Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Adding more chapters

I am just about to finish the autobiography of Bear Grylls - Mud, Sweat and Tears. I always thought that celebrities write autobiographies at the end of their lives, but clearly this is not the case. Bear Grylls is a couple of years younger than me, but he has already achieved so much that he is able to write a 500-page book about some of the major events in his life so far. I guess if I do the same I might also have enough information to fill a 500-page book, the only difference is that in my case I probably won’t find anyone interested in reading it.

Yesterday after a short kite surfing session I had a beer with a friend of mine who possible could also write a book about her life so far. Although only 28 she has already did a few skydives, managed to get a pilot’s license at a very young age, finished an engineering degree and is fast becoming one of South Africa’s promising female paragliding pilots. Just like Bear Grylls she too had a nasty fall that could've disabled her for life, but she was lucky....or was “protected” as Bear prefers to refer to adventurers making it to the other side where others have not been so fortunate.  As always we were reflecting on our lives. Hers is basically just starting, mine if I manage to live to 80, is halfway through. Yet we both share a passion for the outdoors, for the thrill seeking lifestyle. Bear managed to create that for himself from an early age. Although she is still looking ahead for ways to change her life is such a way that he can just cruise from one take-off spot to the other, I am at a point in my life where I start looking back on what I have achieved and constantly fear that there lies nothing ahead for me. A recipe for depression to say the least, but I am sure my autobiography does not have a last chapter yet.

I don’t think there is a much of a difference between the three if us when it comes to finding the ingredients that keeps us alive.  I think what made a difference in our lives is the way we were brought up, the opportunities we got and the determination to chase our dreams.  For me as a child being adventurous was not always easy. I grew up in a much protected environment and being "responsible" looked better on a CV than being "adventurous". I did what was expected of most children leaving school and that was to get an education first. Travelling the world was a luxury white South African men did not have those years, it was army or university.  Because there was money and my teachers thought I was intelligent enough I went for the latter. Today I can boast with a couple of degrees and even though that might look good on my CV, I do not have the certificates posted on my wall. That is not what I needed to live. Yes, it puts bread on my plate, but it never kept me alive. Being outdoors and seeking adventure keeps me going. My job is a means to end, a way to pay for the things I need to be outside. The qualifications secures that and for that reason I  appreciate the fact that I had the opportunity to study.

After my disastrous bike trip a year ago I ventured out less. I somehow realized that it is not about me any more,  there are more people in my life that keeps me going and that would prefer me to be around for a few more years to come. Having a family, friends and children can make up for the times I miss a good surf session or when I do not find time to renew my paragliding license. Bear said that if he has to decide between being a hero or being a dad then the choice is obvious. He would rather spend time with his family. But there will always be that search for adventure, for being outdoors, for doing things that the average Joe doesn't do. Lately that feeling has gotten very strong for me again. After each kite session I come alive. I feel I am a better person when I am all psyched up. I can be a better husband, a better father and a better friend when I still get that chance to do what I love.  I have to work to support my family and my hobbies, that is unfortunately so, but I don’t have to stop living. I do not want to return home with a broken back or a wrecked motorbike any more,  but I am not going to sit and wait for my funeral to come either. No-one might be interested in reading my autobiography, but I am for sure not going to stop writing new chapters until the day I arrive sideways on screeching brakes at my own funeral. So watch this space!

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