Sometimes you don’t realise how much your words can affect your actions.
I have one distinct memory from when I was nine years old.
I was in fourth class, and my teacher’s name was Miss Gilphillan. One day she asked each girl in the class to stand up and share what they wanted to do when they grew up.
As each girl stood up, it was clear there was a pattern. Some wanted to be mothers, others wanted to be nurses or teachers. One girl was honest enough to say she wanted to be ‘pretty’.
When it came to my turn, I stood up, and told the class my unique ambition: I wanted to travel to Egypt and see the famous pyramids. And not only see them but to go inside them and explore.
When I shared this, I heard some muffled laughter from the girls around me. Miss Gilphillan smiled at me, and “That’s interesting Nancy, please sit down.”
For some people, this laughter and dismissal from their teacher would be enough to deter them. But for me, it somehow made me feel more determined. I thought to myself ‘when I grow up I really will visit the pyramids.’
I held onto that thought for weeks afterward. I kept saying to myself ‘One day I will.’
Of course, time passed, and I grew up. By my mid-twenties, I was married and a mother of three children. I had I completely forgotten about that incident in the classroom.
Somehow, my passion and desire to travel never faded. I loved to read books about different countries and their cultures. For some reason, I always had a fascination for Egypt.
My husband wasn’t interested in traveling outside of Australia. This made me feel that my chances of traveling abroad seemed very slim.
A few years later, when I was working, I met a lady named Daphne, and we became good friends. Daphne told me that she had traveled to Europe and England. I asked her all about her trips and she showed me her travel photographs.
I thought how wonderful that would have been. But still, the dream of doing it myself seemed distant.
One day Daphne told me she was planning another trip to England. She asked me if I would be interested in accompanying her. I was surprised and pleased that she asked me. When I told my husband he was very supportive of me going.
For the next 6 months, I worked and saved the money for the trip. By this stage, Daphne had asked another lady to come as well. The three of us met up every week to plan the trip.
We each of us picked a country we would like to visit. My choice – of course – was Egypt. The other two ladies had never been there, so it was agreed on that we would go together. The other two choices were Scotland and Spain. We planned our trip to these three countries in mind.
Finally, the day came, and I boarded the plane.
The trip was an adventure of a lifetime. The three of us traveled around England, Scotland, and Ireland. Next, we ventured to Europe; through France, Spain, Holland, Norway, Germany and Italy. It was an amazing experience and I loved the many interesting aspects of each country.
Finally, we flew to Egypt. The culture and environment were so different to the other countries we had visited.
This was in the 1980s. Egypt was not a commercialized country and the local people sold their wares on the sides of the street. The traffic was manic, and the heat was overwhelming.
During our first few days, we visited the Luxor temple, Aswan Dam and the temple at Abu Simbel. We then returned to Cairo and saw The Sphinx.
Finally, we reached the Great Pyramid of Giza.
That hot, humid morning, the three of us entered the Great Pyramid of Khufu. We were part of a tour and our guide led us into the darkness. We all followed the Egyptian guide deeper into the huge structure. To my surprise, there were no hieroglyphics on the walls, just plain stone. The narrow hallways were dark and dry.
Despite the harsh conditions I suddenly felt exhilarated.
Without thinking about it, I spoke out loud: “Miss Gillphillian, I did it. I am in the Pyramid.”
For whatever reason, the nine-year-old girl inside me took over. I could clearly remember that day at school so long ago. Standing up in front of a classroom full of giggling girls and declaring my dream.
Everyone in the tour group looked at me. They wondered why I was talking to myself, and declaring “I did it.”
I shared my story from 40 years before. How I had dreamed almost my whole life about visiting the pyramids. After I shared the story, they all clapped. We all celebrated the moment together, inside the Great Pyramid of Giza.
Forty years later the achievement felt as amazing as I imagined it would when I was nine years old.
I’ll always remember that moment. It still makes me smile today.
“Miss Gilphillan, I did it.”
I learned from that experience to never to give up on what is important to you.
When you set your heart and mind on something special, no matter how young or how old you might be, life has a way of making it happen.
The words you speak as a child can echo into your adult life. No matter what anyone else says, if you believe you can, you can.