Taking the opportunity of a lifetime

2008-04-15 00:00

I used to love the A. A. Milne stories about Christopher Robin and his buddies, mostly Pooh Bear, but also Tigger, Piglet, Roo, Owl et al. Actually, I still love them and find that the story lines and characters provide rich analogies about real life.

I feel as though I’m Christopher Robin going on his expotition to the North Pole, tugging Pooh Bear and the others along, getting hopelessly lost in the snow while traipsing in square circles. Only my teddy bear’s name is Bally-Hoo. I use him as a pillow and I really do want to take him on my expotition, although it’s not to the North Pole.

For goodness sake, I’m only going south to the land of the long white cloud, which is 10% inhabited by South Africans, anyway. But right now I don’t care a sod about that. I’m initially going to be stok alleen, so I may as well be at the South Pole or on a remote planet.

It aggravates this scenario when well-meaning souls yack on about The Global Village and “Oh well, you can chat on Skype, blah, blah, blah.” Sure there’s the entire cyber spectrum that shrinks the planet. And yes, technology creates a sense of immediacy when compared with “once upon a time” when people wrote with quills dipped in ink, their letters taking a year across the boundless ocean and another elongated year anticipating a response.

But none of this cheers me up right now. It all feels quite illusionary and surreal.

I’m off to tackle the opportunity of a lifetime as a psychologist with the New Zealand Ministry of Education. I see it as my mature rite of passage, but the feeling inside is only imaginable to anyone who has gone off to the North or South Pole at the age of 50-something, sans their precious ensemble. How does one justify this, I’m asked. But I don’t think it’s about justification. It’s more about following a sort of preordained destiny.

People, it would seem, gravitate somewhere along the optimism-pessimism trajectory correlating with their life-view. There are the Tiggers that bounce up and down patting one on the back till one’s winded, bellowing enthusiastically “wow, well done. It’s fan-bloody-tastic that you’re going off on an adventure and I’m soooo proud of you …” and then there are the Eeyores who interrogate one in a bleakly monotone drone: “Do you actually think you’ll survive?” Or even worse, they acerbically insinuate that one’s abandoning the great ship of Africa…. That truly p&%$# me off.

The world’s a merry-go-round and intrepid humanity has gone continent skipping ever since being water borne. People have explored every inch of the globe, but when it’s Africa that they’re departing from, the Eeyores defensively hurl abuse at them, gooi them with a klip or judgmentally announce from their Piglet cotton-wool niche that it’s a veritable skande.

At this juncture thanks to the Tiggers for their support. And “ag shame” to the Eeyores. Maybe globe trotting is a walk in the park for some or a total no-no for others. Whatever it is, it’s a personal odyssey that should remain just that. I too have Africa in my bone marrow and soon I shall tell you about all the things I’m bound to miss. But I’m also a creature of the planet. And of life’s inordinate transience. Exploration is a profound life opportunity. It’s good to climb out of one’s comfort zone — to change one’s pastel daydream into a reality by pursuing one’s pilgrimage. It’s seizing the moment that makes one grow hair on one’s chest. As a woman I don’t want the latter, but I do think that adventurers should be permitted to travel the high road without the tut-tuts of the intense variety being thrown at them by the Bostik-bum brigade.

A major paradigm shift brings with it excitement, challenge and massive trepidation. Above all it is horrendously painful, shredding the gut-naked stuff wedged within one’s soul. It’s not always about hedonistic pleasure or selfish gratification. It can be about making immense sacrifices which existentially grow one and all those whom one is closest to.

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