Its never the right time to say goodbye.

It’s never the right time to say goodbye.

 

Although this may evoke Chris Brown’s cheesy vocals ringing through your mind singing the above sentence, it is a sentence that has been playing through my head over and over again for the past 2 days.

 

Yesterday I had the absolutely horrible, horrific task of saying five words that I never in my most horrible nightmares could have conjured up saying about my little love. “Lets put him to sleep”. That single moment my world stopped, my mind blanketed in a thick fog. I knew it was coming but the words coming out were foreign to me, as if it wasn’t my voice saying them. I was checking the letterbox for mail at the time and all I could do was stumble back into the car and sit down, defeated, tears escaping my eyes and rolling in a consistent stream down my face with the vet doctor’s last words to me ringing in my ears for eternity, “I think we all knew this was coming.” I did but I didn’t. I couldn’t believe it. He was only 3 years old. It wasn’t his time. How could such a young, lively, cheeky, playful animal be so sick?

To you looking at these pictures, he’s just a cat. I cant expect you to understand, just as I wouldn’t be able to understand if this was your situation instead of mine. These few, 2D pictures don’t tell the stories that I have lived through with him and how he pulled me through my dark times and celebrated my happiest.

The day he came into our lives he was just an 8 week old, small, cheeky black kitten with a naughty rebellious streak that had been born on the streets and abandoned. His siblings had all been adopted out and it had just left him – reluctantly, I agreed to have him – we had just lost a cat and were now renting and didn’t have the room for him – yet I took him on anyway. The day I went to pick him up I drove 2 hours across the city in the pouring rain and fog with no GPS – I was driving blind, no idea how to get to the vet where I would pick him up, yet I eventually found my way there, paid the $50 I had agreed to, and was led to the small cage in the back where he was waiting for me. He was tiny with blue-green eyes and a big blue bow around his tiny little neck – like something from a Disney movie. I was hooked and in love immediately.

I was concerned for the drive home as, being such a tiny kitten, I was alone and worried that the long car ride would stress him, and so he rode with me in the front of the car with a seatbelt around the carry cage that held him. Halfway through the drive home, I lifted up one corner of the towel as he hadn’t made any noise yet, and saw that he was curled up in a tight little ball, fast asleep, with only the positioning of the bow allowed me to see which end was which. A half-hour later he awoke and poked his little paw through the cage bars, claws out, wanting to play. So I played cat-and-mouse games with my finger through the cage bars for the rest of the ride home.

This is also how we spent our last car ride together, on the way to the vets yesterday. This being his fourth time to the vet in a week, he knew the drill and was trying to escape the cage as he thought it was just another routine check. So out came his little paw through the bars, looking for an out, and I held it for the last time in ironically exactly the same way that he came into my world. Paw to finger. This time I was stroking him imprinting the feel of his fur on my mind forever so I would never forget what it was like to touch it. Kissed his round nose and the spot behind his ear where he always smelled like fresh laundry, because that was his favourite place to sleep.

To me, he was not just a cat. He was as good as my child. He had an obsession with the outdoors and looked very at home in it; thus the nickname of ‘panther’ was born. On the few occasions we tried to coerce him inside or catch him due to it being past his bed-time (sundown), he would let you come within inches of touching him before running a few metres ahead. Everything was on his terms, he was rebellious, wild, untouchable; and that cemented our love for him even more. Moreover, he was a small cat, yet one that never stopped him from dreaming big. One afternoon I was ironing clothes in the dining room near the big bay window and I could hear a wild bush turkey running and squawking in discomfort every now and again. Finally I looked out the window & saw a small, black figure down in the long grass, relentlessly stalking the poor turkey (that was double his size) before running up behind it, biting it on the bum, and then starting the whole charade all over again.
My little boy knew when I was in a dark place. One day during a brief period in 2014 when Gab & I had broken up, I remember sitting on my balcony feeling brokenhearted and in despair. I was staring out to nothing, trying to make sense of my life’s state when I felt something soft brush up against me. It was my little cat, intertwining himself between my legs, something he had never done before as he wasn’t usually so affectionate. I like to think he sensed my pain because he sat with me for as long as I was there in that position, rolling around on my lap and sleeping with me there until I moved. He has been there through it all.

 

In the last few weeks I like to think he knew his time was coming to an end. He started sharing his sleeping arrangements with me, my mum and my brother; spending all his days curled up with us inside rather than exploring the outdoors like he usually would have done. He followed me everywhere like a shadow and scratched at my bedroom door if I dared to close it with him not in there with me. One day I picked him up and realized that I could feel his breastbone and hips way too sharply, and each nodule of his vertebrae. He was hungry and yet not, and started looking for grass to chew. Thinking it was a tummy bug or an infection I took him into the vet to sort it out. That was only a week ago today. Things can change so much within a week. On Monday, after a last-ditch ultrasound scan, I was called into the vet clinic after-hours to discuss the scan findings. There were 3 large dense masses in his liver, that the doctor put down to two things – a very, very unlikely occurrence of a series of abcesses, or – more likely – 3 large tumors. My heart knotted, as somewhere within me, I knew it was the latter. The only way to know for sure was to take him back the next morning for surgery to physically see what the growths were. The vet told me that if they were, infact tumors, that it would only be cruel to Leo to stitch him up and wake him up to take home, as he would only suffer greatly until he eventually died. He didn’t have a definitive answer for the reason for cancer in my gorgeous boy at only 3 years old, only that he was at risk due to his breed. It was a genetic lottery and he lost.

And so I took him home with heavy everything, so we could all say our goodbyes. In 24 hours we had all gone from the prospect of a tummy bug, to now saying goodbye forever. And so we just did. And it was the hardest thing we’ve ever had to do, say goodbye forever to our young threenager who had the world at his feet to explore had he not lost the genetic lottery.

I feel like this is a release for me to write this. I don’t know how many of you are going to even care. But I felt the need to tell the world just how much he meant to me, and how much love I felt for an animal that I had once reluctantly rescued for a measley $50 and came barreling into my world, full force, paw outstretched with a big blue bow on his soft little neck.

Rest in peace baby, I know we’ll meet again. I love you so much. Goodbye.

we are the dreamers.

To my younger self,

How old are you when you’re reading this? 8? 15?

You should know you’re a dreamer. You should know that you love to write.

Sometimes the stars in your eyes make you anxious for the future if there’s ever any doubt or thought that creeps in that maybe, just maybe your dreams are too big. See, a lot of people settle. A lot of people have dreams that aren’t big enough. That don’t terrify the fuck out of them. Not to worry, you are and never will be one of those people.

You always knew that you’d get somewhere with something, but figuring it out also induced a mild anxiety and panic. See a theme here? You’re an overthinker. You worry too much. You can feel that you’re standing on the precipice of something big and great, but the final piece of the puzzle hasn’t quite been found yet and so you’re trying to force it to fit. Don’t. Just don’t. I’m sure you’re laughing right now at this because you don’t quite understand what I’m talking about, but you will. Give it a few years.

I want to let you know that your older self takes risks. She is bossy – no assertive. You will be happy to know that throughout your life, you have never lost the sparkle in your eyes or given up the chase of a big dream. You have about 10 big dreams at the time of writing this, and each of them must work out because there’s no back up plan. Combined together, they are the fabric of the parachute that hopefully activates when you made the jump. I wouldn’t know enough to tell you at the moment, because I’m currently still in free fall. The lack of control feels good.

 

To my older self,

How old are you when you’re reading this? 35? 45?

I’m kind of jealous because you already know how this is all going to work out. I always wonder about you, more than I do about the younger self. It’s a habit I need to stop. I know you’re better than okay. I like to think you’re everywhere I want you to be and doing all the things I’m planning for you as I type this.

Most of all, I hope you’re happy. I hope you don’t think about me at all except to smile at these moments. Please don’t try and communicate with me to tell me how to do something different/better or stop me from doing something you think I’ll regret. I can’t hear you. And I prefer it that way. You see, the more I wish for this for you, the more I realise I’m being hypocritical because I can’t seem to let you go. Maybe this is what I needed to do so.

I want to let you in on a little secret before I cut all ties with you and never think about you again. I don’t care what you have to think or say. I’m going to work damn hard every day of my life – however not in a work sense. In a happiness sense. Luckily for you, I’ve realised already that your genetic predisposition for anxiety & depression doesn’t mean shit. I’m not going to let it mean shit anymore. Too many years of our 20’s have already been spent in that barren, dark wasteland and I’m going to leave it now for good. It’s not going to be easy, but you probably, of course, already know. Because you’ve already done it. I hope you gave it hell.

Lastly, as cliché as this is, I hope you’re sitting on an ice-white beach in the Bahamas surrounded by everything you’ve ever wanted with the biggest smile on your face that you can produce. I hope you have wrinkles that are a result of smiling so hard. I hope you’re brightening up the lives of everybody around you. I hope you have as much rest as you need and the luxury of time and freedom to explore your terrain.

Goodbye for now but not forever, dreamer; until we meet again. I’ll see you there.

I haven’t been honest.

“…just because you’re “documenting” doesn’t mean you’re not creating content. It’s just a version of creating that is predicated more on practicality instead of having to think of stories or fantasy — something that’s very hard for most people (including myself).

Think about it: you can ponder about the strategy behind every post and fabricate yourself into this “influential person”… or you can just be yourself.”

– Gary Vaynerchuk

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It’s time for me to put my post-Vanuatu travel diary on hold for a sec, I’ll come back to it – don’t worry – but there are heavier words resting on the creative parts of my brain that wont let anything else flow out until I come clean about this.

I am a self-professed marine biologist. Since I was 12, since I first experienced a dolphin up-close (albeit at SeaWorld – don’t worry, I’ve since learned my lesson) I knew that if I wanted to do anything, it was marine biology. I asked the presenter at the dolphin show that day what she did to be able to work with such magnificent mammals, and she mentioned marine biology and from that day I was hooked. I didn’t want to be no office girl, retail worker, checkout chick or corporate high flyer. I wanted this. And of course, other teenage dreams came and went (including a short-lived acting career) but I found myself always coming back to marine biology. And so at the age of 20, when my life cycled back around yet again to marine biology, and I had the choice between a 3-year degree at a prestigious acting school in Sydney or a 3 year degree in science/marine biology, I forfeited my $1,000 deposit I had paid to reserve my spot at the acting school, and instead accepted my offer to study at the University of Technology in my long-awaited degree.

I am a self-professed marine biologist because I feel like I deserve it. With no science backing to my name (due to more creative electives being my choice in high school), I started at ground zero, throwing myself in the deep end with university level chemistry, anatomy, physics, data analysis. I had to learn it all in the first 3 months of my university career, from nothing. I cried more frustrated tears during that time, I felt more dumb than I had ever felt in that time, I self-doubted more in that time than I had ever done in my life. Maybe once or twice I entertained the idea of quitting the degree altogether but I knew in my heart of hearts the threat wasn’t serious. I was in this, for the good and bad. My grades were good, but not amazing – yet every time I saw a ‘pass’ next to a subject following the end of semester exams, I was euphoric. It was a sign that I was where I belonged and was meant to be. I moved to Sydney for a year of my degree to be able to cope with the 30-hour a week class time and extra workload on top of that. My peers were getting distinctions and high distinctions and yet I didn’t care as I was never in competition with them – only myself. And I was right where I wanted to be.

I am a self-professed marine biologist but I feel like I am lying. Sometimes. My graduation day came and went way too quickly. In fact, holy crap, it has almost been two years to the month that I put on my cap and gown and waited for my little bit of paper for hours on end in the hot grand hall of my university with 500 of my peers. I bought the graduation mug, I took the photos, I went out to celebratory dinner afterwards with my family. Some of my peers were continuing their studies with Honors, Masters degrees or pHDs, yet I always knew this wasn’t for me – the research was stressful, data analysis and programming was never, and will never be my forte, and I wanted to be out there in the world making a difference, doing speeches, inspiring, educating people and making a difference. I wanted to be working directly with the animals I loved instead of cooped up in a lab for 10+ years doing research on a topic I don’t really believe in or care about, just to say I am qualified.

I am a self-professed marine biologist, but I’m not really. I feel like I’m putting on a bit of a facade when I say it. To talk myself up in a sense. I dont work full time as a marine biologist. In fact, I dont even work casually as a marine biologist.
In the two years following my degree I worked assist-managing a retail store, travelled a little bit, and now I’m in-between. I will never forget having to lie through my teeth to the area manager of the retail chain I was applying to assist-manage, when she asked why I didn’t want to pursue my degree. I looked her in the eye and told her it didn’t interest me anymore. I’m pretty sure I was holding back tears.

Truth is, no one tells you what to do after university. There is no, next step. I feel like I put in the work, my dream was big enough, I was willing to work hard and travel an ungodly amount of time to work so I could potentially make it in the career I wanted so badly, but -.

I like to call myself a marine biologist because I know I deserve it and am worth it and I can do it and I’d be the best bloody marine biologist that you ever met, because my passion is what drives me.

Yet in the past few years I’ve learned that its okay if you come up against a couple of brick walls along the way.
In the past few months I’ve learned to realise that its okay to pursue something different if its what your soul is telling you.
And in the past few days I’ve learned that its okay to be upfront and honest with people about your struggles.
Its all okay. Because chances are, that most of the people around you are going through a parallel experience. Its just that everyone likes to build up personas surrounding themselves that are a far cry from the real – its what they want. Its what they hoped had happened. I am doing the same. Its human nature.

So – here it is. for the sake of honesty, here it all is laid out on the table.
1) I still have the dream of being a marine biologist and I always will. I will never give up on this dream. However , I’m allowing myself to be released from the title and the pressure that it brings, for now. I’m giving myself permission to be real, to have struggles, and to not be picture perfect to the outside world. I’m relieving myself of the guilt that I’ve harboured for two years for not “having it all together” straight out of university (or even 2 years after).
2) I want to be an activist and role model for oceanic conservation, and especially marine mammals, cetaceans, and sharks. And so I’m going to document that journey.
3) I’ve forgotten how much I used to enjoy writing as a child, and so I’m going to pursue this – starting with this blog.
4) I always have, always will, and will never stop, love travelling. I’m a hardcore wanderlust-er and so I’m going to find ways to explore more. And also document my exploration via my writing and videos.
5) Its okay to be between jobs, its okay to have down days, and all in all the best thing you can do is be honest.

And – finally –  I’m going to be okay. I’m not perfect. I’m not where I hoped I would be. As well as scaring the s*** out of me, this prospect also excites the s*** out of me too.

I hope you stay with me, follow me, see where this all takes me – and I really hope that its helped you too.
If it has, I’d love to hear about something you want to be upfront and honest about – even if it means tearing down any preconceived notions you had built up of yourself as a front to the world. I’d love to hear your story too.

-anislandmermaid