My mom began writing this article before I flew off for my adventure and completed it when I returned. A nice tribute from my mom and all her support in encouraging me to follow my dreams and my heart! I love you Mom!
Real Life: Love means never saying you’re worried
By Megan David
Contra Costa Times Contributor
Posted: 11/25/2008 01:00:00 AM PST
Lauren didn’t learn to ride a bicycle until she was 7, the same year she learned how to read. She had watched the neighborhood kids soar past our house on bikes for months but was hesitant to hop on hers to give it a whirl.
Then one afternoon while I was talking to the neighbors out front Lauren announced that she wanted to ride her bike. Today. She had brought out her blue Schwinn with the white basket and tassels dangling from the handlebars.
“Give me a push,” she demanded confidently. I excused myself from the conversation and stood next to the bike while Lauren climbed on.
“OK, I’m ready.” I wasn’t as certain as she was and I stood holding the handlebars with one hand and the plastic seat with my other thinking I was going to walk along side the bike until she got the feel of it.
“Let go, Mom, I know what to do.”
How can she be ready? I thought. I told her I’d let go but be running right beside her.
I gave her a gentle push and the bike wobbled for several seconds but instead of falling over she pedalled hard and took off down the street, the bike and her sailing smoothly away faster than I could keep up. I was stunned. Where had she been practicing this? How could she know how to a ride the very first time she tried?
Lauren is about to ride away again but this time to East Africa. It’s not the first time she’s traveled on her own. She did a college semester studying in London, a six-week trip to Santiago to visit relatives, and a month volunteering at a women’s shelter in Cape town. It’s not the travel itself that’s disconcerting, but the fact that this time she’ll fly to Tanzania on a one-way ticket, with only a backpack and without itinerary. Her plan is to explore East Africa for a year. She calls herself a vagabond.I hadn’t seen this coming from my cautious child who was once afraid of the dark. There aren’t handlebars and a bicycle seat for me to hold on to this time.
An acquaintance warns me that I shouldn’t let her go because it’s too dangerous “way over there in Africa for a single, white woman” to roam.”
She’s 23, I reply. She’s worked hard for two years saving up for this trip. It’s her dream. She’s old enough to know what she wants in her life.
My acquaintance tells me I should at least discourage her, warn her that she could get raped, mugged, kidnapped, even killed. She tells me she reads about it all the time.
Yes, but all these things could happen here, too, if she’s not careful, I say. I tell the woman my daughter’s entitled to her dream.
“But it’s insane, it’s too dangerous. I have a client whose family is over there and one of them got mugged. I mean recently. If she were my daughter “…”
I interrupt her before she can finish.
“Fear kills too many dreams,” I say.
Still, I can’t help but begin to worry. Maybe there’s something I don’t see. Perhaps I’m being irresponsible encouraging her to go alone to Africa without a detailed plan. I begin to second guess myself. Just a little.
When my daughter repeats a friend’s cautious mother’s concerns, I suggest to her that some people, while well-meaning, might be afraid for her because they’d be afraid to go themselves. Maybe it’s best not to tell everyone of her plans unless she knows in advance they can be supportive, I finally advise.
I’ve been keeping my own worries about her trip to myself because I want her to ride life’s bicycles even though I know she’ll fall off and scrape her knees at times. Her responsible, cautious and prudent behavior in the past reassures me. I trust her good judgment.
Then out of the blue she calmly tells me about a woman who’s recently died from cerebral malaria while traveling alone in West Africa. I freeze. But this doesn’t deter her as she delves deeper into her research of what vaccinations and visas are needed and where the best hostels are located.
I get that sickening feeling in the pit of my stomach that something could happen to her, that same feeling I’ve had since she was born. Of course I don’t tell her this. I want her to travel to Africa even though I can’t keep her safe there. But I can’t keep her safe here, either. She’s in San Francisco every weekend dancing at clubs until 2 a.m. Once her car was broken into. I wasn’t there.
I won’t be there following her around in Tanzania, or Kenya. I won’t be trailing her up Mt. Kilimanjaro. She’d leave me in the dust if I even tried.