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Monthly Archives: March 2013

One Day I Will Write About This Place

A wise man once said to me ”Being alone is not the same thing as being lonely” I never quite understood what he meant until I started writing. Okay. There is no wise man, but it sounds more profound coming from said Wise Man right? Or maybe ‘My Sensei once told me…”, but then I would have to be Ninja for that to work, which admittedly I am not even though I often imagine myself as one. I digress. I don’t remember whether I actually read that or if it’s something the aspiring philosopher in me dreamed up. Either way it’s quite enlightened. If I could say so myself.

 For as long as I can remember and well into my twenties I constantly looked for myself in others. In their understanding of me and their interpretations of my actions. With that childlike fusion of recklessness, enthusiasm, angst and blind optimism I set about playing with the Lego pieces I had been handed and tried to build myself into what the outside world thought I should be. But with a child like impatience I increasingly grew frustrated and unsatisfied with this process. I threw tantrums and destroyed that Lego set many times only to try and rebuild it again. It was a vicious cycle.

As I grew and matured I tried to find myself more in other people’s words and stories. I read more. I read voraciously. My reading was eclectic. Still I wasn’t satisfied. So I searched for the answers to who I am on the blank page. I decided to write my own story, a decision that birthed this blog. It has helped me pull myself towards myself. Over the last year I have taken it a step further.

In what might be viewed as a bid to channel my inner Darius Lovehall I started working on a memoir. A memoir I have tentatively given the working title Doing The Write Thing: Moonwalking With My Muse. An ode to my frivolous journey to define myself. The energy I felt has been intense and internal. Far from it being the stereotypical journey of the tortured genius that is the cultural mythology of the writer it has been about exploring the balance between escapism, nostalgia, clarity and inner silliness. My inner child has taken centre stage but I have directed the play. The process has been the biggest learning curve of my life to date. It has been the first time I have taken full control of my story and defined myself for myself. I have sat alone with my own experiences and I have made myself the superhero of my personal ecosystem.

Writing has taught me that there are some things in life that we are meant to go through alone. We must grapple with them internally. Drill down the issue to its root, and painfully tug it from the soil of our hearts until it can thrive no more. Distill cause from the effect, without the biased opinions of those who love us. Those who might inardvently define us. We must wrestle with our demons at night then rest our weary bodies on tear soaked pillows. We must do all this alone.

Being alone has allowed me to let go and to let grow. Writing has taught me that you can be alone and not been lonely. The absence of others definitions, stirred up things inside of myself I didn’t know existed. I found strength in strange emotional muscles, muscles that had hitherto gone unused. I learned to love myself from places I believed were closed. I revisited painful things in my past that I had long suppressed. I examined the baggage I had accumulated in my teenage years in an effort to fit in and recognised the horrible habits that have come to characterise my adulthood as just that – horrible habits. I learned the uselessness of emotions like guilt and shame. I emancipated myself of some of the things that enslaved me. It has been beautiful. It has been ugly. It has been cathartic. It is ongoing.  

I know I still have much work to do, but I can also see how far I have already come. I have learned that I am never really alone. That the light is not at the end of the tunnel. That the light lives in me – it lives on the blank page.

Being alone allowed me to reflect on a bleak, frightening season in my life when I wasn’t sure if I would make it, but somehow I did. It has allowed me to find myself. One day I will write about this place and maybe when you read it, you will say “I had no idea, why didn’t you tell me?” I will just smile back and say “I had to face that alone”

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Posted by on March 19, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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The Conundrum

I am a big sports fan. I love sport because it is the most apt metaphor for life itself. Its ability to conjure a wide array of emotions in people (mostly men) is unparalleled. Sport allows us to vicariously experience the trials and tribulations of others. Great sportsman and sportswomen inspire us not only to dream a little bigger, but also to pursue those dreams. Their stories give us the belief that we too can achieve our dreams through focus, hard work, dedication, perseverance and discipline. The discipline of sport reminds us that pleasure is temporary; that suffering can yield a greater glory and that even at our best we are radically dependent on others. Sport teaches us that our limits can be surpassed and sometimes obliterated, that our minds can overcome what seem to be insurmountable hurdles. In sport, you win, you lose, you laugh, you cry, you cheer, you boo – you care. Sport is a microcosm of life.

Over the years sport has been a great teacher of life to me. It has taught me to never give up. It has made the dreamer in me a believer and inspired me to become an achiever in my own life. So no, it’s not just a game, sport is life. One of the sports that I follow religiously is Formula One racing. It is a sport that appeals to both the nerd and the adrenaline junkie in me. Some of you reading this are probably thinking. What’s so exciting about watching grown men racing around in cars around a Grand Prix circuit? Well, a lot. To the Formula One novice, it might all seem rather mundane but it’s not. One of the more animated descriptions I have ever heard of the Formula one driving experience is that it is akin to riding a bull on a rollercoaster. Imagine that. Mundane? Don’t think so. Formula One is also a very technical and high performance sport in which the average driver loses about 3.5kg in a single race. It’s that intense. There is also the faulty assumption that the fastest car always wins, but it’s not as simple as that. A skilled Formula One driver doesn’t just have a lead foot. It’s not just about put the pedal to the floor.  A talented driver has to find the perfect balance between speed, and breaking into and accelerating out of corner. Other factors come into play during the race such as tyre management, pit stops, fuel load etc but I digress.

Towards the tail end of the last Formula One season Lewis Hamilton my favourite and arguably the most exciting driver since the late great Aryton Senna announced that he was leaving the McLaren racing team and taking his enigmatic personality and prodigious racing talents to Mercedes. Ever since I have found myself facing quite the conundrum.

1) Do I follow Lewis Hamilton’s lead and take my vociferous supporting talents to Mercedes.

2) Do I stay loyal to the McLaren team, a team with a greater history, tradition, and heritage than most in Formula One or

3) Do I have my cake and eat it i.e. Support Lewis Hamilton separately as a driver and McLaren as a team

Yes these are the kind of thoughts that keep me awake at night.

When it comes to sport I have always been primarily a football fan. Manchester United to be specific. Many great players have graced the Theatre of Dreams. Many have left. I have stayed. I have always supported the team first. Their consistent success over the years hasn’t hurt either. Having been raised on football it was natural then that part of me wanted to remain loyal to the McLaren racing team, because that’s the norm in football. No one player is bigger than the team. Even if a star player leaves you stay with your team. But this is not football, Its Formula One. Formula One is a different kind of sport. A lot of the team work is done behinds the scene and in the technical department by mechanic’s and engineers but on race day there is a stronger emphasis on the individual driver. The reason I started following Formula One seriously is because of Lewis Hamilton. Prior to him exploding onto the Formula One scene, I had only had dalliances with the world of Formula One. So the Lewis Hamilton fan in me was leaning towards the first option, (following him to Mercedes) but the winner in me had serious doubts about Mercedes credentials as a racing team and by extrapolation its ability to challenge at the front of the grid. Regardless I still believed they would be a better team with Lewis Hamilton behind the wheel. Conundrum. What to do? I discussed the last option of supporting Lewis Hamilton separately as a driver and McLaren as a team with a good friend and fellow F1 fanatic and he was of the opinion that it was like that unsavoury trend amongst some married Zimbo men of having small houses (side chicks). The analogy alone made me uncomfortable. So what to do?

As I finish writing this it’s the eve of the new Formula One season. I have to make a decision. I can’t keep dithering. Writing about this as is often the case has afforded me some clarity on what I need to do. I realise that my loyalty to McLaren is what I think I am expected to do. But the fact is I like  Lewis Hamilton  a driver more  and I can relate to him as a person. His story and attitude and focus inspires me. I realise I never really supported McLaren . I have always been a Hamilton fan, but Hamilton has always been at McLaren so the two became one in my mind.

I read earlier today a column where he said that part of the motivation for leaving McLaren even though it raised him and gave him his break was that  he didn’t always feel like he could be himself. Some of the rules  like what he could wear at the track were stifling. He wanted to go somewhere where he could express himself a bit more freely. He also acknowledged that Mercedes has not had a lot of success in Formula One and he wanted  want to be part of the group of people who helped turn it around. That it was  a great challenge for him to be able to do that.

Those comments resonated with because you often realise that as you grow older sometimes you have to let go of things, people and places that shaped you and take on a new challenge. That even on the way to achieving your goals and dreams you shouldn’t have to sacrifice who you are. To have faith in yourself and your abilities.

Its going to take some getting used to, but this season I will be supporting Lewis Hamilton as begins his quest to achieve his dreams on his terms with the Silver Arrows.

That’s my decision and I am OK with it.

 
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Posted by on March 15, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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Three Little Words.

A few weeks ago I shared on this very blog some of the lessons  that I have learned in the year leading up to my 29th birthday. To say I was overwhelmed with how that particular piece resonated with readers is a gross understatement. The conversations that grew out of it were so enriching. After all was said and done it was a humbling experience.

As I slowly navigate my way out of my twenties I have slowly started to appreciate more and more some of the bigger lessons that I have learned over the last decade. In my twenties I discovered that I (mostly) knew nothing at all. It has been a period in my life when I began to unlearn some of the things I thought I had learned. In hindsight, as chaotic and uncomfortable as my twenties have often been, I realise that the changes had to come together; otherwise their individual impact would have been negligible.

It was reflecting on this that I realised that I had left out an important lesson that I had not only learned in the past year, but I continue learning and has been a product of the many relationships I have been privileged to be a part of in my twenties.

I have a big ego which often manifests itself in a need to be right. Managing my ego and letting go of the need to be right has been a struggle. I am the eldest child. I was reared to be right and lead. I was reared to think cogently and debate effectively.  I reveled in intellectual sparring. I recognise now that on some level, I reveled in it, not just because it provided me an opportunity to learn, but a chance to feed my ego. I was never a gracious debater. Though my words were said with class, the aim was to wound my opponent. Defeat them using whatever tool I had to employ. Logos, ethos, pathos, or a witty remark that they would spend half the debate trying to unpack. This was not how I was raised, but it is what I made myself. Plus when you are losing in the other arenas of life, winning a debate (however pointless) can be incredibly self-affirming.

Then it happened. I was the recipient of the intellectual humiliation I had liberally handed out for years. This was both a horrible and great thing.  It sharpened my mind, but cut my heart. I realised what it is to be made to feel small, just because someone wants to arrogantly convey a futile point. Their urge to make a point means they dismiss your feelings, the basic need for you to feel respected, welcome, like you are worth something.

I lost my need to be right because I realised that most of the time I was wrong. I realised that spending my life constantly proving the merit of my nascent, myopic opinions, meant I was constantly losing opportunities to learn something else. Something more dazzling (or it could be something boring) either way, my attachment to the traditions and beliefs I allowed to rule my mind, meant my view of the world wasn’t expanding at the rate it should or could.

As I have slowed learned to manage my ego and subsequently abandoned my need to be right, I have started to grasp the redemptive and humbling power of asking for forgiveness. I have learned the power of those three little words “I am sorry”. Historically, I had been great at apologising. Not so much at actually saying “I am sorry”. My apologies were formal, guarded, and professional. They could be framed with intellectualism and delivered in a tone that suggested a concession had been made on my part.  I had let cold apologies govern my relationships when they were on the brink of collapse and in desperate need of warmth.

When I said, “I apologise” I knew precisely what I was doing. I love words, their power and how they can transport you to a realm you didn’t know existed. I knew if I said “I am sorry” from my essence and with all my truth, it required vulnerability, raw honesty, humility,t he type of strength that looks like weakness to the untrained eye and courage. If they rejected my “I am sorry” it would mean that I would have shown them how much I cared and it didn’t matter (enough) to them. My ego wouldn’t let that happen.

When I apologised, I made the healing process about me. As I have grown I have begun to appreciate the redemptive power of the words “I am sorry” and how when said with earnestness, transparency and penitence, they could bind up wounds that once seemed irreparable – it dawned on me. It isn’t about me or my ego. It’s about them. It’s about their healing.

A week after I posted that piece I said “I am sorry” to someone.

I said sorry because my words to them, though true, were harsh and were not conveyed righteously. In my effort to be honest, I had forgotten to be loving. And this was to a person who I love and care about. Who like all of us is frail and flawed, but deserves to be told the truth in a spirit of love rather than one of bluntness. What’s the point in making a point if it scars rather than heals? The person will never remember the point, but they’ll always remember how it scarred them and how it felt when your words pierced their heart.

So I said I am sorry. Reminded them that their beauty, courage and greatness, far outweighs any misdeeds they could ever do. That I hoped they would always remember those words, rather than my accusations of the evening before.  They accepted my “I am sorry”

It was only after reflecting on this that it dawned on me that my ego had for a long time inhibited my ability to say sorry. And now that I had learned to manage it and let go of my need to be right, I was free. Witnessing them heal sets me free. Not free from the guilt of the deed that sparked the process, but free to say “I am sorry” again, to someone else.

Free to reembark on friendships that I believed were broken or dead. Free to pick up the phone and call family members who though living, feel like ghosts. Free to know that even if stuff does get screwed up, I am bold enough to say I am sorry and ok with being wrong.

So that lesson that I left out …

30. Apologising and actually saying those three little words “I am sorry” is not always the same thing.

 
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Posted by on March 1, 2013 in Uncategorized

 

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