Every now and then an opportunity comes along, or a decision is made by you or for you, that makes you grab life by the wrinkly scrotum and squeeze. A time in life where everything matters a bit more, the option of giving up and walking away is not really there because the need to succeed outweighs the doubt that plagues consciousness. It might be the scary joy of bringing a new life into the world, it might be as the hunky Kevin McCloud narrates when a person takes the risks to create their perfect home, it might be that person or that job which you know is meant for you that you fight for it daily.
For me it is none of those things: I’m too young for a mortgage (commitment-phobic), the thought of a human growing inside me gives me the willies (need of a less paradoxical phrase here…), I am currently far too selfish and far too insecure for the “other half” malarkey, and the dream job is why I started writing this blog to try to find out (NB I haven’t figured it out yet).
But nevertheless, for the first time in my life I have got to this ball sack grabbing era and want to make this work. For me it is not big and not clever, not going to save the world, but selfishly it’s a little triumph for me and I hope some of you will recognise my thinking. I have had a wish that has sat gathering dust for about 5 years now. In the last 3 months I have realised that now is very much the time to get this plan actioned, or it runs the risk of being chucked in the box of “one of those things I always hoped I’d do”. A scary box that so many bits and pieces fall into, like marbles rolling off a table when you’re not looking. Like some melancholy Wothers Originals advert we’ll save this box and open the creaking lid to show our grandchildren what we thought we could have done. “Here’s me at 7 wanting to be in Starlight Express (no video or photo evidence thank Jaysus, but I was keen as mustard for this one), here’s me at 11 wanting to be a writer, here’s my dream at 25 wanting to travel the world, but I didn’t realise it just rolled into this box when I wasn’t paying attention…”
I have few responsibilities, I have all of my limbs and if I stop watching House to panic about obscure diseases, I’m pretty sure I have my health. I have a bit of savings behind me. 3 years away will still land me back this side of the world at 29, hopefully with minimal weddings and newborns missed.
A great friend, let’s call him Dominic (for that is his name), once gave me a book called Flightless. Published by the Lonely Planet citing people’s journey’s around the world without getting on a plane. Cycling continents, rowing oceans, tuk tuks home from Thailand, all ridiculously inspiring stuff. I parked these ideas in my head and without noticing, this has become the biggest thing on my bucket list to tick off: To travel to Australia without getting airborne (yes you’re right, I am going to have to ban myself from celebratory jumping. Bugger). I intend to take my time, get my working visa whilst in Australia, and if I can, continue on a boat to the west coast of America, or back on myself to somehow arrive in Mozambique and set up camp for a while. But I’ll cross that ocean when I come to it. Means of transport is tbc but we’re talking trains until Vietnam at least. I would love a car for the Euro leg, and a friend recently suggested I cycle. It had crossed my mind, Lord knows I need the exercise. But images of me panting my way up hill trying to get over the Orwell Bridge an hour from home already haunt my dreams. Where exactly does one put one’s rucksack? Plus I hate lycra and I hear it’s an enforced rule once you’ve crossed the Channel. We shall see.
So, where exactly does this get me in discovering “Expert in what?”. Hmmm…. “Not far, loser” I hear you say. But here is what I figure: I will do better in understanding what I want to do by doing this then I will by sitting at my desk, calculating the amount of inspiration I am exposed to multiplied by the amount I feel I am progressing to “career happy”. It is always zero fyi. I have learnt the most from people I have met outside of my comfort zone. To try to steer clear of horrific stereotypes of posh English kids “finding themselves”, I have got a better idea of what makes me tick by guiding dives in the Indo-Pacific region than I ever have photocopying reports. I got through school going through the hoops without too much trouble, I worked bloody hard for a month or two at university and I have since thrown myself into a few jobs that have plateaued at month 2 and found myself eventually indifferent to it. My energy comes from incredible friends, a loving family, and opportunities to take myself out of my comfort zone (however I will forever say no to a bungee jump). And for the first time, my energy comes from the want to succeed in this adventure. I want to commentate on it. By no means do I want writing to pay my bills, but I still want to write. It won’t lead me to a career directly but I care enough about it that it can be my starting line to open doors. A wise friend once told me it was about allowing yourself to jump into “the flow of ideas” (no we weren’t high) in order to get exposure to things you can’t be when blinkered by safety of a monthly pay cheque and a job you know you can do effortlessly. Positivity does not come naturally to me; far safer to be cynical. This attitude is experimental for me.
I weighed up options of staying in job to save money, but calculated I would save more money stepping out of lovely London and returning to scrub toilets and make perfect gin and tonics in the French mountains. “Where’s the bloody progression there, douchebag?” I hear you cry. Touché. But this is how I look at it. It is my happy place. The people I’ve met both guests and people working the season, have been inspiring. The mountains, if you haven’t been, hold some special, unidentifiable quality that on a given day can lift you out of the crummiest mood at the same time as humbling you to realise you are a tiny cog in a enormous world. And you’ll rust away inevitably. And of course there are jager bombs, darling.
In the coming months I have a severe personal challenge: to rewire my thinking a little. Cursed with the dangerous disease of FOMO (not to be compared with YOLO please – I suppose I am challenging this mentality but I refuse to mention it hereafter). Fear Of Missing Out eats away at me and I need to grow up. Haunted by thoughts like “what if I leave the bar and then that portly Frenchman starts doing the robot?” I have always found it hard to leave a party, always found it hard to not be present for as much as the fun stuff as I can. And in the Alps that potential for fun is always on your doorstep. But my reasons for this winter are different from previous. I need to plan, to research, to create contacts, to write. This means coming off the mountain early, and walking in the opposite direction to the bar once or twice a week. It probably means avoiding cake a little too. Fuck.
But instead of being in London, my free time being evenings plunged into darkness at 4pm, I will have my free time post cleaning, pre dinner in a beautiful setting. I will be skiing daily, my rewiring is just to give myself enough time to be ball-grabbing the bigger picture of the flightless trip, rather than the more immediate ball-grabbing of watching the foxy guitarist with the great beard (ball-grabbing life, not ball-grabbing musician. Should I have changed this analogy? Meh. Ball-grabbing musicians is nay a bad aim. No squeezing obviously). Yes I worry. But be it on my head if Michael Palin walks in to my local bar ten minutes after I leave, arm in arm with Ashley Banjo, teaches everyone to moonwalk and starts a rendition of Always Look on the Bright Side of Life.
When it came to write my blurb for “meet the team” for the amazing company I am working for this winter, I panicked. Try and be funny? Brown nose guests pre arrival? Make impossible challenges of 360s and nailing rails? So many options. I tried and failed at all three. But if you come stay, I will make you a fecking good gin and tonic.
Visit http://www.fishandpips.com for a gastronomic, luxury ski holiday. With superb staff obvy.