Tuesday, 24 February 2009

This is the Captain speaking

Even when we are not trying to be control freaks, it can be incredibly hard to surrender control, leave things to chance and let things that are meant to happen, happen.

Over the last few months I have stopped trying to force issues so much and surrender myself to the world that surrounds me. Not being able to walk for 12 weeks has helped enforce this and made me appreciate how much stress free and more comfortable it is to live this way. As of yesterday, I am now allowed to begin walking, though I would describe it more as shuffling. I only hope having some control back in my hands does not make me lose my new found respect for keeping the natural status quo.

I guess you could say the seeds of this new found maturity and peace were planted a while back. I think it is time I explored in detail some of the characters that surround me. Particularly relevant to this tale is a man I call the Captain.

I've known the Captain since I was about 6 and he calmly took me apart over a few games of 10 pin bowling. It's kind of fitting now that he finds his peace and solace at the bowling alley, spending a few nights a week bowling in a league. As well as this, he is the first of my peers to get married and buy a house, he's coped admirably with numerous serious medical traumas over the last 10 years and he has still remained down-to-earth, anti-establishment and basically a total dude. If you ever want advice, regardless of whether you are still likely to do the opposite, you go visit the Captain first.

Now the Captain has long believed in fate and leaving things to their own devices. He has often preached the wisdom of patience, usually when I am in a hot-headed flush of rushing around like a ritalin-starved teenager, cursing and blinding. And I am usually too stubborn or short-sighted to heed his words. I would describe him as the yin to my yang.

Ever so slowly though, something must have filtered through. For I now usually manage to pause, take a moment to gather my thoughts and think of the consequences of rushing and trying to control a situation or person for my own means. The world is designed to exist in balance; people, the environment and nature. You cannot force this balance or control it, we exist within this status quo. Why would I now want to control something to benefit myself if I am merely upsetting this balance? I am only going to be putting more obstacles in my way at a later date.

I'm not saying it is easy to sit back and let things wash over you, but it sure beats running round trying to confront everyone, blaming people for things that have happened and trying to take on the world. It takes time, but once you realise the possibilities gained from this, a whole new world opens.

I feel much happier by remembering that I can not force an issue, if it is meant to be, it will be. I do have to force myself to remember this when it comes to many situations; work, friends, relationships and family. But I always pause now and think; 'What would the Captain do?'.

I will never be promoted to the Captain's level. And I don't think I would want to. You see, everyone needs somebody to look up to for guidance and I prefer it that way.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Feeling the Moment

It can be hard trying to find our way. We encounter obstacles, we have hiccups, we get lost and sometimes people just want to block the route we want to take. But when it seems things aren't going to plan, we have a vast library of material to call upon that can guide us where we want to be. I'm talking about memories, moments in life, those small but significant events that make you feel alive and give you the inspiration to push on and continue.

Have you ever had that moment, where things feel like they're a scene from a film? Sometimes it will be as it happens, other times it will be when you look back. Usually for me these important moments and memories are triggered and brought back to life through something as simple as a word, colour, smell or in this case a song.

I can probably link every person in my life and every inspiring moment, to a particular song. When I hear that song the pangs of nostalgia grow and you get to relive that moment in glorious sepia, like a slow motion montage on film. The rushing of a long past memory giving you that drive to continue.

September 1998, Merlin had just passed his driving test, every free moment was spent cruising around listening to Don Henley 'Boys of Summer'. I still remember it as though it was yesterday. Fast forward 10 years, the Coach is owning the dance floor of our local nightclub whilst Rick Astley 'Never Gonna Give You Up' plays. Rewind, driving at night over the Brooklyn Bridge whilst my ipod has switched to Jay Z and Linkin Park 'Numb'. Jump back another 8 years as Merlin picks me up on a Friday night blasting ATB '9pm til I come' through his new speakers and shocking the neighbours. Picking it up in 2008, I smile as I see a new friend, Moony, dance the night away on a podium grinning from ear-to-ear as Journey 'Don't Stop Believin' plays. Instantly we're back in 2001 and a week in Devon, surfing and camping with the Captain, is soundtracked by American Hi Fi 'Flava of the Weak'. Then we are back to 97 with Sampras, as Green Day 'When I Come Around' fills my ears throughout sixth form. In a flash we are back in the present and Kings of Leon 'Use Somebody' reminds me of somebody who is particularly close and important.

These memories and pangs of nostalgia remind me that I have truly got a lot to be thankful for and I have experienced a lifetime full of memories, moments and wonderful people, that are probably only important to just me. Sometimes it can be easy for us to lose our way and become lost, but sometimes, all it takes is a memory, something important to ourselves, to remind us of where we have been, where we are now and where we are heading.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

Magic Moments

After a recent awesome weekend, that I really didn't want to end, it got me thinking about moments that are truly defining and memorable in life. I enjoy many good times, but there is a difference between something being enjoyable or fun and a moment being really life changing.

For some people it is going to be a sporting moment or a moment of high achievement in whatever field. For others it could be their wedding day, the day their children are born or the first house they buy.

Personally, for me, these moments have to have an 'x factor' about them. Something special that does not fade over time and if anything, just grows stronger and adds to the magic that surrounds the memory. These are usually like snapshots in the mind; an image, colours, smell and sound, all of these come flowing back. When remembered they trigger that feeling in the pit of your stomach that reminds you, you experienced something unique.

Sometimes, it hasn't dawned on me immediately how important and defining these moments are or will be. But you usually have an inkling.

This weekend was one moment like that, everything came together perfectly and nothing went wrong, like a scene from a film. Perfect company, perfect words and a perfect time. That got me thinking about past moments that would likely last a lifetime.

These range from Sampras' wedding, a wet and windy bike ride through the forest with the Boss, long near-forgotten camping trips, remembering the sun shining through the lip of a North Devon wave one crisp September, drinking beer and talking shit with Merlin in NYC, drunken conversations with the Coach over dinner, many heart-to-hearts with the Captain and more.

In my mind, what links these moments together and weaves them into the fabric of my being is that they all affected me in some small, yet significant way. Each one helped me grow in some way. Just thinking of each of these, transports me back to that time and place and reminds me why I enjoy life so much.

Everything about them is so vivid and detailed. The buzz I felt at the time of the experience, still comes back to me now. It is moments like these that resonate later in life, as remembering them helps give the inspiration to move on forging new paths and adventures.

A memory as simple as a past conversation, can provide you with the initial push to remember why you are heading where you are and what else you need to do to continue.

The important moments in life, only need be remembered by one small detail in the mind. Something somebody said, the way the light looked, a smile or a stolen glance. But these small details have the power to echo throughout our lives, continuously inspiring us.

Thursday, 12 February 2009

Gaining a new Perspective

Recently I've started viewing my life in larger segments of 6 months or a year and found this more rewarding, fulfilling and definitely less frustrating, than being impatient and trying to rush towards things you want every day.

Now I bring this up because I'm not known for my patience. I try and cram 5 years worth of a relationship into 6 months. I cannot save for anything. I'm not even patient enough to learn something, I just want it all and I want it now!! What has struck me lately, is it is hard not to think like this, without taking a step back and gaining some kind of perspective on the situation. This goes for many things in life. Relationships, jobs, social life and growing up.

Often, when I'm thinking of growing up and where I want my life to head, I usually find myself feeling nostalgic over something or other and often thinking I never experienced enough of whatever it may be and questioning, have I missed out on something? Could I have experienced more? My perspective is so close to the subject, I can't step back and look at the bigger picture without questioning whether I was fulfilled.

This type of thinking in the past, has led me into trying to re-experience different things, trying to relive a memory from the past or trying to capture whatever it is I feel I missed out on. But sometimes, it isn't that we have missed out on anything, sometimes, we've just forgotten.

Chatting to Sampras just the other day, he reminded me of the time Merlin and I went on a surf trip to Croyde and he visited us for the weekend.

A week of surfing, drinking, eating and being lazy, was punctuated by severe February weather, michelin man wetsuits, near drownings, collisions with rock reefs that looked like seaweed in the dark, me being saved from Hypothermia by Merlin (see, the boy is magic!), late night curries, once Sampras joined us and sinking a few beers in a 'locals' pub.

Now, until Sampras reminded me of this small, yet significant adventure, I probably hadn't thought about it for at least a few years. But once he had, so many good memories came back; from driving down there through snow, watching Merlin get wiped out by some heavy waves, performing housewife duties and cooking him breakfast and scrabbling for change to get the electricity meter back on once the temperature had dipped below freezing!

After this recollection of events, it got me thinking how many other good times and adventures I've shared with my brothers over the years that have drifted into the furthest reaches of my memory. My perspective on the past had made me forget a lot of what I had experienced. Time had merely past me by and covered these memories in its cobweb shadows, waiting for me to dust them off and relive them, in places like this blog.

The adventures never stop, that is what life is, a series of them. Sometimes, without taking a step back and getting a different perspective on events, we think of things slightly differently and usually unfavorably, to how they actually are or were.

Just by taking a step back, slowing things down and looking at the whole picture, we allow ourselves to gain a real perspective on our lives, both where we've been and where we plan to head.

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Growing Up

It's taken me longer than most, 27 years in age, though 18 in spirit! And looks, I like to think! But I am no longer afraid of growing up!

From the age of about 17, Thursday to Saturday evenings were spent out in town. Before the 'casual, just got outta bed' look became popular, we used to spend hours in front of the mirror; bathing, grooming and let's not forget Gel-ing ourselves, into mini Tony Manero's (Saturday Night Fever, come on, get with the program!!).

Back in the day (yes, I cringed whilst typing that), cream jeans and Ben Shermans were the attire of choice. And being that Southampton was a high class city rivaling New York and Paris, if you weren't wearing shoes, you weren't coming in! A lesson we still never learnt, even though one of us would always forget!

In those days there was one weekly Thursday night ritual.....the mighty Ikon and Diva. You had Ikon, with its monotonous chart club music and Ibiza foam parties and Diva, which at this point played 70's music and was my venue of choice. DJ's Disco Dick and Randy Feelgood could be seen wearing afros, flares and spinning some quality tunes!

Now in those early days, I frequented these places regularly, alongside Merlin, OG, Buzz, occasionally another best friend Sampras and a few others. In later days, the Bear and the Boss were my regular 'wing-men'. My very first initiation to getting drunk was alongside Merlin at an Ikon foam party, where he looked very stylish in his suit!

Somewhere along the way, these nights out turned into something of a lifestyle. Living for the weekend became the norm and my pay check became pretty much non-existent. Suddenly, it's 10 years later and nothing has changed for myself. But people like Sampras, the Captain and eventually even Merlin, have grown up, settled down, taken work more seriously and one-by-one got married. They haven't stopped being fun, or the people they always have been, but they did alter their priorities and correctly too I have to say. These 3 more than most, became role models for me and have given me advice and inspiration many times over the past decade.

So now I find myself at a crossroads, if I may use such a stereotype. I guess having all this time on my hands has allowed me to think. But it has finally hit home that partying 24/7 isn't all that fun anymore. Somewhere along the line, the rides gotta stop. Now is that time. It's still fun when it isn't your life, but once it becomes your life, it's time to question priorities.

Thanks to Sampras and the others, I've learned that just because something stops and changes, it doesn't mean your life has to.

Now, I'm looking forward to getting my own flat, buying furniture and hell, even choosing curtains! I might not want to party 24/7 anymore, but doesn't that allow me to appreciate the fun times more, enjoy the finer things in life and realise what my priorities should be?

There's no crime in growing up, but there is a shame in not embracing life completely.

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

When we were Young

Reminiscing about the past got me thinking. From about the age of 15 to 18, one thing owned my life - inline skating. I thought that was quite ironic, especially as having never suffered a bad injury during this time, inline skating was how I ended up breaking a leg.

When I was 15, I'd just recovered from a couple of serious operations and been brought some inline skates as a birthday present (had taken me a long time to convince my Mother to get them, as she figured I'd break something and hurt myself....go figure!)

There was a new wave of skating around at the time, called 'aggressive skating'. This involved performing tricks on inline skates, such as jumping off steps, ramps, walls etc and grinding rails, kerbs, ledges...and so on.

There was a small group of us who every Saturday from 8am (god forbid I even know what that hour looks like now!), could be found skating around a pre-West Quay Southampton City Centre, frequenting McDonalds, the Guildhall, the train station and a 'secret spot' nicknamed White Ledges by fellow skaters.

There was the Captain, my oldest and closest friend. And 2 new friends, Merlin and OG. Together we would terrorise the streets and shoppers of Southampton, until a skate park was built at Mayflower Park. Up until now, we had travelled infrequently to Southsea Skate Park (which for a group of lads from Southampton held all sorts of tribal issues!).

This new skatepark revealed a step up in talent required. The most adaptable to this was Merlin. Anything he lacked in natural skill/talent, he more than made up for with his ability to achieve far more than mere mortals could hope for. His combination of enthusiasm, fearlessness, hard work and speed of learning has blessed him until this day. There is something magical about what he achieved and continues to achieve. Even then he could go that one step further than the rest of us, when it came to really wanting what we all would strive for.

Myself? Well.....I had some natural talent, but I never made the most of. I always had something; fear, timing, any excuse, whatever...there was always an excuse for never maximising what I could of become. A favorite mantra of my teachers was, 'he's very intelligent, but just doesn't apply himself'.

This pattern would repeat itself through most things I tried in life. Anything I wanted to be great at, skating, riding, surfing.....I was never as good as I wanted to be and I didn't like that fact. What was I afraid of? Failure? Slowly, over the years, its dawned on me, there is no shame in not being 'the best' at something, to strive purely for that purpose, means you lose the reason you had for starting in the first place. As long as you try your hardest, there is no shame. It is harder to try and then learn to live with your limitations, than not try at all. But that fear should never put us off trying.

There is no shame in failing, but there will always be questions if you do not try. As Merlin himself once said to me, 'Nothing worth having, ever comes easy'. It's a lesson we can all learn.

Monday, 9 February 2009

Looking Ahead/Looking Back

At the moment, I've got a lot of time to myself to think about stuff. Now, the other evening I was daydreaming about what I'm looking forward to when my legs fixed. I thought back to about 6 or 7 years ago and when I first started regularly visiting North Devon to surf. It was thoughts of those Friday night road trips that really got me buzzing.

After a hard week at work - constantly checking the surf report, wishing I was somewhere else and generally feeling pretty miserable with the hand I'd been dealt - I stopped swimming lengths in my pool of self pity and when it hit 5pm, we road tripped down to Croyde Bay.

There was usually at least 2 cars in convoy, sometimes more. There was a bunch of us, old mates from school etc, but 2 characters who really played an important part through my life are the Boss and Captain. 2 guys I had know since I was about 5 years old and 2 polar opposites.

The weekend would be a blast of surfing, hanging out with friends, drinking, having BBQ's and swapping stories round the fire. For those few days, we were living the dream.

But good times can't last forever, these sessions went on for a few summers and eventually earned the nickname 'the September Sessions' from the Boss. Eventually, people grew up and drifted away. Legends don't burn out, they just fade away, or get a mortgage and marry. The Boss, the Captain, they'll always be legends.

It's important we really appreciate those good times. They won't always be good, but, if we didn't have the bad times, we would never know how much to enjoy the good. Take the rough with the smooth.

Thursday, 5 February 2009

The Beginning

Every journey has a beginning and an end. The middle is the tough section, kind of like parts of life in general. The hard part of life isn't dying, the hardest part is living - think about it

Anyway, we're at the start of a new year and like a lot of people, I'm looking into 2009 and thinking of where I am, where I want to be and how the hell am I going to get there! At the moment, I'm waiting for a broken leg to heal - snapped fibula and tibia in 4 pieces - and permission to put weight on it for the 1st time in 3 months. This enforced break has given me time to relax and think about a lot of things in my life. Specifically things I'd like to improve about myself.

I'm a huge believer in karma, what goes around comes around, we reep what we sow, etc, etc. Now I'm not saying I've been smited with a broken leg because I've been a bad boy. Merely, that sometimes the world needs balance brought to it. If that balance is achieved by ones self, stopping, thinking about things and then improving upon their lot, then so be it.

What this has really made me think about though, is realising that life is for living and we should make every moment count. I used to think I lived each day like it was my last and enjoyed life to the fullest. There were moments when this was probably true, but too much of it was also spent lazing in bed recovering with a hangover, spending obscene amounts on a forgettable night out and pining over some chick, who in hindsight, probably wasn't worth it! Now all of these things are fine - in moderation, but when they become a way of life, it has got to be time to question your priorities.

My biggest priority used to be surfing. I was an ok surfer. I wasn't particularly phased by larger surf and would give most things a try. But the important thing was, I enjoyed it. I didn't care that I'd never surf those gnarly reef breaks I'd see in Carve magazine or hold my own at Pipe. I occupied my own small niche of the world of surfing and I loved it. I felt alive. I had to drive 3 hours plus to get a half decent wave, usually starting early morning and not getting back until late, with the time in between spent freezing my ass off in the sea. But it was my thing and it made me feel alive. So many memories flash back to me from the recent past. Taking off on a wave and flying past my surf bro (who I am going to call the Boss), piling into the fish and chip shop after a surf before it shuts, clambering off the rocks in overhead surf, a night out in the pub after a day in the water and meeting Kelly Slater in Hossegor.

What I'm trying to say is......this time I've been forced to take, sitting, contemplating, has only been positive. It's allowed me to reshuffle my priorities, lose some of my selfishness and really want to be 'a better person'. Memories of happy times, hanging with the Boss, living each day to the max and really appreciating what I used to take for granted. Too much time has been wasted on wallowing self indulgently.

So we come to the end of the beginning, a declaration that I want to live my life in a positive way, whether that be maxmising each day to the full or just treating people that little bit better. I want to do something more than live a 9-5 existence and then drink for the weekend. I want to improve things in my own small but significant way. I intend to look out for myself and those around me and...well.....enjoy life and help others around me enjoy it too.