The e-mail subject line read, “Action required: Changes to your Jetstar itinerary.” It was a forwarded message from Jean addressed to Lisa, Margot and Julie informing them that there were new flight times for their trip and inquiring whether Julie wanted to cancel her flight on this itinerary and catch a flight from the Sunshine Coast instead, as she had just moved. This was an important email, and it did not belong to me, as the Sunshine Coast is in Australia, and I am in Michigan.
I decided to respond to greenjean13, as this seemed important that she receive a response from the REAL Julie O’Connor. It went something like this: “Would love to join you, but you have the wrong Julie O’Connor! I am in Michigan in the United States. Cheers from the country with its first female vice president!”
Jean, Margot and Lisa added their Julie O’Connor to the string of e-mails but decided it would be fun to leave me in their holiday planning, keeping me in the loop of their fun e-conversations and planning. I told them I wish I could join them all, but with COVID-19, that wasn’t possible. I suggested that they print a picture of me and put it on a stick to take pictures of me on their adventures — sort of like the children’s book, Flat Stanley. They loved the idea, and a “Flat Julie” was safely tucked into a suitcase to take me on their holiday in Byron Bay, Australia.
Unbeknownst to me, this lovely group of ladies had a special reason for their holiday — they were all celebrating a new decade in life, with all of them being born in 1961. They all wore matching “Limited Edition 1961” shirts and proudly displayed Flat Julie wearing one in their group photo with me. (I did admit that I was a bit younger than they were — but not by much.) Flat Julie enjoyed time at restaurants, the pool and traveling to various destinations in Byron Bay, although my new friends did admit to me that I was left alone in a hot car a number of times.
So, the moral of my story is this: sometimes when you are least expecting it, a fun adventure awaits you, even if it’s only virtual. Had I not looked at and instead deleted the “Action required” email, I never would have had the opportunity to have a virtual holiday in Australia, share that adventure with my friends and give them a great laugh, make four new friends abroad, and be a part of an important and fun celebration. And the other Julie O’Connor may have missed out on meeting up with her fantastic friends.
I hope that on their next holiday, they might ask me to come along again — but in person. And I am certain I have a bunch of friends who would love to join me to meet my new friends from Down Under.
Julie O'Connor is director of research communications for Wayne State University's Office of the Vice President for Research.