By Christine Heenan
A week ago, Thrive Global published an essay reflecting on the life lessons reinforced by a trip to Antarctica with my best friend Lynn to mark our 50th birthdays. I was amazed by the responses to the piece: I received reflections on female friendships, life’s distinct chapters, on “age as a mindset” and on the gift of getting out of one’s element. My former colleague Tracey wrote that she was: writing ‘get out of your comfort zone’ “on the back of my hand in permanent marker.” My 80-something great aunt Margery, who has stayed close to her three war-era school friends for 70 years, wrote about all she and other members of their “quartet” have been through together: “the overriding savior during our friendship has been the sharing and undemanding support during sadness and joy. There are only three of us left, but the fun, laughter and friendship carries on.” One of Lynn’s colleagues wrote: “I sent this to my roommate and it’s 100% inspired us to take our own set of trips. Starting with one to celebrate our 30th birthdays this year!”
At Thrive’s request, I asked others to share their stories; four of those stories appear below: Josie Duckett on “plunging into motherhood,”; Jaimie Walsh, a college senior, on what she learned by getting out of her element, and Joan Hayes, one of the “quartet,” on 70 years of life with three best friends. Finally, my friend Lynn’s own reflections on our trip and its lessons. Enjoy!
Plunging into Motherhood — Josie Duckett
“Five years later, as I was cutting up chicken nuggets for my two-year-old and battling fatigue and morning sickness with my second pregnancy, I’d often relive various aspects of our trip in my mind, reminding myself that I was once young and worldly and brave, while no longer feeling I was any of those things.”
Like Christine, I once felt young and worldly and brave. Today I find myself squarely in the cutting chicken nuggets phase, also fighting fatigue and morning sickness, in my case with my third pregnancy. Right now I especially don’t feel young, don’t feel worldly, but still feel brave.
Just like so many other working fathers and mothers, I’m on that metaphorical career jungle gym that Sheryl Sandberg talked about in Lean In. It takes courage to move not just upward, but downward and sideways to make your career path narrow enough to be distinct, and wide enough to bring a family.
One the best things about getting older is plunging into these different chapters — all with different worries and wins.
In my 20s I worried about finding someone to love, about impressing my bosses, about making rent each month. In motherhood I don’t have enough time with the people I love, feel occasionally irrelevant, and anxious to provide for three new lives.
In my 20s winning looked like having many friends, wearing a size 4, globetrotting, and finishing Boston Marathons. In motherhood winning looks like having a few friends, wearing a smile, building a community, and maybe getting two hours alone.
My first boss in Washington gave solid advice: your job will never hug you back. And so if it arrives, plunge into motherhood and own all the new worries and wins.
Study Abroad, Learn About Yourself — Jaimee Walsh
I learned at a very young age to associate travel with trips to Florida, consisting of sitting by the beach or going to amusement parks. A college trip to Ladakh, India opened my eyes to a world of adventure I never knew existed. I tell my friends stories of trekking through the Himalayas, yaks, and mountain lions; I couldn’t make these things up if I tried! When I say it out loud I ask myself if they ever really happened.
My first taste of another country left my craving for more. I not only changed my major from business to anthropology, but decided to spend a semester on the Pacific Island of Sámoa. Four months without modern amenities helped me gain understanding to a wider world. We tackled subjects of climate change, gender issues, and religion. I went to this Island as an observer, never expecting to have my world turned upside down by the people I met.
I came home and acted as if everything is normal, but every day I am reminded that there is a world that holds so much more than we will ever be capable of understanding, and that life is so more than the small bubble we usually operate in. The most important things I have learned? First and foremost, being open-minded and openhearted is the only way to truly experience something. Challenging yourself doesn’t have to mean traveling to another country; it begins by getting comfortable with the uncomfortable. Lastly, relationships are key to learning more about humanity’s potential. We have the amazing ability to converse, enlighten and process our experiences; this is where we need to begin.
Seventy Years of Friendship; Through Laughter and Through Trouble — Joan Hayes
Oh, where to begin? So many memories come flooding back over 70 years of friendship, always, always lots of laughter……but I would like to mention the wonderful support Margery, Ruth and Betty gave me back in the late 80s. I was living, not very happily, with my husband in Northern Ireland at the time of “The Troubles”. There was lots of cash involved in his job and when he refused to pay protection money to the paramilitaries we received lots of threats from them — ultimately that they would kidnap me and ask for a ransom. The police advised me to get back to England. I stayed with my sister in Cambridge. During this time Ruth, Betty and I went to stay a few days with Margery in Valley View…a yearly event we enjoyed so much. I was in a pretty awful state and spent the whole time pouring it all out to the girls, telling them the sort of things that I couldn’t burden my family with. The girls — friends since we were 11 years old and away at school during the war — were so wonderfully supportive and helped me so much. I will remember and value that forever.
In Praise of Unhurried Time — Lynn Margherio
Summer days in Antarctica last nearly 24 hours. And there I was, on a ship for 12 days with my best friend, Christine, with no agenda other than to take it all in. What a gift I had been given by my husband to travel, guilt- and responsibility-free, while he cared for our school-age children at home.
Antarctica was all that I had hoped for, and more. Whales fluked, penguins porpoised and icebergs stunned with their otherworldly blue hues. The scale and majesty of the scenery was awe-inspiring. We learned so much from the NatGeo naturalists and crew.
And Christine and I finally had time to pick up where our carefree 25 year-old selves had left off on our Australian adventure. Talking long into the night. Doing marathon crosswords, polar yoga and polar plunges. Being silly. And simply being. It was the best.
Christine called this unhurried time. In my 50 years, memories of this kind of time are my most cherished. As I look ahead to the next 50, I am committed to make more of them with, and for, my kids, my husband, and close friends. After all, that’s what life is all about.
Originally published at medium.com