Why am I doing this?
In 2009, I was twenty seven year of age. I had nothing but a good life to date. I was settled in Sydney, living three beaches away from my parents, and only minutes away from a handful of good friends. I’m lucky.
If I were to jot my credentials down on paper, they would read like many others; school, sports, university, part-time jobs, and romantic flings. Like you, I’ve been fortunate enough to grow up in a time when travel is easy, cheap and more or less safe. And like you most probably, I’ve taken advantage of this when I can.
It has only been over the last two or three years however, where my views on life have contorted, changed and evolved. Oblivious to me, my way of thinking at some stage took a tangent away from the ‘norm’, and only more recently have I realised that this needed to be addressed.
What is the ‘Norm’?We live in a society that encourages financial security of the individual, over self-fulfilment of the individual.
Generally speaking, high-school equips us with a knowledge that is used as a means of qualifying us for further learning. By our mid twenties, we have acquired enough knowledge deemed necessary to start working. This is timely, as by now we have also accumulated quite the monetary debt. From this stage, we are taught to traverse an obstacle course that stretches for roughly forty years. The goal is security. Earn more money, to buy a bigger house, to house a larger family, whilst saving enough money to prepare for the best part of our lives; retirement.
Retirement equals security. Only once we have reached this stage are we finally encouraged to focus on self-fulfillment. And not a moment, too soon, for at sixty-five years old, the average person only has ten or so years left to live. Society creates a rat race. A race for survival, in the name of security.
This is not to say that through the course of following the above regime, goals and milestones aren’t achieved. Of course the purchase of a house or a rise in pay are great achievements, but they are not necessarily achievements that satisfy us as individuals on a primal level.
Instead, they are the ideals of a society encouraging financial security. Checkpoints on a map forced upon us at a young age.
After following this map for so long, it becomes too easy to lose yourself.
What is Self Fulfillment?
Self fulfillment is specific to the individual. It may indeed mean financial security to one person, while to another it may mean emotional development. What is most important however, but often overlooked by the individual, is that we take the time to define this term self fulfillment for ourselves. If we don’t, we run the risk of being left unsatisfied, unhappy, and unfulfilled. Ultimately many of us end up following a map that we didn’t plot.
I was lucky enough to have a realisation. A moment of clarity where I was able to take a step back from reality. In this moment, I was able to define my own self fulfilment. I pencilled everything I wanted to do on a piece of paper. The result was a list of sorts. Starting at number ‘1’, and finishing at number ‘100’. Each item on the list exciting me greatly!
Trivial tasks sit next to epic adventures. Childhood dreams mix amongst adult fantasies. For me, my self-fulfilment is all about living life, trying everything once, and living everyday without a regret.
Individually, not of all of the items on my list are imperative to my wellbeing or satisfaction, but combined they write a code, and set a standard by which I now chose to live by. Together, these one hundred points compose a lifestyle. A lifestyle that lets me free, enriching my soul and filling me with joy. Not just by achieving points on my list do I feel this way, but also through the journey which unfolds along the way. My self-fulfilment is a lifestyle without boundaries.
I am lucky enough to have realised this.
When did I realise my Self-fulfillment?
At the age of twenty-four, I was working in Saskatchewan, Canada. It was the early beginnings of what later became my business in Sydney. However, an impromptu falling-out between work colleagues combined with my own inability to manage my credit card meant that I needed to fly back home to Sydney to recuperate. With one week left before my flight home, I noticed what I thought to be a mistake on my bank statement. They had swindled me out of two hundred dollars! Naturally I was outraged and sought compensation immediately. Within minutes of ringing my bank manager in Australia, I was told that the only mistake was that of my own maths, and consequently I was not owed anything.
Just as I was about to hang up the phone, the voice then inquired,
“Sebastian, by the way, my computer is telling me that I can extend your credit card limit by three and half thousand dollars on the spot. Does this interest you?”
Within ten minutes of hanging up the phone, I had booked a flight to Las Vegas.
A few days after this, I heard about Chris.
Chris, or Detho, as everyone knew him, was a close friend of mine. We grew up together on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. We played rugby together, rowed together and went to school together. Detho was everyone’s best mate. Not only was he a great person, but so too are all his family. They all played a large part within a closely-knit community.
Detho had lived in the same house for his whole life; only minutes from our school, and closer again to our surf club. Everyone had been to Detho’s. He was a legend in his own right.
I received a phone call early one morning from a mutual friend in Australia.
Detho had died overnight. He was twenty-four years old.
I fell silent on the phone. To be honest I can’t recall what was said after that.
As was common with Chris, he had been partying all night with good friends. He was always known for this. The partying had continued through the night and into the next morning, where they found themselves in a friends backyard. A testosterone-fuelled game of roof-jumping then ensued. Chris was a big kid at heart. He enjoyed the fun side of life. Attempting to outdo each other, as boys do, Detho went too far, and tragically lost his life. He died at the scene. Coincidently, the first responding ambulance officer was one of his good friends. They had rowed together.
Logistically, I could not attend the funeral. I was left in North America, pondering. My parents of course did attend. They, along with hundreds of others, had to stand outside the church due to the sheer number of people grieving the loss.
Reflection and Change
Death sparks reflection, first of the deceased, and then of you. Why are we here? Are we doing the right thing? Am I happy with my life? Were they happy with theirs?
If Detho knew that this particular day, and that particular moment, was going to be his last, would he have changed what he was doing? Would he have changed his last week, last month or even year? In fact, given another chance, would Detho have changed the way he lived up to that point, full stop?
I think the answer to this is no. He was exactly where and how he wanted to be. He was fulfilled. He was happy.
Ultimately, he was lucky.
I wondered how many of us would be the same?
Could I say the same thing? What if, in my afterlife, I answer yes to the above questions? Yes, I would have changed my last day, my last week and the way I lived. What if when I die, I am not satisfied, happy or fulfilled with what has gone before me?
I asked myself why I might answer yes? I fetched a piece of paper and started to write. I wrote down firstly what I’d change, and then wrote what it was I would actually do if given another chance.
Death puts things into perspective.
Life is fragile. Death is final. We only have life.
I looked at what I wrote on that piece of paper. It was a list of 100 things.
Here in front of me was the key to my self-fulfillment. This was my chance to answer no.
By sheer coincidence, my Vegas wedding was on the same day as Dethos funeral. I think this was a sign.
I decided then and there that I would complete my list.