On the Ball--The Wonder Down Under
“Twenty years from now, you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines, sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain
As this summer begins to taper off, I’ll be trading in my bathing suits and T-shirts for hoodies and jeans, my peanut butter for vegemite, and my tennis racquet for, well, a boomerang, I suppose. A two-week trip earlier this year to Australia was all the convincing I needed to return, and after being approved for a one-year working visa, I’m headed down under.
Believe me, the decision to move to the opposite side of the world wasn’t an impulsive one, but is, no doubt, the biggest undertaking in my life, and one that I had to explain and justify to my parents on several occasions.
But, why not? Too many times in life, I find myself saying, “Wow, that would be amazing!” or “I wish I could do that,” and I realized, the longer I wait, the less feasible it is that another opportunity like this will come around.
Throughout my young life, I’ve had the fortune of seeing quite a bit of the world, from family trips over the pond to England, France, Germany, Austria and Spain, to getaways around the Caribbean, and I definitely don’t take any of it for granted. Taking in new cultures and lifestyles is an undeniable love of mine. And, following his return from studying abroad in Sydney, my cousin Eric talked me into checking out Australia. Needless to say, that was all the persuasion I needed, and here I am.
This week, I’ll be headed out to Colorado to pay my parents a visit before hopping a flight to Brisbane, Australia, which will put me in the Pacific island country in time for one of the most acclaimed international writing festivals in the world.
The tropical beach town of Byron Bay, along the eastern coast of the Australian state of New South Wales, will become my home, and the three-day Byron Bay Writer’s Festival, on the first weekend of August, will be my springboard into a new chapter of my career. Sports coverage, food critic, travel writing, that memoir I’ve been telling myself I’d finally get started... who knows? My options are open, though, and I’m stepping forward with an open mind.
It took a while before I even knew that writing was what I wanted to do with my life. Upon graduating from Rising Sun High School in 2002, I had the entire world ahead of me. I had just enrolled at the University of North Carolina Wilmington, with the intention of getting into marine biology. While there, however, I juggled possible majors, including sciences and psychology, before - finally, late in my junior year - finding a suitable one in English, with a concentration in Professional Writing and a minor in Creative Nonfiction Writing.
After earning my BA and donning my gown in 2006, my passion and appreciation for the English language landed me a job as a freelance writer in September of that same year at Coastal Point Newspaper. When the chance came around a few months later to go full-time, I didn’t hesitate for a moment, and just a year and a half after that, I became our sports writer, too.
But as I look back, it’s simple to see that Coastal Point has been much more than my first job out of college, and southeastern Delaware has become much more than a beach destination that I call home.
Covering the entertainment beat for the paper, I have seen some of the best musical acts and artistic talent that the Mid-Atlantic region has to offer. I’ve covered fundraisers, charity benefits and art shows that people plan their entire summer vacations around, and I’ve been there for the debut others that will, no doubt, have an incredible impact on this community.
As a business writer in a resort location, I have seen local merchants and Mom and Pop shops flourish in an unlikely, three-months-a-year coastal haven, and observed others as they find success throughout the year, despite the offseason drop-off. I’ve made incredible connections with nearly all of them, and, I’ve juggled employment, myself, with several area businesses, too, and have accumulated wonderful friends, as a result. I can hardly go to the grocery store or grab a bite to eat with someone recognizing my face or name, and, I’m not going to lie, it feels good.
While my high school dignity is still with Rising Sun, back in North East, Md., I feel like I’ve spent just as much time in the hallways of Indian River High School, whose pride among students, faculty and alumni is a testament to what they have accomplished in and out of the classroom.
As a sports writer, I’ve watched tomorrow’s stars enter the school as freshmen and work their way up on the fields, courts, tracks, links, pools and gyms to division, conference and state championships. I’ve watched revered coaches lead teams to victory and hand off the role and responsibilities to the next one.
I’ve seen new faces on the sidelines step in and turn around struggling teams to respectable programs. I’ve witnessed Indian River athletic director Todd Fuhrmann introduce four new sports in three years to the Indians’ athletic repertoire, with even more on the horizon to give student athletes that extra opportunity to shine.
And it’s these students, teachers, coaches and parents who have made my job feel like anything but a job, and I can’t thank you all enough for that.
Back at Coastal Point, it still astonishes me that just over a dozen employees produce this award-winning weekly, bringing it to newsstands every Thursday afternoon, always in time for that Friday-morning coffee.
The staff at Coastal Point has become more than a group of fellow employees. We’re a family, and I couldn’t have picked a better work environment to surround myself in. In the nearly six years that I’ve worked for this eight-year-old publication, I’ve established lasting friendships and made amazing connections with some of the greatest minds in the business. I’ve learned so much about my own writing, from style and self-editing to finding my own voice in what I produce, and I have become a more confident reporter as a result of it.
Susan Lyons and Darin McCann have an amazing thing going, and I’m grateful that I could be a part of it. They have given this region a newspaper to be proud of, and they deserve the utmost respect for that.
In all honesty, I didn’t think that Coastal Point would be where I found myself over five and a half years after graduating college, but I couldn’t be happier that it was.
As I ready myself for that next chapter of my life, I feel blessed by the support and encouragement from friends and family who have urged me to go out into this great big world and take that chance, but none more so than from my family, especially from my parents and sister.
Saying goodbye to loved ones is never an easy task, even if it is temporary. As our ad rep Jane Meleady told me, “Don’t say, ‘Goodbye.’ Say, ‘I’ll see you later.’” Or better yet, “G’day, mates!” And with that, I will bid a presumably temporary adieu to friends, family and an entire community that has been more than I could ask for.
Although the time difference may be great, although the cultures and dialect may contrast, although the general perception of Australia by Americans extends only slightly beyond kangaroos, Foster’s and shrimp on the barbie, I know that this chance of a lifetime will open new doors for me, both within and outside of my career.
Thank you, everyone, for your care and support, and, above all, thanks for getting the Point!