On the 13th May, 1987, I was officially born at 03h02 in the morning. My father tells me that I was delivered by a grinning black doctor. Coming from Norfolk, a part of the world that is not ethnically diverse, it doesn’t surprise me that he remembers this detail. My mother recalls his name was Doctor Wadda. ‘Waddayawanna make those eyes at me for?’ she recalled by singing through Skype to me a few days ago.
During my birth, my heart rate was lost twice. I’m rather glad that they found it again. For the first 18 years of my life, I lived between two houses in Norfolk. My mother’s was in the small village of Castle Acre (population circa 600) while my father’s house was in a forest (population 2-6 dependent upon the birth of my brothers). When I was 18, I sat my A-level exams, got in my car and drove to Cornwall where I chose to live in a caravan, dye my hair midnight blue, and pierce my tongue.
I am now 26 years old. That sounds very old.
When I was a child, I thought that as a 26 year old, I would be running my own business or have a great job. One of my friends once asked me if he could be my cleaner when I turned out to be rich. It’s funny to look back at that and see how much my path has diverged. I completed a Masters in Mathematics, but got no further down the career path than that. I now live my life in many countries and hope to continue doing so. My immediate quest, is that of a great adventure. I am caught by stories of great British adventurers. I am not going to climb mountains, I am not going to map unchartered territory, I am not trying to set records. I am going to have an adventure on my own terms. I will share my idea publicly next month.
Apart from having a wonderful family who I love dearly and who give me all the support in the world (and more) that I could ever dare to hope for, there are five seemingly insignificant defining moments in my life that spring to mind at this moment that helped shape where I am today and where I want to go.
1. Catching the Eye of a Girl
As a 16 year old, I was desperately shy. I hated group situations and I was nervous around people. I went to France with my family and caught the eye of a girl at a swimming pool. Although my mother (!) had to introduce me to her, I managed to speak to her because I was in a new environment and realised that I needn’t be as shy as I had always been. I could be myself and that was just fine.
2. Living in a Leaky Caravan
By moving to Cornwall, starting out on my own, and living through a difficult situation, I realised that there was a whole great big world for me to see and I wanted to see it. Before this experience, I never cooked my own dinner, I never washed my own clothes, and I generally did little for myself. Although I spent much of my caravan time reading about magick and other such nonsense, this experience taught me to fend for myself in the world and to find my own way outside the little bubble in which I had grown up.
3. Being Told to Study
As a 20 year old university student about to turn 21, I was terrible. I had never been to the library, rarely did work, attended lectures intoxicated, and in general, didn’t deserve my place at university. I was on course to obtain a low grade mathematics degree but I could have done so much better. Except that I had no desire to. Someone asked me, “Why don’t you go to the library this week?” right before the exams. That question moved me more than any other. I realised that we only get out of life what we put in and that we can achieve greatness if we want it enough. It is so much more satisfying than sitting around doing nothing.
4. Having Nothing to Lose
When I finished university, I felt that there was nothing for me in England anymore. I cancelled the interview for the one job I had applied for, stopped thinking about applying for any form of post graduate medical qualification, and instead went to volunteer in Uganda. From there, I never seriously looked back to the graduate world.
5. Being Humbled by Health
When I fell in a skiing accident and broke my back, the paramedics warned me about the risk of paralysis. Realising the fragility of my own body, I realised that our time on this earth is precious and we must take advantage of what we are given. So many people go through life without making more than a ripple. You don’t need to rock the whole world, but you need to rock your own world and love your life.
All these events help define me. As I sit here in Istanbul, 26 years old, I think back on my previous Birthdays. At 21, I enjoyed a wonderful meal with my parents in Leeds; at 22, I had a wild party with friends and cousins in Canada; at 23, once again, I ate with my parents in Leeds; at 24 I spent my Birthday with my whole family after returning from France and about to depart for South Korea; and at 25, I took thirty something people to a small island off the coast of Korea and partied for three days.
I am 26 years old. I have had, used, and wasted so very much time. I am making a promise to myself to make the most of everything else that will come. I will learn, love, run, and jump. I will do my best to make every day count.
My future is now. I want to make ripples in my own life.
That is so true – you do need to love your own life; it’s only then that you can stop wishing your time away and truly feel content. Happy Birthday by the way!
Trust me Jamie, 26 is very, very young and you’ve crammed in plenty already. You may not think it possible, but you’ll still be having fun in another 20 years, I am, even with the grown up encumbrances of mortgage and kids. I think I was 30 before I had the guts to do the sort of things I really wanted to do. You’ve got a head start on me.
I do hope so. What I have realised is that we must make the most of now and try to do things that we really want to do, things that matter. It’s very easy to waste our time away. I’m glad you are having fun even with kids and a mortgage. As you (and the great stories on your site) show, anything, everything, and unimaginable things are quite possible. If I ever have kids, I hope for the same.
This story truly touched me. I am coming to the end of a 6 week trip, and I have realised that I have no idea what I want to do with my life. I have no idea what I want or even don’t want, it a confusing an exciting time for me as I know I can have whatever I want really. Thanks for opening my eyes.
Be excited, be scared, but most of all, do something that makes a difference to your life, something that makes you happy every day.
I’m from Poland, I’m 20 and it seems that we have similar experiences from the past. I mean I also was terribly shy a few years ago, especially towards girls. Being among many people wasn’t making me feel much uncomfortable, but I was nervous during face to face contact and simple conversation. But it changed 🙂 I’m studying mathematics and there was a period when I didn’t want to involve too much, but now I know, that no matter what you’re doing, the most important thing is to get the most of it being also aware that if something goes wrong, nothing actually happens 🙂 Because life is to experience more and more and even not too good situations have a big value 🙂 I mean we should appreciate our life simply as it is, in every moment, because noone is immortal and you can never be sure that the next minutes won’t be your last ones.
I’m inspired by many hitchhikers’ stories and I’d love to travel that way. I don’t have any experience in it, but it’s never too late, isn’t it? 🙂
During summer I’m going to hitchhike somewhere and I feel it’s going to be an integral part of my life 🙂
Maybe we’ll meat each other somewhere in the middle of nowhere 🙂
Hi Tom. I’m glad that you too have overcome your fears. They can be quite debilitating. And I agree with your points. I like to live by the notion that ‘everything will be OK until it’s not.’ It means that stop worrying, nothing bad will happen. And if something bad does happen, you’re worrying wouldn’t have stopped it. Easier said than done at times. You’re never too late to try something new. Particularly hitchhiking in Poland; it’s my favourite country for hitching in Europe. And the other day I was reading about an 80 year old who went sky diving for the first time. If you want to do something.. do it! See you on the road somewhere. Safe travels.