The slump that chased my Mississippi paddle forced me to assess the dividing line between happiness and sadness, a chasm I have criss-crossed countless times since I decided to try and create a life with limitless boundaries. I’m not ashamed to say I fall helplessly and feather-like into lowness following most expeditions: recalculation and indeterminably slight depression claim my creativity, motivation and joy, despite unacceptable (but necessary) amounts of caffeine being poured into my system. It used to bother me but now I accept these post-journey grumps as part of the process and like any break up all you can do is be positive and let time apply the medicine.
These blues are both unsurprising and a worthy price to pay for the healthy, happy days of an expedition so full of challenge, vibrancy and newness. Only by refining how you judge beauty can you find contentment in black and white pictures after experiencing a full range of colour. Just as I lessen the bravery of my decision-making by viewing the possibility of failure as a positive, I embrace my depressive self wholeheartedly; partly because it’s cathartic, partly because nobody else will. Besides, contemplation is a dish best served when staring at one’s navel.
Had I remained behind a desk with my back to a third- floor wall – a cubicle mentality caressing the ambition-killing comfort that routine, regular paycheque and screensaver- with-exotic-beachscape served me daily – I wouldn’t know myself in the slightest. We westerners live in an age where the weak can survive for eight decades and where survival without trying is now a right. The gift of being born into fortune is often repaid by squandering endless opportunities, turning a blind eye to our dreams because they’re not sensible, and the acceptance of an innate fear and discouragement of peeking beyond the very lip of the box into which we were delivered. We rarely do ourselves justice. Innovators and creators are labelled as crazy. Such is the ease of modern day life we become ruthlessly fond of blaming others for everything that goes wrong in our lives, often without twitching a muscle in self help.
It pisses me off.
But that’s just because I was lucky enough to be caught slap bang in a turbulent confluence of ennui and despair, stale love, soul-destroying work and passionless personality. By the time I turned 25 my best story was that I’d been given two chickens for my 21st birthday and named them Tikka and Korma, there was no denying that I’d become a feckless loser. Once at rock bottom there was little more to lose, so I made something of myself. You lift one finger to the world with enough feeling and the rest of your body follows, and before you know it you’re setting up your own genius business or standing on a stage with a microphone or watching the general public file past paintings in your own exhibition, or you’re paddling a river, climbing a mountain, writing a book, waking up smiling.