After years of procrastinating, months of saving and dozens of sleepless nights, the time had finally come for me to leave Aberdeen.
My family had gathered (despite their differences) to wave me off at the airport. I didn’t really want everyone there if I’m to be honest. My parents were hardly on talking terms, my grandmother and father hadn’t spoken in years and i was a nervous wreck. Not only was this moment in my life important for me, I knew how much it meant to my family. I was finally taken the leap I had always wanted to take.
Before I had even stepped foot on the plane, I could feel they were immensely proud of me. There was no need for a flow of conversation (although my two grans could chat for all the tea in China) as my family knew this was my moment and respectfully left their baggage at the gate. I had said most of what i wanted too the weeks before and quietly – we enjoyed the the last minutes together.
They had formed a delicate environment for me to play in as i took centre stage. There would be no drama. Just teary goodbyes that i knew I’d have to deal with as I walked through the gate.
My grandfather was strong and as wise as ever.A worldly man with countless great advice and kind words. If I’m honest, I would of preferred only him to take me to the airport and have said my goodbyes to everyone else the night before. I knew that not everyone got along, and my grandfather alone was what i really wanted. I knew he had the right things to say when and if I needed them. I wanted strength that morning in more ways than a coffee. And I knew he was the source. However, my parents, grandmother and other grandmother came along aswell and to be fair – there was nothing to worry about.
We shared another coffee, a few last minute chuckles and some mandatory travel questions;
“got your passport?”
“Got everything you need?”
“When does your flight get in?”
But forget about the latter. My flight had just been called…
It was time to leave.
I was flying to Heathrow and then onto a connecting flight to Beijing.
It was now time.
As we (surreally as a family) took the short walk up to the check in desks, I started saying my goodbyes. I can’t recall the order but i do recall the reactions;
My grandmother was in tears (as presumed) as was my other, but I remained strong.
My old man was upset. I couldn’t ever recall ever seeing him upset. I harbour a lot of feelings on my dad, good and bad. I kept it brief. We are both very similar and even saying goodbyes wasn’t enough for us to open up and let our guard down, but I think we both knew how we felt about each other or perhaps still – just to proud to say.
Then as i approached my grandfather, suddenly i began to crumble. My eyes filled up, my lip began to tremble and I was met with more wise words in which I obsorbed like a sponge and never got enough of. He assured me I’d be fine and i would have the time of my life and It almost felt as if I was getting into trouble for being upset.
We shook hands like men, and exchanged a hug. I worried that I would never see him in that great of health again.The Parkinsons had been slowing him down in recent weeks, and it was only going to get worse as time flies.
I then said a tearful goodbye to my mum. She was gutted i was leaving, yet she knew it was something i had to do. My parents had recently seperated and I got the impression that my mum felt like she drove me away, when in reality it was me taking the wheel. It had nothing to do with the seperation.
As she held on ot me for dear life, I said my last goodbyes and turned to the desk, grasping my boarding card and passport.
I marched on.
They had decided to follow me down to the boarding desk and I continued to march on trying not to look over my shoulder. I gave one last smile, waved my passport in the air and carried on through.
That was it.
I had officially left.
But I was a mess. It was harder than I had imagined it would be. I had played this scenario over and over in my head and in practise I was always slick about it;
“Yeah I’ll give you a call on the other side, it’s all good. Don’t get upset. I’m off to get pissed and see the world and I’ll be back soon!”
I bothered the check in desk, asking her if I was in the right place. I was nervous. She assured me i was.
I felt stupid for crying and asking an obvious question.
I sat and pinned a couple of Scotland badges on to my bag, that my mum had bought from from the gift shop earlier. I already felt like i was waving the flag for back home and i hadn’t even left Aberdeen yet…
As I took my seat on the plane, I had mixed emotions. The flight was only an hour or so but i was already anxious to get off, just so i could gather myself. It was full of business men with their notebooks and broadsheet newspapers and I felt out of place with my red eyes and Adidas hoody.
The time flew by and I was soon stepping into Terminal 5.
I instantly felt alone.
It hit home pretty quickly that I was on my own from here on.
I aimlessly walked around the terminal, looking out for shit television personalities and drinking coffee. I had hours until my flight to China but i needed it.
I felt very self aware and I was protective of my bag .I had checked everything in it a thousand times already and kept reading over my trip notes again and again, looking for possible stumble blocks and potential problems for my trip.
I had no one to talk too and every feeling I had was amazingly clear and powerfull.
After being so overwhelmed with love and admiration, I suddenly realised that this is what i was truly searching for.
I wanted to deal with myself.
I wanted to live in my own pocket.
I wanted to be alone.
And i wanted to change.
I knew before i left that this was something i had to do and being on my own would achieve the change i badly needed.
The hours ticked by and I was soon on the flight to China.
The flight to Beijing wasn’t particularly memorable. It wasn’t like the movies where some stunning brunette sits opposite and you engage in meaningful, quirky chat for 10 hours.
I had an older Chinese couple ( who oddly owned a restaurant in Aberdeen). The gentleman spoke some English but e spoke none atall. As much as i enjoyed engaging in idle chit-chat, his breath stank a bit and he had a few bad habits.
I spent most of the flight staring out my window blankly, waiting patiently for any sign of a new world that i had never seen before.
After 13 hours it came.
The gentleman suddenly became very animated and excited;
“look! The Great Wall Of China!” he said.
Looking back on it I’m not sure what the fuck i was looking at. Someone could of said it was Disney Land and i would of bought it…
I had listened to music most of the flight and played the same few songs over and over. I knew these songs would be etched in my memory forever so I picked them wisely.
As we flew closer to Beijing I began to see hundreds of sky rises in huge industrial grids. I wondered how many people lived here and where they all worked…
During the flight, I had a couple of glasses of wine and a few beers to calm my nerves, and now all I wanted was a cigarette.
I was soon to get what I wanted.
We were beginning to descend…