When I was 11 my best friend got into a school which did rowing as a sport. I got into a school that had a fenced enclosure for physical exercise. We called it The Cage. There was this brief period where a light haze of jealousy gripped me. I wanted the opportunity to row. It was something I knew we’d never be able to afford, but the idea of doing this almost intangible sport reserved for the upper echelons of the education system fascinated me. Unless you’re from a ‘boatie’ family, live very near a river or have the privilege of attending a school which does, it is, or appeared to be, exceedingly inaccessible.
I excelled and enjoyed playing netball and athletics, but something about the water, the potential for calm enthralled me. Watching boats fly down in synchronisation but with power and speed – it was something else.
This afternoon I walked through an empty park and up a hill which crossed a very calm river. On the other side was a boat house. An hour or so later a fibreglass body was bobbing gently on the water, my feet were being strapped into screwed on shoes, and I was tightening the gate in which my oar sat. The cox box turned on and we were pushing off the bank to engage in our last race of the week.
As I had walk through that park, i’d remembered that 11-year-old me, who had made a spur of a moment wish. I wish I could row. I wish I could have that opportunity. Eight years later I row in a Women’s First Boat. The gratitude that came over me was so humbling. To know that that prayer, that desire was heard, and with a patient grace in many unseeing ways, almost a decade later was answered. It taught me to wait. Eventually, everything good will come.