“You have to do your own growing no matter how tall your grandfather was.”
At the age of three I’d decided that when a grew up I’d be a soldier.
When the fire brigade came to put out a field fire at our country home when I was four , it was obvious that I should grow up to become a fireman.
By the time I was five I’d lived my whole life in the remote and beautiful Scottish Borders. I had the taste for the country life, the outdoors. Each day was an adventure and I had a life of adventures before me, I’d even invented (or so I thought) the now popular Stand up paddle board.
Sadly when I was six my father, due to no fault of his own lost his job, I was rapidly transported from my dreamy out door life to the hell of a British inner city council estate. The following ten years where a typical journey through inner city poverty, bullying, and later having to deal with my mother becoming seriously ill with epilepsy. By the time I was twelve I’d had my first poor attempt at suicide and just before my thirteenth birthday almost succeeding in checking out of life. In hindsight I don’t think I wanted to die, I just wanted to escape.
Luckily with a little counselling and the love of my parents and other people around me my teenage years passed as uneventfully as anyone could hope for while growing up in Tyneside. Though not very good at it I sought distraction from my average life in running and by reading about the adventures of Scott and Shackleton. At the time it seemed impossible to me that a poor boy like myself living in an inner city could have such epic adventures. The bullying at school and in the streets near home were reasonably compensated by a fun drama hobby club at school and a youth club.
At sixteen, lacking any ambition or motivation to make something of myself but looking for an escape I stumbled into an army apprenticeship in the REME. Army life suited me well with its discipline, structure, three meals a day and a nice salary. With regular adventures to war zones in the mid nineties and a side trip to Northern Ireland I got all the adventure and travel a young man could need.
By the time I was twenty it was obvious that a career in the army was for me. I was the perfect clone in the system. I was young, naive, fit, motivated, ambitious and a bit of a yes man, therefore I flew through the ranks and the sky was the limit for my career.
At twenty three I reached the dizzy heights of Sergeant and was introduced to “Mess Life”. Within weeks I found myself wondering if this really was what I’d spent the last seven years working towards and if I wanted this for the next fifteen years. I started asking myself more and more questions about this system I was in and stopped saying yes.
Eighteen months later I was a new man, despite my fears and apprehensions at leaving an institution I’d grown up in, I’d made my first huge life changing decision, my first conscious change in my future. I was now a civilian and bumming around South East Asia with just my backpack.
Naturally the travelling only lasted about three months as I had quickly fallen in love with a pretty Dutch lady. I once again had to make a huge life changing decision to finish my round the world trip to tackle the worrying world of living in a new country, learning a new language and living with someone.
Between twenty five and thirty five I did all the things we’re supposed to do until our mid-life crisis. Got married, bought a house, got a dog, bought lots of “things”I thought would make me happy and muddled through in a job I didn’t like. Eventually the predictable divorce happened followed by a year of hard drinking and unnecessarily feeling sorry for myself, then a new relationship, a new house etc etc.
One cold January evening in 2007 almost a year after my divorce I stared into the mirror at a very drunk Shane, “I hate you… Who are you…..?” It was time to take hold of my life and my future.
2007-2013 Have been the most interesting years of my life, taking conscious control of my life and who I am, growing up and seeking adventure, learning who I am and what I want from life. The biggest milestone in my new life was when I achieved a childhood dream to travel coast to coast in America. Once I’d achieved my big dream I could only continue by creating new dreams. The highlight of which was of course was my huge decision in 2011 to quit my job and cycle through Africa.
With only a month to go to my next big adventure I find myself feeling nervous, excited and a pinch of fear at this undertaking. All three emotions which should be felt by someone taking on a trip of this nature, without feeling fear it would be too easy to become complacent in pushing ones comfort zone and start making mistakes, or worse still feel no sense of achievement in finishing such a serious trip.
Its now thirty five years since I had my first conscious memories of “When I grow up I want to be….” This week I realized that when I grow up I want to be someone that despite his past has no regrets, has pride and self confidence, someone with big plans and dreams, someone that chases and achieves his dreams . When I grow up I want to be ………