learnt a lot about myself, my family and my relationship whilst I was living on the other side of the world. Having our bonds stretch over the Pacific Ocean made them stronger.

I also found out first hand what real and intense home-sickness feels like. How missing someone can be more painful than any physical pain I have felt.

I ended up living in America for two and a half years before heading straight back home. What a trip.

Most of all. I learnt how good it is to be home. To have a home to come back to.