Last week I did the saddest and toughest thing of my life. I ended my relationship with Mandy.
So since I made the choice to make my life public through this blog, and next year through my book, it means, as hard as it is, I must write this post. Eventually you would have wondered why the beautiful smile of Mandy was missing and why my blog posts were riddled with grammar and punctuation mistakes.
How could I possibly do this to Mandy, such a caring and loving soul who has given up so much for me? How could I do this in the middle of Africa, in the middle of the bike project that we have both worked so hard for?
I hope my words below help you all understand. Just so you know this is extremely hard to write, I have tossed and turned the past couple of weeks as to how to break this news to you my blog readers. Do I just write something brief and have everyone make up there own story? No I couldn’t handle that. I believe the only way to write and as hard as it is, is it to write honestly. Here goes.
The story of Mandy and I was something of a fairy tale, so beautiful, amazing and adventurous. We met in a small Mexican surf town bar. I was a long haired Kiwi awaiting a work visa so I could re-enter Canada and continue my work on the rigs. Mandy was an outgoing American beauty on a holiday with her friend and family. After knowing each other six days and emailing for three months, I flew to Denver to live with her in her one bedroom apartment and continue our romance. This was to be the start of us both working the world.
However as romantic as it may be, working the world with your partner also brings added stress. Most notably, the question of “WHAT NEXT?” that lingers. As one chapter unfolds you are constantly trying to find a new chapter that will work for both of you, a chapter where you can both get visas, can both earn money, can both find work, will both be challenged, and will both be happy. With our relationship there has always been the “WHAT NEXT” question hanging over our heads. We have always been able to hop to the next continent, the next country, the next chapter, and when we have decided what we were doing next we would enjoy the moment.
However we both knew that the big “WHAT NEXT” would come in Africa with the end of my “working the world” goal.
In Melbourne, that “WHAT NEXT” question kept raising its head with me and between us. As I have mentioned, people in a relationship with someone from another country know the added stress that comes into it. Things like visas are always a trouble (and being deported from your girlfriend’s country doesn’t make that process any easier), but I believe the greatest stress is that one partner is going to have to miss out sharing with their family the joys of their children. One family on the other side of the world will have to watch their grandchildren, cousins, nieces and nephews grow up through Facebook photos and updates.
For me personally last year was hard, as I fought my gut feeling of ending our relationship. There is never one reason for a gut feeling like this, but as Mandy has always told me, the fact that we are from different countries on the other side of the world is a deal breaker for me. Last year I fought the gut feeling, I decided I wanted to give it my best shot with Mandy and that was the least I could do after all she has sacrificed being with me. I opted to leave my mining job in Tasmania at the start of the year and come back to Melbourne so Mandy and I could live a somewhat ‘normal life’ where I wasn’t flying out to work every couple of weeks and leaving her by herself. We both jumped head first into the Final Continent Expedition. I know this allowed me to put the ” WHAT NEXT” question into the back on my mind in the hope that it would sort itself out. I know Mandy did it to forget about her desire of wanting a house with a big kitchen and garden, her desire to have some stability. She always said that Africa would either make or break us, and she thought that if we could make this a success, that I could then give her that big house with a kitchen and some little kiddos crawling around.
As soon as we hit Africa, after all the hype and madness of leaving Melbourne, we were both hit with “WHAT NEXT” depression. Early on I fought the same gut feeling of breaking up by telling myself that it was just a natural come down, I was just flat after all the hype of leaving. Plus I was holding on to hope, the hope that my gut feeling would change, that my gut had it all wrong. How could I possibly feel this way about such an amazing, loving and caring soul who has done so much for me and for whom I have such an amazing connection with.
Mandy was also unable to enjoy living the moment in Africa, as she was wondering what was next for us. As much as we both wanted to be in the moment, the future was weighing too heavily on our minds. We talked openly about all of the above and a whole lot more and we both knew where we stood. She knew my doubts, my gut feeling. I also knew very strongly what her feelings were and what she wanted.
What all this translates into is that all these worries about tomorrow had been robbing us of the moment. There were days when we were cycling along, and then all of a sudden we were pulled off to the side of the road, having an emotional discussion, trying to find the answer to the “WHAT NEXT” question, an answer that would make us both happy. We came to the conclusion that after my birthday on 11/11/11 we would go home to our respective countries for the holidays. Mandy would go back to the US to spend time with her family and get some work and I would go back to NZ to finish writing my book. This felt right, and we thought the time apart would help us figure out a “WHAT NEXT”, or for me to sort my shit out.
This made us feel better momentarily, until we both realised how much it felt like we were going our separate ways. Why were we making plans to be apart? Shouldn’t this be the time that we were making plans to be together? What it came down to was I knew I was unable to give Mandy the stability in the coming years that she had been yearning for.
The thing is for me I’m coming up to a pretty big transition in my life. After nine years of being driven by my goal of “working the world” I have struggled thinking about life after the goal and the uncertainty that brings. With this I found myself under an unbearable lot of pressure. Not pressure from Mandy but pressure from myself. How can I think about Mandy, starting a family, supporting a family, going to live in America at some point when I’m trying to sort out what I will do. Yes, I could just get a normal job, start at the bottom of some corporate hierarchy shuffling paper, start a family with Mandy and get that house, that stability.
I needed to be truthful to Mandy and myself so made the decision I’ve made
All I know is that we could not keep going how we were. It never turned sour, we never fought, but we were not happy. Behind the smiling photos of the blog posts, there were some days that were just plain shit as we battled with the “WHAT NEXT”. When you see someone you care deeply about crying, and knowing the reason they are crying is because of you, because you cannot give them what they want after they have dedicated themselves to you, it is tough. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t just Mandy that was crying and feeling down, I was right there beside her crying and confused. It wasn’t every day, but it was often enough and constantly there. The big thing for my decision was that we could not continue like this for the coming years. Bottom line was I knew I could not give Mandy what she wanted at this time, and how long can one wait? As I try to figure out who I am if I’m not working the world Mandy’s biological clock keeps ticking, life keeps on moving. Something had to be done. If I cannot make the decision to give Mandy what she wanted, I had to make the other decision.
Making this decision has been horrible, and full of sorrow. But with the decision made, Mandy and I have been able to enjoy the moment, be it a bittersweet one. We went to Livingstone in Zambia, the home of one of the world’s seven natural wonders, the mighty Victoria Falls. We did a rafting trip, spent a lovely day at Victoria Falls, and had some special moments reminiscing about good times over dinner and drinks, especially the photo below where we sat on top of Victoria falls with a bottle of champange. We spent the best days we’ve had since being in Africa, because finally the “WHAT NEXT” question has been answered, we have stopped living in the limbo land of uncertainty. In a sense our time there was a celebration of all that Mandy and I have achieved and experienced together.
We have talked a lot and in some strange way this is the perfect place to end our journey. In fact, it was the only place that it could happen. Without having friends and family around, we’ve been forced to get through this together. When we leave Africa, we’ll both be starting fresh chapters in our lives.
Mandy is going back to Denver, where she will get that house and big kitchen, be with her family and friends and finally be back doing what she loves, teaching Spanish. She will finally have that stability she has been yearning for the past year. As fate would have it, she has just been offered her old job back. An opening happened just yesterday that is very last minute, but they love her so much they are willing to cover her classes with a substitute teacher until she can make it back to Denver. I’m sure it will be surreal for Mandy, walking right back into her old life that she left three years ago to come and work the world.
It’s fair to say I’m still sorting my shit out, facing the reality of the decision I’ve made. For me the question of “WHAT NEXT” has been replaced with the comfort of knowing that in time the great sadness I’m feeling will be replaced with new opportunities for me in the future. I will be back in NZ before the end of the year to finish writing my book and work on the documentary. I will see what happens with the ideas floating around in my head.
I would like to take this moment to pay a little tribute to Mandy and all she has done for me in my working the world quest and here in Africa. I have told her a million times, but I want you, my blog reader, to know what an amazing support Mandy has been to me. Although Africa was my idea, it was Mandy that helped make it happen. The final continent expedition was very much Hap and Mandy working the world. I know that Mandy feels like she has let people down by leaving the project early. But I have told her that no one will look at it like this. I fully support her, she has to look after her herself, and do what is best for her. There was no use in prolonging the inevitability of leaving. Life goes on, best we both start living it.
This chapter may not have a happy ending, but I know that there is another chapter full of happiness waiting for Mandy and myself. Thank you so much Mandy for all you have done for me.