I had someone ask me the other day about my bio. Specifically this part: She attended university at sixteen, not because she was a child prodigy or anything, but because of a mix up in international school systems early in life.
So here’s how that happened.
When I was three, I moved from Australia to Papua New Guinea because of my dad’s job. He worked for a bank. This is the first move that I actually remember, mostly because I got to go on a plane. Also, I had a passport. I was going to share that photo here, but then I couldn't find the passport. Also, from memory, I'm wearing overalls and a scowl.
We’d moved from Queensland, where I was partway through kindy, to New Guinea, which operated under a different schooling system, and there was no kindy. After six months of my wandering the neighbourhood wearing nothing but underpants and a banana leaf on my head to keep off the rain, with my trusty canine companion Oplika Spot by my side (we called him Spot, but his owners called him Oplika, so we compromised) my mum decided I couldn’t be trusted to my own devices and enrolled me in school.
I turned four on my first day of Prep. My mum figured that Prep was the equivalent of Queensland Preschool, so it didn’t matter that I was a bit younger than the other kids. Having a late January birthday meant I was always going to be either the youngest in the class or, if she kept me back, the oldest, and did I mention she really wanted me off the streets?
Except it turns out that Prep was not like Preschool at all, at least not once we moved back to Australia. In fact, because I’d done Prep, I’d effectively done what would be considered Grade 1 in Queensland and had effectively skipped a year. This may explain, to this day, why I can't hold a pencil properly. I also still can't colour between the lines.
“We don’t want to keep her back, she’ll get bored,” the teachers said, their teacher-senses tingling and warning them that bored + me would be difficult to manage. Which it was, until high school when I discovered truantism, but that’s another story.
“If she’s too immature, we’ll keep her back a year further down the track.”
I was still eleven when I started high school, still under threat of being kept back because of my age. It took until I was fifteen for them to stop threatening it. Because at fifteen everyone hits the Immaturity Plateau and doesn’t climb any higher for years. At least my friends didn’t. Some of us still haven’t. Hi, guys!
So there I was, first day of university, sixteen years old. And that’s where the age difference really became apparent because I was surrounded by kids who could vote, kids who could drive, and, most importantly, kids who could drink.
Luckily my older sister got me a fake ID to get me through until my 18th birthday.
You guys, don’t tell our mum.