It seems like only yesterday. My daughter was eleven and was about to move schools. In the UK, primary school is from age four to eleven and secondary is from eleven to eighteen. She worked hard and well, passed all the necessary exams and was ready to start secondary school.
And when I say ready – I really mean ready. At eleven she was emotionally, physically and intellectually ready to move on. In every sense of the word she was ready…ready to leave primary school behind. She was ready to start the next chapter of her life.
It was the hardest thing my wife, my son (who was at the same primary school) and me, had ever had to do. The hardest thing since the last hardest thing we had ever had to do. It felt hard; it looked hard; it was hard. For us.
I knew the move was not easy for my daughter – the move from people and a place she knew well, she understood and she loved – to people she did not know and a place she had only visited twice. But it looked easy. For her the transition seemed effortless. She immediately seemed brighter and energised and engaged. She was even more beautiful. She went to secondary school and never looked back.
She made friends quickly. She learned rapidly. She matured swiftly. When she smiles…people smile back. When she laughs, people laugh with her. She talks and we listen. She worked hard. She chose her courses. She excelled in her exams. She selected her University.
And now. Today. She is ready again. It is her time. This is her moment. She has left school. She has left home. Our last act was to bring her here to her chosen University. We packed her cases. We held her hand. We dropped her off. We hugged her tightly. We waved goodbye. We cried silent tears. They haven’t stopped.
She is eighteen. She is no longer a child and no longer at school. She is even brighter – she lights up a room. She is even more beautiful – she lights up our lives. She has grown – she is a young woman. We are so excited for her. We are so proud of her. We can’t believe she has gone. She is with us in our hearts.
Time flies so quickly. It was only yesterday we brought her home from hospital. It was only this morning she went to primary school. The memories are so vivid. The feelings are so real. The emotion is so intense.
We are there for each other. We think about her. We reassure each other. Everything we see reminds us of her. All the time. We devour her text messages. We can’t wait for FaceTime. We are so excited for her. We are so proud of her.
I focus on my work. I am passionate about our work. It is what we do. It is what I do. It is consumes my time and my energy: my commitment and my endeavour. But it is not who I am.
My work inspires me. I work with people who show passion and desire. People I work with inspire me and engage me. People who make a difference to each other and to the science we do. People who want to do and deliver more. People who care.
But first and foremost I am a father. I am a husband. And I am a friend. I hope to be of importance to many. But I know I am essential to three. Their love is unconditional. Mine is immeasurable and unending.