I turned 30 last October. This draft has been sitting in here for a while. Whilst we’re in lockdown, I’ve decided to resurrect it and publish it.
Can’t say I was happy about turning 30, however life and age doesn’t stop for the living so there was nothing I could do about it. It was a pretty great day (or weekend), even if I didn’t want it to come around.
My birthday is on October 27th, which happened to be a Sunday in 2019. The Friday afternoon before my birthday, my work besties decided to throw me a little celebration in the kitchen, with cakes, balloons, confetti and champagne. Knowing the girls and their sneaky antics, I can’t say I was surprised, but I definitely felt the love from them. They went to a lot of effort and made sure I was going into my birthday weekend on a high.
Saturday, I spent the day with my mum, shopping (where else would I be? :P) and then has a quiet dinner. I decided turning 30 was a good enough celebration to crack open the wine I bought in New Zealand, only about 8 months after I’d been home. I was saving it for a special occasion and what better time, than turning 30, right? I can’t get another one unless I import it or travel back to NZ, so it tasted even better. Spent most of the night chatting with a friend, while dreading the next day and what the next chapter of my life (a new decade!) would bring.
Midnight came, it’s finally Sunday, so HAPPY BIRTHDAY ME!
I started my birthday with my mum coming into my room at 6:00am and singing me “Happy Birthday”. (I was already awake but thought maybe if I stayed really still and quiet, she might just go away and let me try go back to sleep!) Nope, wasn’t happening. She turned on the lights so I wouldn’t go back to sleep any time soon. It was sweet though and she does it every year. (I know I should have moved out by 30, but nope. I will miss it when I eventually do)
She handed me 2 cards, which was a laughter in itself. We’d been shopping the day before, and I needed to get a card for my brother (because we’re twins in case anyone didn’t know, which means it was his birthday too). I was looking for a 30 birthday card for him and she said “Oh, did you want a 30 card?”, and I was like, “Of course I do!”. So, she hands me the first card, and of course, it’s a 30 birthday card. She laughs and says, “I had to buy one yesterday since you said you wanted one.” She then hands me the other card and I open it, and it’s the same card I got last year!
She was initially shattered she’d bought the same card, but then resorted to “I liked the words so they’re still true, and I don’t care.” I open the card up and there is another envelope within the card that’s got written “SURPRISE” on it, covered in handwritten stars and love hearts. I open it and unfold a bunch of paperwork on the inside. I immediately see the “Sealife Melbourne Aquarium” banner on the top of the page and I start crying and rolling around in my bed. At this point, my mum cannot work out if I’m happy or sad with my present. I don’t even know if she’s realised, I knew exactly what it was, as soon as I saw that.
It was a “SHARK DIVE experience at Melbourne Aquarium, ON MY BIRTHDAY!!!! I’m going to dive with some (not so) badass sharks. #fuckyes
I’d been woken up at 6:00am on my birthday, because we had to be at the aquarium by 8.45am which meant we had to leave no later than 7:30am. The kicker of the whole experience that my best friend, Louise was also going to spend the day with us and come to experience with us. She’s planned a day out for me before my mum has planned this, so my mum invited her to come along instead, and she was going to come to dinner that night with my family. We picked Louise up just before 7:30am and I drove because both of them aren’t keen on driving into the city and I’ve worked/studied in and around the city for a long time, so know my way around.
(Side note; I’ve always wanted to cage dive with sharks, for as long as I can remember. It came up on the TV the week before my birthday, a show had some people out at Port Lincoln in South Australia where there are some massive Great Whites, so that’s what gave her the idea. I also did work experience at the Melbourne Aquarium when I was in year 10, and they wouldn’t allow us to do it, during our week there. I asked, of course!)
My dive time was 10:00am but there were a number of safety briefings and lessons that needed to happen before you’re allowed to “dive” with the sharks (plus the abundance of stingrays and fish).
There are also waivers that you need to sign to basically say “ENTER AT YOUR OWN RISK”. I’ve never been diving before so this was going to be first time experience for me. I wasn’t scared about the sharks; I knew they weren’t dangerous from having previously learnt about them before. What I was more scared about was the breathing under water. I’ve only snorkelled twice in my lifetime and both of those times, I found it difficult because I breathe a lot through my nose. The thought of having to consciously breathe through my mouth for 30 minutes (that’s how long the actual dive component lasted for), it scared me a little bit. (Funny, being a girl with no fear of throwing herself out of a plane or off a bridge, but is terrified of not being able to breathe 7M down underwater, where I could just swim to the top if required; talk about ironic. 😛 )
The safety briefings explain to you what the different species of shark, ray and fish are in the tank, what the basic hand signals are in case of emergency and of course, how to use your oxygen regulator (and what to do in case something happens to you air supply). They also assign you a coloured sweatband to wear around one of your wrists, so your family and friends can recognise you in the tank. Everyone looks the same in a black wetsuit and hood. I got the blue coloured one. There weren’t any pink ones. ☹
After getting all kitted up in the wetsuit and our oxygen tanks, it was time to get into the water. The tanks and gear weighed a lot more than I expected but once you were in the water (as per physics, it weighs a lot less). I still needed to have lead placed into my pack as I was too buoyant. Then it was time to test out how to use the regulator and clear our dive masks. Everyone had to pass this before we could move on to the actual dive part of the experience.
I was the last one in line to be taken to the place where we would descend to the bottom of the tank. I was standing on the platform on the side, waiting for the instructor to come and get me and I look down and this 2M shark just casually swims past my legs and internally, I was like “FFUUUCCCCKKKKK YYEEEEEESSSSSS” (HAHA! Sorry mum, I know you’re reading this). The instructor finally comes back to get me and they place us on the top of one of the rest points, where we can just observe the top of the tank for a while and because I was the last one over to this point, I was the first one to be taken down to the bottom of the tank.
The instructor was making sure I could clear my ears on the descent down to the bottom of the tank. We did it slowly, so our ears would get used to the pressure, 7M to the bottom! This was real now and I had no other way of breathing than through this regulator and my mouth. At this point, I’m trying not to freak out because I can’t breathe through my nose, but the distraction of sharks, fish and stingrays was wild. Can’t say what it would have looked like from the inside of the aquarium, where my mum and Louise were, plus the other hundreds of people watching us. I eventually got to the bottom and the resting point, where I just had to chill out and wait for the other divers.
Did I mention, they take pictures of you while you’re in the tank, as proof that you did it? It is just another income stream for the aquarium to earn money, but who wouldn’t want their photos? I certainly did! I don’t think it was overly expensive, but my mum paid, so I’m not sure. 😛 Back to the dive.
Right, all the divers are now where I am and I’ve watched hundreds of fish, countless rays and a few pretty badass sharks swim around. We were told that we would be on the bottom of the tank for a bit, then would go to the top. This is so the inhabitants of the tank (eg; fish, rays and sharks) don’t feel threatened by us floating around in the tank in their space. It would also give is the best viewing as they’d feel comfortable and just go about their day, swimming and enjoying themselves.
The moved us around the bottom to a couple of different places, and then had us prop up in a spot for some photos. Of course, I couldn’t get my bloody balance with the tank and kneeling, could I? Lucky (or more like unlucky), the instructor gave me a small pole to hold on to that kept my balance in check.
The instructor snapped a few pics, then we were off to another viewing platform, but this one was at the top of the tank. We were escorted up, 1 by 1 to this platform, which gives really good views of the shipwreck/mermaid garden side of the tank and the sharks swimming at the surface. It was a really cool experience, just seeing them so gracefully swimming around. I think their biggest shark there is a Grey Nurse, at about 3M long. Then, just like that, 30 minutes was over. ☹ It was time to get out, have a warm shower (by 30 minutes, I was starting to get a little cold, just sitting and watching) and find our friends and family on the outside.
Included in the experience is an entry ticket to the aquarium, so before we went off to lunch, we explored all the exhibits. It was awesome to see how much it has changed since I did work experience there. There were so many new exhibits and new animals to see. One exhibit I really wanted to see was the penguins as they didn’t have them the last time I was there.
THE.PENGUIN.EXHIBIT.IS.AMAZING! They have 2 types of penguins in there, King penguins and smaller Gentoo penguins. I’ve never seen them in real life, so I was super excited. I did some study on Emperor penguins when I was at school, so I now I have an appreciation on how big and amazing those guys are. When we arrived at the exhibit, it was just about lunch time for the penguins, so we stayed for about 25 minutes to watch them fly in and out of the water, diving and playing for their fish. There were also several King penguins who has nests and eggs, so the aquarium staff were hand feeding those on nests, to make sure they got food. Some cheeky Gentoo penguins were following the staff around, trying to sneak food out of the bucket and staff hands. It was very cute and funny.
My day continued with lunch at one of my favourite Thai restaurants at South Wharf, “Bang Pop”. We got a whole bunch of food to share and some wine (Ps. They have Rose wine on tap there, it is delicious!). Of course, I was driving so not too many beverages were had on my part, but it was nice to just spend time with my mum and my best friend, together. It rarely happens, so it made my day even more special.
Louise also made me the most amazing gift for my birthday. It was a 30th Birthday survival kit. I swear, this is one of the nicest things anyone has ever done for me. Here is a snap of what was included and a description of all of the pieces, from Louise’s perspective.
- Tickets to Harry Potter and the Cursed Child Theatre show (which we already decided was our gift to each other for our Birthdays and Christmas)
- A puzzle piece – Because you are an important piece of my life
- Gum – For all the times you’ve stuck by me
- Tissues – For all the tears of joy and sadness we’ve shared
- Lollipop – For when life sucks
- Sherbet/Wizz Fizz – To add a bit of fizz to your day
- Sponge – To soak up all our happy memories
- Paper Clip – For all the times you’ve helped me hold everything together
- Champagne – Emergency drowning of sorrows
- $50 – Emergency Shopping Spree Funds
- Candle – Because you light up my life
- Hearts – Because you are so loved
- Watch – To remind you to enjoy every minute
- Custom made t-shirt – Because I’ve always got your back covered (Can we call out that it even has my life motto on it, CONQUER! 😀 )
I’m not crying, YOU ARE!!!!!
We will now fast forward to dinner, which was of course shared with my brother, Josh. (TWINS, duh. No, we’re not identical…) We both didn’t want a big fuss, so we just went to a local pub. Louise came, along with Josh’s fiancée Lauren, a couple of his close friends, our parents and my aunty and her partner. It was just lovely. They sang “Happy Birthday” and I beat my brother in being first to blow out the candles, because normally he is a jerk and does them before the song is even finished!
For a birthday that I didn’t want to come around, it was one of the best. Let’s hope the next one, we’re not still in lockdown!