The gift of a round-the-world ticket and a character from a cult 60s television show helped teach Quentin Long a valuable life lesson.
When I think of the gratitude I owe my parents, I can find it in one small action.
My parents gave each of their six children a round-the-world air ticket when they turned 18, to be used whenever they liked.
I am as impatient today as I was then, so at 18 and 7 months I took up the ticket offer and got the hell out of our ‘island gaol’, as it felt to me then.
I was typical of my age; six feet tall, bullet proof and cocky. If I didn’t know it, then it was not worth knowing.
I walked through customs at Kingsford Smith with the misplaced cocksure swagger that scares mothers of all ‘young men’.
The stroll through customs eight months later was more eager than cocksure: eager to learn more, experience more, and continue filling up my life with amazing experiences.
Seeing the world – okay, Europe and North America- had exposed my own ignorance and as my mind expanded so shrunk my narcissistic self-assuredness.
With that round-the-world ticket, my parents had given me the greatest life lesson, without actually having to tell me (because as if I would have listened) – “I know nothing”.
I call it the Schultz Principle, in reference to the rotund character from Hogan’s Heroes who’s catchphrase must have irritated teachers around the world, as mischievous mouths repeated “I know nothing” in terrible German accents as defence against their naughty ways. Or was that just me?
Even today, every time I travel I find myself saying “I did not know that” a lot and it has the same effect. I return with an eagerness to learn and experience more.
Even better, for me as a person, I have been reminded of my small place in this world.
And for my boys when they turn 18, I hope that I am in the position to give them the same present my parents gave me. No matter how much it will scare their mother.