Let Me Spread My Wings

Grace Scanlon in the Sahara
Grace Scanlon in the Sahara

“You and Ohana Will Always Be In My Heart” say the two bracelets you gave me before I caught my plane for Morocco. I remember the tears pouring down your face as you fell into my arms. We’ve been through hell and back in the past year, and things have been getting worse. It felt like I was abandoning you, mom. We are the women of the family, but you are the rock. Most importantly, you are my best friend. It hurts me every day to see you work yourself into the ground for our family, and now I’m not around to help you prepare dinner, clean the house, or help Minna at night. Instead, I’m across the world, three thousand miles away living my dream. The dream you helped create and made happen for me. I know you’re worried sick, but I need my space and my freedom.

We both have this fear of loss. Fear of losing someone we love. I fear losing someone I love while I am so far away. I also fear losing contact with a best friend or someone I am close to. You fear losing me. You constantly believe something is going to happen to me while I am out of your hands in this far-away country I now consider a second home. Every day you send me news updates of what is happening in other parts of Africa with sex slavery, Ebola, immigrants crossing the Sahara, and so much more. This fear is what almost kept you from allowing me to embark on this journey. Deep down I know your fear comes from once nearly losing your son, and you don’t ever want to imagine that happening to another of your children. This is why you and dad raised us to be so independent and street smart.

I remember it like it was yesterday. Seeing the exhaustion on your face as you sat awake outside his bedroom. I came home from school with you pacing around trying to think of what to do. Your son kept locking himself in his room. You knew what harmful things he did behind those closed doors, but you weren’t ready for what was to come next. You were in such fear that your son would leave you without saying goodbye. Now we’re relaxed; things improved and he’s still with us. He is in love with a woman who makes him a better version of himself. He is finally happy. So why are you so worried for me? I will survive. I will thrive.

My phone made a beep in the middle of class. This usually means you’ve sent me a text. I rolled my eyes expecting to see your African news update. But the text was about the trip to Paris I just booked and how you were worried about the five w’s: who, what, when, where, why. You were also checking in to make sure I had done all my homework because I had been “going out a lot.”

I am an adult, mom. I can manage my time.  I need my freedom. I will always be your little girl, but for now, let me struggle and mess up. How will I learn in life if you micromanage me from across the ocean?

The best part of your text were the words, “Guess who booked her flights to Morocco?” You. . . in Morocco? The country you were so hesitant to let me come to? Boy, this will be an adventure.

Grace Scanlon with her mother in Tangier's Grand Socco.
Grace Scanlon with her mother in Tangier’s Grand Socco.

You’ve seen the smile on my face in all the pictures I have sent you. I am so happy here, mom. You keep asking me why. I’m happy because I’m doing what you’ve always wanted for me. I’m living OUR dream, studying abroad as a nursing student. I will be volunteering my heart out in as many places I possibly can while keeping my schoolwork up and traveling.

Let me remind you that I am the toughest cookie you know, and I make sure to spread my humor and positivity to those around me. I can’t help but be happy here. I miss you and I love you so much. Please stay in touch, but let me spread my wings.

Grace Scanlon is a Nursing major at the University of New England.

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