I got a loud knock on my door early on Thursday morning, making me catch my breath before I realised it was just the postman. I was still in my pyjamas, but nevertheless went to the door and signed for a parcel.  I was really excited to find the long, thin envelope that I knew contained my professional photographs from graduation.

I knew they wouldn’t be perfect. I graduated in mid-December, a few weeks into the Australian summer, wearing full graduation attire – the gown, the hood, the cap – and let me tell you, it was bloody hot.  I was sweating and managing to fog up my glasses every time I smiled. When I opened the envelope to peek at the pictures, I was honestly just happy I didn’t seem to be as red as a tomato.

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This is my whole, crazy family.  My mum, my dad, my stepmum and sister – my little brother, my nana, and my little sister.  We must’ve looked a funny bunch, but there’s so much love in this picture. When I look at this picture, I think about my mum – walking on a foot broken two months earlier.  I think about my dad and stepmum – driving 12 hours the day before just to be there for me. My little brother and sister, who sat through an almost two hour ceremony mostly quiet, and cheered and gave me the biggest hugs when they found me afterwards.  My big sister, who left my niece’s kindy Christmas party to be there to celebrate with me. And my nana, for whom this was the end of year celebration we’d been talking about all of 2015.  My last remaining grandparent, having her there meant the world.

There are people missing from the picture – my brother-in-law, my niece, my uncle, aunt and cousin.  And then there’s the rest of my family – made up of friends, practically blood, who’ve been there with me through the thick and thin of this degree.

My family isn’t easy to understand. We are bits and pieces made whole only when we are together.  Ohana. I would not have made it through my degree without them, and I would not have wanted to make it through graduation without them there to celebrate with me.

So when I opened the photographs on Thursday, instead of looking at my slightly red face, or my sweaty fringe pushed back under that cap, I looked at my grin that didn’t leave my face all day. I looked at my family, who all sacrificed parts of their lives to be there with me.  And I don’t care how I looked on the outside. Because on the inside, I was luminous with love and joy.

xx Nikki.


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