short stories

~ Cold Thoughts ~

~ Cold Thoughts ~

I watched my breath in front of my face as I lay frozen in pain. Shivering uncontrollably, I reflected back to the time seven years previously when I had got lost on the mountain in New Zealand – my sorry ass eventually salvaged by a rescue team before hypothermia had set in. This time I was not lost on a mountain on the other side of the world from home; this time I was home – in the comfort of my own bedroom, to be exact. It had so far been the coldest weather in years and some parts of the country were even experiencing their lowest-ever recorded temperatures. Outside it was minus five degrees, which isn’t too bad if you have central heating, but unfortunately mine had decided to break in conjunction with this cold snap. My bedroom hadn’t received any warmth in two days now – the same amount of time I had been confined to my bed. Four blankets covered me, along with my thermal clothing and jumper – but it still wasn’t enough to keep my body warm. Not only was I fighting off the cold, but also a bad bout of the flu.

Yes, I had also managed to come down with one of the worst sicknesses of my life during this tragic heating malfunction. It was a pitiful situation – the sort of situation where you had to question whether the universe was out to get you. I was drained and defeated in almost every way; my head pounded with a headache, my throat felt like it had razor blades in it, and my whole body ached with a fever. I didn’t even have the energy to get out of bed, let alone go to the toilet, so I used a plastic bottle beside my bed to piss in whenever the time came. It seemed like it would be a good time to sleep and try to fast-forward to a time when I was feeling better and the heating had been fixed, but unfortunately my insomnia had come on strong too. I had barely slept in two days now. With not even enough energy to reach for my laptop and put a film on, I simply stared trance-like into space like a wounded soldier, letting whatever thoughts drift through my delirious and dying mind. 

None of them were cheery thoughts, naturally. I considered that I actually was a dying soldier and this is how my eventual demise played out. It would have been a somewhat underwhelming exit from this earth if that was the case, but at that point, I’m not even sure I would have even fought it off too much. Whenever one is consumed by such intense illness and pain, it’s almost a nice feeling to surrender yourself to the darkness. It was that darkness where you could rest in peace, free from existence and all its traumatic struggles – pain, sickness, depression, loneliness, taxes and tiredness. At that point, I reminded myself that I had come down with the flu before, and, as bad as it got, you were usually up and kicking a few days later. No, I was admittedly being slightly somewhat melodramatic about things. I was going to make it out of this one, but what was I making it out into? What was my life looking like on the other side of this sickness? 

In a way, this did feel like the universe was punishing me and putting me in a place where I had nothing else to do but reflect on the plight of my life. I knew almost certainly when I had got this flu – the previous Saturday night when I had gone out on my own and drank myself into oblivion. That was the night I had managed to buy over twenty drinks and go to four different nightclubs until 7am in the morning. This was the latest reckless bender in a series of benders where I had been destroying my health and finances. I had tried to curb my drinking a couple of months before, but that had backfired and now I was drinking even heavier than before. I knew I was heading down a dark path and perhaps this was life’s way of forcing me to stop and reflect on my ruinous behaviour. I had nothing else to do after all, and that’s exactly what I was doing – reflecting on why I was a self-destructive idiot who got myself into terrible states such as the one I was in. 

I knew exactly where some of this self-destructive behaviour was stemming from; an underlying feeling that had been growing inside of me for a while. I looked out at the current state of the world and saw little hope in anything. Society was becoming more ridiculous by the day and it was harder to find the strength to take part in the circus at all – especially when sober. There was a cost of living crisis, a climate crisis, a nuclear war crisis, a mental health crisis, a physical health crisis, and my own personal ageing crisis. I also now knew I lived in a world where people would quite happily throw away their freedoms in response to whatever hysteria the media created. Things went from one low to the next, and it was now looking like working a full-time job soon wouldn’t be enough to even feed yourself or heat your house (if the heating was even working that is). Myself and a friend had recently coined our catchphrase ‘The Collapse is Coming’ and this was now embedded into our doomed worldview. Because everything was clearly going to total shit, it seemed that nothing was worth it so you might as well just get drunk and live like there was no tomorrow. This was the new-age nihilism, I recognised – a feeling which had been sending me those reckless benders and ultimately helping me end up in this pitiful situation. 

I continued watching my breath and aching in pain as such reflections drifted through my sleep-deprived mind. I realised that if this was the universe challenging me to put myself under the microscope, I had to recognise that I couldn’t just blame it all on these external factors. In particular, I recognised that there was just an internal wild-side inside of me that had always been there. It was like a stallion in my soul – a beast that would cause me to consistently charge off into the wilderness and have no concern for anything other than the pure thrill of being alive. Its aim was to live daringly and thrash about in a way that it could never be caught and tamed. That stallion had been a part of me all my life; it had taken me to some great places and helped me to experience some wonderful things. I was happy to say that I was someone who had definitely made the most of his youth. And if this flu and cold weather were to see me off, then I could check out from the game content with my score. I had experienced life – gotten to know it to its blood and bones.

However, while I was content with what I had done with my younger years, a part of me knew I couldn’t keep living like this – at least if I wanted to have a normal lifespan, that was. I had known this for a while, but perhaps this situation was the moment where I needed to take the time to really accept that something in my personality had to change. It was time to finally start taming the stallion inside of me, or to keep letting it run wild until I died an early death. This wasn’t even me being dramatic, I deemed – something inside of me knew deeply that if I didn’t get a grip of this runaway horse, then I would end up dead and buried at a young age like so many of the writers and artists I idolised (not to forget my uncle who also died of alcoholism in his forties). When I really thought about it, in some ways I felt lucky to even be alive now. The alcohol, the drugs, the adventures, the reckless behaviour and excessive revelry – a bit more misfortune and I could have already died before my time. How much longer could I keep getting away with such a way of living? The general consequences of living so wildly were getting worse, after all. It was just a few months before when I had woken up in a town in Mexico with cuts and grazes covering my face. I had no idea what had happened and, with this mishap taking place in a particularly dangerous area, I thought myself lucky to just have a bloody face. Yes, there was no denying my reckless behaviour was getting worse and worse and it wouldn’t be long until I went too far. The edge would be found and crossed. And never recrossed. 

Oh, but what is a man like me to do when he tames the stallion within him? Especially when that stallion had brought him so many unforgettable thrills and sensations? Especially when that way of being was all he knew? I had to accept it was either to watch my life end in premature wreck and ruin, or to evolve into something else. But what was that something else, exactly? A steady career?A suburban lifestyle with a wife and kids? A life of monk-like contentment? It was hard to imagine living the rest of my life in a subdued state from what I had known, but this was what had to be done in order to have a ‘rest of my life.’ It was a confronting realisation, one that was maybe worth chatting to a therapist about. Well, for now it was just me and the cold and this flu ripping my insides apart.

I reached over in pain and took a sip of Lemsip that one of my housemates had brought me. I felt that warm liquid run down my throat as I gazed around my lair. My eyes met a picture of my family and it was then that I suddenly started thinking about my dad and my brother. Although on the surface they seemed the complete opposite to me, when I thought about it, I recognised that they, too, also once had this craziness inside of them. My brother was six years older and I recalled all the trouble he’d get into when I was a teenager. I thought of his absinthe-fuelled nights-out which could result in the police turning up at our door the next day, or even him returning with a bloody head like that one time on the morning of Christmas Day. And even my dad (a now relatively dull and ordinary man by most measures), had his stories of debauchery and anarchy from his youth as a punk. I knew what the key difference was between me and them though: a woman. A wife, even. They had eventually quietened and settled down into a sensible and sane life. Set straight by marriage, they had packed away such hedonistic tendencies and set off on a life of peace and stability. My dad had done it by the age of twenty, and my brother by the age of twenty-seven. Yet here I was now past the age of thirty, and I had barely even been in a proper relationship. All I had done was travel the world and slept with as many women as I could, all the while being uninterested in forming any real lasting bond. I dipped into dating but again it was never with a serious intent of getting a long-term partner – rather just another impulsive thing to keep myself entertained – an unhealthy vice in which I didn’t even intend to get anything out of other than momentary thrills and pleasures. 

All these thoughts whirled around my mind as a sudden fever came on. Suddenly the shivers stopped and I started sweating profusely instead. My heart palpitated, almost as if I had some bug or creature inside of me pounding at my chest to get out. At that moment, I felt like some sort of terrible bug myself, and the thoughts of why I had never been in a relationship began to make sense. A terrible feeling of self-loathing came over me. I felt that I really had something hideous inside of me and that I put this shield up against love and relationships because deep down I knew that I was someone that no woman deserved to get entangled with. I wasn’t worthy of love or affection or someone sharing their life with me. I was a ghastly insect, an unwholesome creature like Frankenstein’s monster that belonged banished from civilisation, wandering alone in the barren wilderness. Perhaps this is why I so frequently pushed others away? Perhaps this is why I poured so much poison inside myself? Perhaps this is why the world was apparently trying to kill me?

The thoughts continued to get heavier and heavier as the sweat poured from me. My headache was now at the point where I felt like I had an axe embedded in my brain. I yearned deeply for sleep to take me away from myself, but that wasn’t going to happen. My mind kept racing and I wanted to be anywhere but there, but it was no use – I was stranded with myself in one of the coldest times of my life. It was a winter of discontent and even the thought of my one regular escape, alcohol, made me feel sick. There was nothing to do but dwell in my own solitary suffering. To make it even worse, outside the sun was shining. Rays of light entered through the curtains. I heard birds chirping. I could even hear the hearty laughs of my housemate in the garden while on the phone. 

Although at first such sounds and sights compounded my misery, they eventually reminded me that there was something bright in this world. It wasn’t all the doom and gloom I had been living in within my own mind. There was light and there was victory. There were moments of great triumph and joy. There were birds jumping out of nests and tasting flight for the first time. There were baby turtles crawling courageously towards the ocean. There were little children standing up to bullies. There were shy loners creating beautiful music to be played in concert halls. There were poor kids growing up to be doctors and saving people’s lives. There were flowers growing through gaps in concrete streets. Yes, if you kept your eyes open, there were moments of pure universal triumph bursting and blooming and blossoming all around you. I knew this; I had seen these things with my own eyes. And yet I had forgotten them. Time and time again, I let the darkness of the world drive out the light, even when I had seen the glory in life and felt true bliss. I thought of those moments of standing on those sunset shorelines, staring out at the sea, watching the seagulls dancing in the sky as the daylight faded out and the light of distant stars was slowly revealed. I saw that sight again there in my room one more time as the pain faded for just a second.

Immediately, I wondered whether I was on my deathbed. This is how I imagined it to be on your deathbed, after all. You’d see all these visions of all the wonder your eyes had set sight upon throughout their long journey. I smiled to myself as I saw the other visions: bright faces in moments of joy; tender kisses on lips; the laughs of people free from their struggles. Yes, I knew things were bad – there was no denying that – and there was also some light on the other side of this sickness and my general struggles. I couldn’t feel it now but I knew it was there, and the only thing left to do was to own my suffering. This was my suffering that was currently taking place, and yet with it, I was finding something useful with it. It was a time to lie down, stare into space, and reflect. This was the purpose of my life at the moment. And I knew it was going to pass and that in a few days, I’d be back out on those streets with my mind in a different space. I’d be back at work, or running along the river, or shopping at the supermarket, or talking with friends in the pub. It would be time to re-enter the circus again and do my best to get through to the next day. In sickness and in health, fighting to go on and survive. The neverending battle. The only thing that we were all united on – trying to keep it together and finding the air to breathe and searching for the sunlight as the storm of life shakes us to the core.

thoughts

~ An Inside Job ~

Like others before me, there came a time in my life where I knew I needed to find something. Whatever that something was, it seemed to be not available in my immediate surroundings. Unsatisfied with my external world, I realised my journey was to become an internal one. One day my quest began. Digging into the depths of myself, I struck that spade into the solid ground. With force and might I pulled away the dirt with a driven and determined energy. I knew in my bones that something in those depths, buried away in the darkness, waiting to be uncovered. I didn’t know what it was exactly, but I could feel its presence within, and soon everything else in my life centered around finding it. Naturally I knew there were those out there who would dismiss such an undertaking as foolish or crazy, but I knew that that something within me was something that would make me richer in most ways that people had experienced. So I kept digging away, breaking apart that earth, with blistered hands searching deeper and deeper within my own soul. And in that act of soul-searching, I felt assured that one day the time would come where I would stand with that great diamond in my hands; a man who broke through his walls, who stripped away his surface, who unearthed his treasure and let it finally glint in the morning light. A man no longer blind to what he possesses.

pricless pleasure

thoughts

~ The Blessing of Madness ~

~ The Blessing of Madness ~

“As I got older and lived my life the way I did, I found that many people simply dismissed me as crazy. I didn’t take offence to this. In fact, I welcomed it. Once you were put in the ‘crazy box’, then you were free to just live life how you wanted, without having to answer or adhere to social norms. Ultimately people’s realities needed to be reinforced, and labelling people who saw things differently to them as ‘crazy’ was one way to do this. But those people didn’t understand just how fragile those realities were. Once the sane people believed the earth was flat; once the sane people burned women on the stake for being witches; once the sane people enslaved other humans thinking they were nothing more than their property. Sanity was just the dominant cultural viewpoint at the current moment – a collective hallucination that had about as much solid substance as the wind. Often I looked at the sane people of the world and felt sorry for them in a way. Did they not know how limited and constricted their reality was? Did they not know what wonders awaited them beyond the fences of conventional thinking? The sight of a completely sane person made me sad, and I hoped everyone was fortunate enough to lose their mind at least once in their life.”

poetry

~ Escaping the Farm ~

~ Escaping the Farm ~

Often the less sanity a man has, the freer he is
Not shackled by the restraints of conventional thought
He is free to journey into a wilderness
That is untouched by the hands of others

In this wilderness he may find treasure
Or he may wander too far
And be consumed
By whatever awaits in the unknown.

For me, I have been losing my mind
And exploring this wilderness
For a long time now.
I have found myself in some dark places
Been close to the edge more than once
But I have also found things
that have enriched
and enlightened me as a person

And as time goes on, I start to realise that sanity
Is something similar to a farm
The people on that farm are safe and secure
They do not have to worry about the wolves
Or the creatures of the darkness

But they also live in a world of limitation
Confined by a rigid perspective
Unable to explore uncharted territory
And see things from a different angle

You know, they say that the road to creativity
Often veers close to the madhouse
And from my experience, I think that’s true

I’m pretty sure that these words
Come from a place
Many have feared to go

But just hear it from me:
Losing your mind
Can often take you
To some pretty interesting places.

This forest is alive
The wolves are howling
The wind is singing
And my soul is dancing

It’s not all bad out here,

I promise.

poetry

~ Like A True Professional ~

~ Like A True Professional ~

“But what is it you want to DO?” he asked me
It was a friend’s stepdad
In a bar over Christmas
One of those middle-class types
With the flash car and hot wife

I looked into his eyes
And thought about answering the question properly
To tell him about all my heart’s urges
About my crazy dreams
And existential desires

But of course, I knew
He would only understand an answer
That came in the form of a job role

These people often come up to me
They see me: a young man
Someone who speaks well
And even went to university
Surely he must be doing something with his life

For me, I was doing something
I was doing The Thing
Of following my heart
Travelling the world
Writing my poetry
And searching for the essence
Of what life was about
But it seemed that these things
Were not things
To people who measured life
By job titles and bank balances

God, maybe I really am crazy, I thought
Maybe I should just give up this crusade
Get a regular job
Become like that man
Tell people how I work in finance or something
How things are going well
Which holidays I’ve got booked
And what shows I’ve been watching on Netflix

But another part of me, says no, fuck it
I will not be ground down like the rest
I will not extinguish my fire
I will keep my shape
And stay true to who I am

And when they ask me what I do
I will look them in the eye
And tell them all the wonderful things I do
With a smug sense of pride

Like a true professional

Of life.

business

thoughts

~ Infected ~

~ Infected ~

“One day in this life you realise you are infected with the condition of being an outsider. The symptoms are revealed to you gradually. As you walk the neighbourhoods of normality you realise your heart yearns for something else. Stability and security only give you a feeling of sadness. You have no interest in the contract of life offered to you. As you stare at the rows of houses and green lawns and shiny cars, as you look up uninterested at career ladders before you, as you stare wistfully into space in the supermarket queue, you gradually begin to realise that something isn’t quite right about it all. Every ounce of your being rejects the things you were told to desire. What gives you fulfilment simply isn’t available in their stores or on their menus. You have no interest in material riches or status. Their television shows and newspapers are toxic poison to your mind. You are allergic to their conventions and expectations. The suits and ties don’t fit you. What is important to them, to you seems utterly meaningless and trivial. In your world adventure and exploration and art rank above all else. Yes, accept it: you have the alien madness – the condition of being an outsider. You are infected. Do not trouble to even try and cure yourself, it will only make you worse. No, no, no: forget the therapists, forget the sensible advice, forget trying to fit into a society which doesn’t fit you. Do not trouble yourself. Here is what you shall do:

Let the infection take over. Let your eyes become bloodshot with blinding passion. Let your skin be shed, let your soul be set on fire – let that heart of yours become filled with poetry and madness. This is it: you were never one of them anyway, and the sooner you accept you never will be, the more powerful your mutant soul will become. You will liberate yourself from society and walk those streets with a rare strength and joy – a feeling of freedom not known or understood by those who define themselves in groups. The world around you will glisten with magic – you will see things they can’t see; do things they can’t do; go places they can’t go. You will attract strange glances and stares – sometimes in secret admiration, sometimes in fear. You will terrify some and inspire others beyond belief – and as the infection spreads further, you will grow stronger and stronger – fiercer and fiercer. Nothing will be able to hinder you. Things like isolation and rejection will only fuel your desire further. No cage or poacher will be able to capture your wild heart. You will be unstoppable like a storm; you will be impenetrable like a mountain. You will live the life of a fearless adventurer and go to the grave knowing that your life was lived with absolute fullness. The flowers around your grave will blossom with an exotic beauty; the birds will sing songs about your adventures at your headstone. You will have been totally consumed by your passion. You will have stayed happily infected till the end of your days. You will have died knowing that this world could never find a cure for your beautiful madness.”

infected

~ A Storm from Within ~

“It takes courage to be yourself. It takes courage to walk your own path. It takes courage to pursue the life you truly desire and not the one expected of you. Too often you will be surrounded by those who want to see you fail; by those who will seek to pull you back into the darkness in which they dwell because your breaking free causes them to reflect on their own choices and limitations. Throughout the ages of human history the mavericks and pioneers and dreamers have faced such a challenge when liberating themselves from cultural conformity and convention. Many are tamed and return to the safe farm of normality with their dreams and desires slowly gathering dust in dark, forgotten corners. Many let those voices of fear and doubt also infect and infest their own minds. It’s no easy feat to break free from the mould to live a life of total authenticity and personal truth, but there will be ways to stay strong to who you truly are as you walk the path through the wild to the shores of your destiny. Stuff your skull full of madness; overload your heart with passion; summon a storm from deep within your soul. Shake some windows, rattle some walls – let the words of your heart rain down mercilessly upon the blank pages of the world. Don’t apologise for the mess and madness. Let your spiritual thunder awaken this world into life.

Let your soul’s lightning ignite the darkness of the night.”

storm

 

thoughts

~ A Secret Space ~

pexels-photo-1679618

The words of mockery came at me and I realised at that point I had broken through to a new realm. People’s thoughts and opinions of me no longer had any power over my emotions. I was my own man, and it struck me how blessed I was to be able to live life without striving for social validation. So many people secretly craved to live life not controlled by worries of what others thought of them. It was no easy thing to do after all. We are all social beings that thrive on others’ acceptance, and it truly takes a bit of insanity to overcome this aspect of human nature. And the bigger the crowd you have to fit into, the more of your own individuality you will have to sacrifice. This is why the true individual thrives on his or her solitude. It’s in that uncorrupted space where the noise of society fades away. It’s in that space where the inner voice is heard, new perspectives realised, and art created. This space becomes more addictive the longer you spend in it, and when you return to the crowd and see the masks being worn and the social game being played, you will inevitably only crave to avoid it as much as you can. Solitude becomes a way of protecting your unique essence. And maybe people will think you’ve gone crazy, but you simply won’t care as you know that you have discovered the great secret – the secret that learning to not be dependent on others’ approval is the key to a life of personal truth, authenticity, integrity, and freedom.

~ The Crazy Ones ~

“Always the crazy ones were discussed with hidden interest. Some were mocked outright, and others were affectionately referred to with lines like “she’s a bit different” or “he’s a bit out there”. Whatever the case, it seemed most people had a subconscious fascination for the alternative mind. People would stand back and observe them as if they were a rare species – some kind of exotic bird with pink feathers. Mostly they fascinated me because they were the creatures who had jumped the fences of normality; they were the ones who hadn’t subscribed to the current version of sanity which helped us all enjoy small-talk down the pub. To me that was a liberating quality I couldn’t help but envy. Without being shepherded on the farm of conventional thought, you were free to invent yourself and be whatever you wanted to be. And what was more desirable than that? In a world that said the winners were the rich people, or the famous people, or the good-looking people, to me it was the crazy ones – the people living life on their own terms – who were life’s greatest success stories.”

thoughts

~ Make Room for the Dreamers ~

~ Make Room for the Dreamers ~

“There seems to be a constant unspoken truth that pervades our culture, so please allow me to go ahead and just say it. Some of us were just not born for the norm. We have spirits that don’t fit into suits; we have passions that do not translate to job roles; we have desires that cannot be fulfilled by any product. We normally share the same story: we grew up feeling out of place with everything and everyone. We were in conflict with society due to its nature to try and shape us into something we were not. And we often have to bite our tongue as we sit quietly in groups. Well for once listen up and take a moment to hear our voice: we see the world a little differently to you, we have different priorities, and many of us would choose death before drifting through a life that did not truly fulfil our souls. It is because of this nature why we do the things we do. Whether it’s running fifty miles in one day, or travelling the world in a van, or writing poetry books – we do these things because we must do them. And I don’t know if I speak for all the other misfits, but I for one will not keep apologising for being the person I am. Yes, to many I know I may be a little strange and crazy – but god, if I hadn’t turned into what I am now, I would have long ago kicked the bucket. The life I am living is the one I must, and it is the same for every eccentric dreamer you know in your life. So please, get used to us and make room for the dreamers, make room for the artists, make room for the crazy ones. 

We are here to stay.”

pexels-photo-1170225

poetry

~ Mutilated

~ Mutilated ~

The monsters under my bed

Have found me again

And what is left to do

But to lie frozen still

and let them have their way with me

.

They are beings of persistence

And the more their claws tear me apart

The more I become one of them

.

And the thought hits me 

That perhaps all monsters 

Were once scared children

Just wanting the light

But in denial of that

They were dragged into the darkness

To become the very thing

That haunted them.

claw

short stories

“You’re a Dreamer”

dreamer

~ You’re a Dreamer ~

“You’re a dreamer,” she said to me.

“Yeah, and what’s wrong with that?” I replied.

“Nothing I guess. It’s good to dream. But you need to be realistic too.”

“How do you mean?”

“Well,” she started. “You want to not be shaped by the system, to live your own life and do what you love – I understand that and commend you for it – but you gotta keep one foot in the game, you know? You need a reliable way to make money, and some basic security. I’ve seen people end up in serious trouble when they just march against the system not giving a fuck.”

“Really? Like who?” I said.

“There was this one guy I once knew who had a bit of a crisis and quit his insurance job to pursue his passion of film-making. He lived off his savings and devoted most of his time to directing short films, hoping to break into the industry. Within a year he was jaded and depressed and trying to get his old job back, but unable to. He couldn’t keep up his expenses and had to move back with his parents. The recession then hit and he figured out he didn’t actually have what it took to live on the breadline while chasing a dream. Most people need that safety net. Perhaps you should find a way to have a stable career and do your writing in your spare time.” I paused and thought about it.

“Well, I’m not like most people,” I said finally. “I’m willing to live on the edge to do what I love and chase my dream. And besides, I have no idea what else I can do anyway. If I end up in the gutter then so be it; at least I gave it a try.”

“You say that now when you’re young and full of angst, but seriously you may start to crave a bit more stability. Things about the system you thought were traps, you may start to look at them with desire. You’ll see the value of routine and being able to plan your weeks and months. You’ll want to not worry about where the rent money is going to come from. I’m not saying you should give up your dream to be a writer and do your backpacking trips – I hope you live a life doing what you love, as we all desire to deep down – but just be aware not to be too gung-ho and burn all your bridges. Think about finding the middle ground. I think that’s the best way.”

“Yeah, yeah…” I stalled. I was starting to feel a bit awkward and lectured. Still, it certainly was one of the more interesting conversations I had had on a first date. “I’ll think about it. But whatever happens, I’ll always be that wide-eyed dreamer running toward what I love. Maybe there is a balance, but you gotta make sure that chasing that balance didn’t mean you essentially traded your dreams for comfortable mediocrity. I see that a lot; people giving up on themselves and justifying it by calling in ‘growing up’ or something like that. Ultimately, the people who achieved something special were those who had the guts to go all the way on the pursuit of their passions. Yes, that pursuit can take us to the edge, but some of us are born to live on the edge. It’s that edge which sharpens our steel; which puts force behind our fingertips. It’s that edge where our greatest work is done.” 

At this point I could feel the eyes of the surrounding people in the bar on me. She sat across the table and also stared at me, undoubtedly deciding there and then that things weren’t going to go any further than a first date. It didn’t need to be spoken at that point and I was okay with it; the thoughts she shared showed we weren’t compatible on that front. They were also thoughts similar to those of my sister. My sister was a bit like me – critical of the system and a bit ‘alternative’ in many people’s view, but even she had eventually decided to pursue a career and embrace a conventional lifestyle. She rolled her eyes and looked at me with a ‘come on’ look every time I started talking about how I was going to work odd jobs and do medical trials to fund my lifestyle. “You need to find the middle way,” she also said. Suggestions came of finding a trade, a stable job, or going back to school – all of those things that seemed to identify you as someone who had ‘their shit together’. The same suggestions came from peers, from parents and from teachers. I guess people were concerned by my irregular behaviour, and just sharing what I deemed the common sense of the average civilised person – the same common sense that caused them to stare at me like a deranged madman when I told them my life plans.

It’s that balance you need, as people kept saying to me. To me, seeing how far you were willing to go on the pursuit of your dream was like a test of courage and resolve; and indeed, it seemed to me that the greatest treasures were found by those who went all the way. I thought about the great artists who had lingered on the edge before creating their masterpieces. I imagined a teenage Bob Dylan packing his bags and hitch-hiking to New York to perform in small cafes. I imagined Jack Kerouac drifting around the United States with barely a dollar to his name. Bukowski starving in small rooms alone. Orwell working as a dishwasher in Paris. Of course, these were the ones you knew about because they had eventually achieved success after living on the edge. For every great success, there were countless failures you never heard of. Or, as another dreamer put it: “For every moment of triumph, for every instance of beauty, many souls must be trampled.” (Hunter S Thompson)

It did of course occur to me that I was most likely to be one of those trampled souls in the dirt, my dreams dying in a ditch as the sun set on my unsuccessful quest of being a writer. But still, the idea of that was still more appealing than passively drifting through life without any fire in your heart. Even if you failed, you would at least know what it was like and to live with a passion for life in your veins. When I walked the street and stared at the faces and listened to the conversations, I felt sure that there weren’t many out there who had that same passion within them. Yes, many of them had the stability and the security. They had the car on the forecourt and the rug on the living room floor. The fireplaces were all lit and the fridges all full; but just how full was the soul? How was the fire in their hearts? How many were truly excited about what they were doing with their life? Personally, I felt that many people out there lived in a state of silent desperation in which they grew old in lives that saw them staring at strangers in the mirror; and indeed there were maybe only a few souls out there who had that magic spark in their eye. That was the spark of the dreamer; the free-spirited warrior who didn’t compromise or filter down their heart’s desires for the sake of ‘fitting in’ or ‘getting real’ or ‘growing up’.

Maybe it’s just me being a romantic idealist, but I believe the world needs those dreamers. Those runaway spirits; those renegade souls; those rebel writers. In fact, I believe the world needs them now more than ever, and I was proud to be one of them – or to at least be considered one of them, as the girl on the date, as my sister did, and many others did. I think that some of them were even envious that they didn’t have it in them to hurl themselves towards what their souls desired deepest. For me, it was the following of that desire that took me first toward travelling – hopping on that one-way flight to South America after finishing university. Within that came the mountain climbing, the hiking, the long-distance cycling, and finally, the writing and general avoidance of anything that stifled my soul. All of these things were things my soul screamed out for, and answering that call fulfilled me in a way that nothing else could. Yes, I didn’t have much physically to show for it: but if I were to lay down my head and bid my life goodbye, I would not have left this world without too many regrets. And isn’t that what a good life was? To know you lived it completely and authentically and passionately? To know you made the most of your one fleeting existence here on this planet?

That girl on the date, we didn’t see each other again, but that way okay. Some people are not made for our paths, but she did make me think – I’ll give her that. I know that my mind is a little more manic than most. Perhaps the degree in which I live isn’t for anyone, but it is for me. If one day you find me face down in a ditch – my cold dead hands clutching the manuscript of my unpublished novel – know that my life was one in which I actually felt a fundamental joy and connection to what I was doing when I woke up in the morning. I was there in those moments, not someone merely existing like many out there dwelling in dusty offices of the mind and soul, but someone alive and awake to each and every moment. Someone discovering a joy that cannot be bought or sold or manufactured. A joy that comes from living from the core of your being. A joy that comes from answering your soul’s call. A joy that comes from running wide-eyed into life’s wilderness, pursuing your treasure and not allowing anyone else to shoot you down for daring to dream and chase that dream and live that dream.