I was born in a small beach town before it was famous. It’s famous now and you can’t see the house where I lived because it’s now a carpark.
When my mother was pregnant with me she climbed to the top of Mount Warning. My father is a surfer and when I was born the first thing he did was put me in the water. And there I stayed for most of my childhood.
It’s ok to fail. Yes, really
I’ve nearly drowned more times than I could ever count. Felt the water pulling me down into its cold core. And you have to decide. Fight or surrender. Sometimes if the rip is pulling you down, you have to fight. But sometimes you’ve got to save your fight. Surrender to the water and let it take you where it will. You can fight later.
I was about ten when I found my first mountain. I would climb up to the top of it. In winter, I could see the snow if I got up high enough and in summer I could put my feet in the mountain creek until my bones ached from the cold. But even when they ached I’d stay there, waiting to see how long I could take it.
Almost drowning can teach you something about climbing mountains. Almost drowning doesn’t teach you to fear the water, it teaches you to respect it. It teaches you that you can survive. It teaches you the confidence to know that you almost drowned once, and you’ll make it back to the sand again.
When I was 25 I spent money that I didn’t have to go to New Zealand. I made my travel companion go with me to Mount Cook. She hated the base of Mount Cook. It was barren at the base. To her it looked dead and empty. But not to me. It looked like a frontier. I couldn’t climb Mount Cook because I’m not a professional climber. But I climbed the mountain next to it. As far as I could go without equipment. Just me and my feet. I was worried at certain points that I would slip and fall or it would get too dark for me to find my way back. But I nearly drowned once. So I trusted my feet. And I made it to the top. I was born at the beach, but the mountains are my home. And when I made it on my own I was home.
In life, you have to make it ok to fail. If you never take a risk, you will never fail. And most of the time, you have to take that leap of faith from where you are to where you want to be and it’s a real possibility that you could fail. Or fall flat on your face, or look generally stupid. But maybe, you might find yourself at the top of a mountain that you had no reason to believe you could have climbed.
Get lost. Get found. Get on track
I used to get lost all the time. Still do. I’ve gotten lost on mountains. Completely lost. I’ve gotten lost on runs. I don’t mind getting lost. There’s still a bit of magic in being lost. You know what happens when you are lost? You see things for the first time. And you learn that when you are lost you are only a few decisions away from knowing where you are. And after awhile, if you get lost enough you lose the fear of being lost and you find the joy in it. Once I went for a run in a new city and I got lost. It was my first run outside. I was supposed to run 12kms. But because I got lost I ran 16kms.
After awhile you look forward to being lost. It usually means you are taking a giant leap of faith. You might find something new. You might find a new home. But you’ll definitely come back from it and you’ll come back different.
When I go home to my now famous beach town, the heaviness of the sea air hits me like a blanket. It’s dense. After awhile you don’t notice it, but I like noticing it. I like that feeling of going home again and noticing everything.
And I climb up to the lighthouse. Where it’s all air and ocean. The magic is in the horizon. Whether you are on top of a mountain or at the beach with sand between your toes. There’s that place on the horizon where what you can see gets hazy. You can never get to that blur in between mountains and air, sea and sky. When you are looking at it though – you can almost touch it. The horizon is where the possibility is, that’s where the giant leaps of faith happen. That’s where you find the strength to take risks, get lost, go home, come back again and then do it all over again.