From when I was young I decided that I wanted to experience it all. I took this pretty seriously too. I was always trying new things and putting myself in these weird and peculiar places, and admittedly some were pretty bloody stupid as well. I even remember writing down a full list of all the things that I’d experienced to that date. Now, this list was a little confusing, superficial and confronting – well hey I was only a teenager and boobs were kinda a big deal – yet it did also start me thinking about what’s up next? You see I wanted to find out about this world; to live a life less ordinary and to make it count. To experience the full myriad of human emotions and to understand what it meant to be truly alive. Yep I was an inquisitive fella even back then, however, I knew nothing of how to seek for these answers, or more importantly I had no idea of the depths of this world either. Heck maybe I still don’t today! But today, I do understand that life is about seeking, being and experiencing. In fact, Deepak Chopra put it beautifully when he said ‘walk with those who seek the truth and run from those who think they’ve found it’. So I was, back then, a dreamer, a seeker; and as I aged and this illness took over my body I became even more so. But (at this point in my story) this seeking process was at a stand-still; I felt like all I was doing was health. Supplements, appointments, exploring alternatives. And look you know, I didn’t want to die without at least having a shot at my childhood fantasies. Like no matter what anybody says to you, no matter what anybody does to you, no matter what happens to you; your true essence cannot be touched. And my true essence was this fierce desire to live, to explore, and of course to ‘experience it all’.
With my disability though, or specifically the extent of my disability, no doubt this was an obstacle. But, it was something that I couldn’t afford to dwell on if I wanted to continue my search. Yep I’d have to out-shine it every single day. So, I ran with this whole dreamer thing, and then combined that with what quite possibly became my life’s motto of ‘having a crack’. It wasn’t even success that drove me, just having a shot at ‘experiencing it all’, and that’s what I dreamt about. Now this realisation made my mind flick back to yet another list that I wrote down, only this one was of the dreams that I jotted down just a few short years earlier at that bloody shitty respiratory centre. Yeah you know the one where I would lie in bed and dream of all the things that I was missing out on; all the things that I had missed out on, and all the things that I would love do when I was in a better situation – so really it was kind of like my dreams list. Or as now I was becoming to understand this was the makings of a Bucket List. However, my dilemma was still my disability; you see even back then I had very little movement so walking the Kakoda Track was probably going to be a pretty tuff gig. So, really there was a lot of planning (dreaming!) at this stage and not a lot of doing – I just wanted to get better so that I could fulfil some of these dreams. Penning a ‘things to do when I’m better list’ I guess was just another way to keep my focus on wellness. However, and quite naively I might say, I never realised that this was my actual bucket list… I mean heck I knew about the concept but I always thought that’s what people did when they’re dying – we’ve all seen the movie right!? Well I suppose things had been a bit touch and go over the years huh!
Anyways I kept on dreaming and writing; I wrote down 100’s of unrealistic ambitions whenever and wherever something would come to mind – and I’d say in doing so, the process somehow helped me keep my sanity through some of my darker days too. I had something to focus on and dreams for the future. But sadly, in reality they were just dreams; everything revolved around my health; sheesh I’d even dreamt about hosting my own TV show where I’d be doing all of this stuff, only I was just a sick and sorry cripple sitting in a wheelchair on a day-to-day basis. Something had to give. And I guess after years of living in the closet, I just got fed up with living such a sheltered life. I finally cracked the shits and wanted to start living my dreams – so I wrote a couple of more realistic ‘to do’ lists – in fact I still have one of these original lists stuck on the back of my bedroom door today. Now, needless to say, these lists weren’t nearly as exciting as you might imagine but they certainly helped me start living my life again. And I suppose you could even go as far as saying these lists helped me accept my disability; yeah they helped me discover that a wheelchair isn’t the do all and end all – something that I’d struggled with for years. Anyhow back to my list, it’s something that I’d seriously thought about doing for years, I think I’d been writing down ideas for about five years. My only problem was, as I’ve already mentioned, nearly everything in this book needed my health to improve to complete them. So, I constantly dreamt about the day I’d be better… and that just kept me waiting, waiting until I found myself waiting for something that may or may not happen. I never thought I’d start.
Now I think it’s fair to say these lists where having an impact on my life, but realistically I was still left wanting more. I still wasn’t better nor did I know how to go about it, and as I’m starting to realise more and more these days fate came knocking at my door. I was shown a blog written by a young aussie bloke. He was doing his own extravagant bucket list of 100 things; or in my thinking he was living the life I wanted so badly. Now I’ll go on about him more later, but blimey I started to think ‘damn this how the whole thing was done?’ Indeed! His blog was so much food for thought. So in an inspired further search for freedom, I started refining my own bucket list even more; I was always trying to think creatively around my disability. Hence I took the initiative to think and re-think what I wanted out of life and how best to get it. A more ‘doable’ bucket list seemed the most logical way to encompass what I desired – and also a way to keep me focussed and motivated – and with that I hoped to start doing some rather crazy and extraordinary things. To even surprised myself with some. Now with regards to this whole thing, I should also mention here that my bucket list turned out to be a little different to most (no running with the bulls for me), you see being quite disabled, I had to come up with a more realistic list (equally diverse in the range of challenges) yet with the primary goal of getting me out and about living life again. I mean, I’d already let far too many years just slip away! And to me this is what a bucket list is all about. It’s about challenging yourself and achieving things that you might normally see as unattainable, and of course living a fulfilling life.
But above all, and unintentionally, my bucket list provided the confidence to share my journey – actually it was my first step in proving that I am more than an illness (my illness). This list (and the subsequent adventures) gave me the confidence to write. It gave me the confidence to believe in my story. It helped me find my voice. In actual fact, that’s why I’m writing to you today – this tool of words was and has become the only way I could share my life [and thoughts] with the world. And words are a window to the soul (blah blah, sorry I couldn’t resist putting in that cheesy bit). So sure, you may think it’s pretty sad that it’s come to this, but being the optimist that I am, I guess I’m still pretty lucky to have this tool. I want my story to be told. So rawh OMG I run off on tangents way too much… anyhow I had this vision and I began following it – experiencing it all. No arms, no legs, no capital, no man power, just a functional mind and a dream.
Plus, rather than just telling people that I’m sick, this way I had something behind me