Saturday, 25 April 2020

Stone in the pond

Back in my previous life when I was in the medical research academic arena, I wavered between loving science and considering that I really should rather be in medicine - more people orientated. At one such junction, I remember very clearly a boyfriend saying to me that when you're a doctor, you help people one at a time. He said that in research you have the ability to change the lives of millions.

As things happened, 20 years ago I left that life and ended up in writing and media because of my passion for adventure racing and trail running.

As I've often thought about apocalypses, I have been under no illusion that most of the work that I've done in these two decades - writing about events, writing articles, doing public relations writing for companies, running and editing websites, creating events - has been a 'frilly' occupation. When an asteroid hits the planet (or a virus spreads throughout humanity!), those websites and articles and words don't matter. My sewing, crochet, cooking and gardening skills are more valuable. People with skills like mechanics, plumbers, electricians, builders, medical... they are really critical.

One thing I am really good at is building communities and bringing people together.

The first website I ever built back in 1995 was one called, "Underwater Hockey Tourist", a website that listed underwater hockey clubs, venues, training days and times, and contacts around the world. I'd been playing for a year by then and much of the world's interaction was through an email group list. I saw so many emails by people writing that they're travelling to XYZ and did anyone know if UWH was played there... The idea behind the site was to provide a directory so that a travelling underwater hockey player could hook up with a team to enjoy their company and a game. One big friendly and welcoming family. I passed this website on in about 2002 and it still exists - although in a very different format to the HTML coded one (every page was hand coded) that I built all those years ago when the web was young.

In 2001 I built the adventure racing website, which I ran and edited for 15 years (the site has another owner now), and then a year later created AR Club. By the late 2000s, I'd created AR Gaiters. I ran dozens of navigation clinics over 15 years. In 2010 I created FEAT, an annual adventure speakers event, and Forest Run. And then there were the Metrogaine events, annual Winter Spruit run, Summer Series events... When I moved to Parys in December 2015, I was immediately involved as an Event Director of our Parys parkrun. In 2017 I launched YOLO and in 2018 we launched Vagabond Kayaks.

All of these, with the exception of YOLO, which has a bit of a community element, are all sport and activity related. Great for health and wellness and fitness, but hardly useful in an apocalypse.

Despite my 'realistic cynicism', I am aware of difference that, an article that I've written or a workshop that I hosted may have had on the lives of individuals. Indeed, there are dozens of people that attended the annual FEAT events for whom a speaker's talk touched and changed their lives, which lead to a cascade of events.

I received a "How are you doing?" whatsapp from a dear friend yesterday. We've been good friends over many years although we haven't had much interaction in recent years, especially with me living in Parys. His life changed direction a number of years and much of his work focus is as a running / trail / fitness coach. He is good at it and it so very much suits him. His message was so special and it brought tears to my eyes - of warmth and appreciation.

He wrote:

"You've been on my mind.
"I think you've been in my thoughts especially now because I'm putting my trail skills course online and I have been remembering how valuable was to me when I first started racing.
"I turned up to race with three guys I'd never met before. I had all the right gear, I knew all the language. I was this fountain of AR knowledge and it's because in the two weeks leading up to the race I had read everything you'd written.
"You just never know the impact you have by putting stuff into the world. It's the stone in the pond; ripples go out.
"I have 50 clients who I have managed to keep fit and motivated to train to a greater or lesser degree during this time [lockdown]. I get glowing feedback from some on having helped them to get through this. They all have stronger immune systems right now. I probably wouldn't be doing what I'm doing if your writing hadn't helped my start on this path.
"You have touched a lot of people with your words and your example. Thank you."

It is the frilly things that bring joy to our everyday existence - to go for a run, music we listen to, movies we enjoy and a kayak that we paddle. These give us a lot of reasons to wake up in the morning and contribute to making us who we are.
They're not the same as caring for the sick or building a water purification plant but they actually are just as important. A life lived is one filled with interests and activities.

'Frilly' has its place. I've saved this message in this post so that every time I despair and ask myself yet again "What am I doing with my life!", I can be reminded that frilly has a place in the world, even in an apocalypse.

Stone in the pond indeed.

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