May 7, 2015
I had already done my Bronze and Silver Awards in school and had always wanted to do my Gold Award but was told that you were supposed to wait until you were older. I was battling depression, I couldn’t get a job, I had nothing to do and no-one to talk to; the all-too-familiar darkness was creeping in. The misery, the suicidal thoughts, the hopelessness; down, down, down. Then one day, like a volcano I exploded: enough was enough! I was buggered if I was going to let this stupid depression take me down again. At that moment, pure, angry determination struck a chord of inspiration: my dream of completing The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Gold Award came back to me and I picked up the phone.
I rang up the WA Award Officer and spoke to Katie Brown in early December 2013, with only a few weeks to go before Christmas and my 24th birthday! She said that if I wanted to do the Award, I needed to start right now because 25 years old was the cut off age!
Well, you can imagine the insane rush that ensued. My life was a whirlwind of sea rescues, yoga and Pathfinder, oh and did I mention my panic over the cost of an Adventurous Journey, and what the heck is a Residential Project?!
I could’ve easily gone insane if I’d had the time to!
I worked extremely hard on my Award, if I took even one sick day, I could lose my award! So I went on the Rescue boat ‘Nashira’ with a tummy illness, I went to those radio operation shifts with my voice gone and just got through it without thinking. I went to my game of pathfinder after a gruelling 6 hour boat trip to Horrocks Bay and back, to rescue someone, and managed to stay awake and aware for just one hour.
My Residential Project and Adventurous Journey were nowhere near as grueling but just as challenging and amazing. I am allergic to horses, what did I end up doing for my Residential Project? Yup, volunteering for a horse-and-rider endurance national gold cup event! The Tom Quilty Gold Cup! Not my thing at all but surprisingly fun and so different to what I am used to!
My Adventurous Journey was the crowning jewel in my wonderful world of The Duke of Edinburgh’s International Award. I managed to scrimp and save and take enough money out of my grocery fund to pay for the journey of a lifetime, Thailand! Wow, I have never seen anywhere as amazing as the Kingdom of Thailand. With big golden Buddhas, and elephant rides and Tom Kha Gai Soup….mmmm. My biggest challenge on my Thailand trip was to really make it count for my Award. So I tried five different food types, learnt several new words, learnt a bit about Thailand’s history and meditated in a Bangkok Temple for an hour! Oh and braved my biggest fear…mosquitos…hey! Those evil buggers can kill you!
I completed all of my necessary components by the end of 2014 just before my birthday on the 30th! Wowwy….what a year….I collapsed in a heap of very spent energy…
Three weeks later after getting stressed out, typing it all up nicely and including all the photos and diary entries and getting everyone to sign my completed book; I sent it away and prayed to whatever God or Goddess was up there…
11 March 2015, I was sitting in class when I got the call from Katie…“Ellen, the Panel has finished judging your Award….congratulations, you’ve achieved your Gold Award! Well…I barely heard or saw anything for the rest of the day…..I was on top of the world, roaring down at all the non-believers and nay-sayers and my little inner-voice.
In the words of the little engine that could: Yes! I did it! And it was worth it!
My sincerest thanks and gratitude to all those who put up with my silly questions that they’d answered like 3 times already, and calmed me down when I panicked or wanted to throw the towel in. My utmost gratitude to all those who believed in this little engine that could!
For all those looking to do The Award, go for it! Do something that you’ve always wanted to do but never been brave enough or be bothered enough to do! Do something that grows you as a person, maybe it’ll teach you kindness or patience or determination. Whatever you do, let it be a lesson to you and never stop charging the red flag! Go for it! Strong winds to your sails everyone!