Disclaimer: This blog is a bit of a departure from the typical content you might expect on Kayak IQ. So, if you’re only here for the paddling, maybe skip this one and come back later.
I recently turned 29 and it got me thinking about the passage of time, the various milestones we meet along the way and how people and their priorities change.
Up until the age of 23, my life followed a pretty predictable paradigm. I finished school, went on to 3rd level education, moved out of home, drank too much, experienced hangovers that haunt me to this day, and eventually graduated – all fairly standard stuff.
After graduation though, I was struck by the lack of structure. The formula had played out. The equations had balanced. I had been spat out the other end of a fairly long conveyor belt with a piece of paper that said you can pay me to drill holes in your face. “What’s next?” I asked the Universe. It answered:
“Whatever the hell you want! You’re an adult now. Go get a job. Move country. Whatever, we don’t care. You’re not our responsibility anymore. There are no more assignments. There are no more State Exams. The only person you’re accountable to now is you.”
Ultimately, I started work as a dentist (so predictable I know).
Not long afterward though, I undertook a project that within 2 years led to a radicle change in my lifestyle; I quit my job and moved into a motorhome so I could go kayaking pretty much every day. It was a total U-turn on the path I had taken up until that point. Kayak-obsessed, 15-year-old me would have loved the idea!
My experience has offered me quite a unique perspective. I went full-tilt down a road well-travelled, then jammed the brakes, threw the truck in reverse, and rallied back to an obscure-looking dirt track that disappeared between two hills. Don’t get me wrong, there was nothing wrong with the first road. For some reason though, I fancied a change. I suppose as I enter the last year of my twenties, I’m inclined to reflect on what I have learned. If you’re interested in what floats around my brain on rest days, by all means, read on.
Ask difficult questions. What do you want? What do you stand for? How do you impact others? The answers to these are unlikely to come bounding into your mind all clean and beautiful. They’re more likely to arrive slowly, looking a bit like a Picasso; abstract and confused. There might be nothing there at first. That’s fine. Getting honest answers to these questions can take some practice. Keep asking them. Move the furniture around. Sit with it. Then move it around some more. See what feels best.
Don’t dismiss big ideas as impossible. Everything big starts with something small. Be patient. You don’t need all the answers today. Learn to embrace the feeling of being in over your head. In the true spirit of ‘fake it ‘til you make it’, don’t be overly stressed out if your best guess is ‘I have no clue’. Continue to turn over stones. Be persistent. Take time to reflect on what you find.
Be willing to start over. Lately, I’ve been keen to live what could be considered a 'good story'. Good stories are awesome. There’s always struggle and hardship. There’s always a glorious comeback and the world finds balance in the end. Be ready to face your struggles head on, safe in the knowledge that they are just another, albeit uncomfortable, part of the process. It wouldn’t be a good story without them.
Do things for yourself – regularly. Decide what it is, decide when it’s happening and enjoy it when it comes around. You wouldn’t cancel last minute on your best mate so don’t do it to yourself. The one person you have to live with for the rest of your life is your own mind. So, for God’s sake, treat it well and with respect. If you cancel on yourself, I assure you, whatever or whoever you’re tending to instead will not get the best version of you as a result. Is that really what you want?
Talk to people. I used to float up Grafton Street on my commute to work with my head down, earphones on, in a sea of anonymous faces. Sometimes I found myself wondering “Who are these people? What do they do? What gets them fired up? What struggles are they dealing with right now?”. Taking time away from the demands of full-time employment in dentistry has given me the time and space in my brain to just chat to people; to ask genuine people genuine questions and see what comes back. For any non-Irish readers, culturally, this isn’t typical. Irish people are more likely to say something generic like:
“There’s a grand stretch in the evenings, isn’t there?”
“Ah, sure look.”
Perhaps I’m being a bit unfair here! Regardless, the sentiment still stands. Be courageous enough to ask meaningful questions and give vulnerable answers. Open up to what other people have to say. It has been one of the most fulfilling aspects of my current lifestyle.
So, I’m 29 and what have I got to show for it? I don’t have many beans to count up. I spent most of my beans, but I got to learn a whole pile that I probably wouldn’t have otherwise. To me, that’s value for money. That’s beans well spent.
To wrap things up, I would like to apologise (to absolutely nobody) for the radio silence on Kayak IQ. And then to restart things with a blog unrelated to kayaking? The audacity! Part of the reason is because I was/am not sure what direction I want Kayak IQ to take. Like most things in life, it’s a work in progress, but that’s fine.
More kayaking stuff coming soon, I promise!