MY JOURNEY TO THE DREAM.
I consider myself really privileged to have grown up in a small country town in South West Queensland during the 50’s and 60’s. Life seemed so free and uncomplicated in that environment in that particular era. As young boys, a group of us used to ride our bikes all over the country side, climbing over fences to fish in a farmer’s creek or dam. I remember an occasion when a couple of us made a canoe by folding a rusty sheet of galvanised iron in half and sealing the end joints with tar. We carried it about a mile to the nearest dam where we nearly drowned ourselves trying to make it float. I also recall the weekly night tennis gatherings which a group in my class started when I was about 14. On hot summer nights, this activity was often followed by nude swimming in the town lagoon, jumping off the pumping station jetty – a way of expressing our youthful, free spirits.
There was very little concern about danger. The front door of our house was always unlocked and Dad never removed the key from his car ignition.
However, among the fond memories of the freedom and simplicity of country town life, I also have many recollections of regularly experiencing significant loneliness. I was a comparatively introverted, quiet natured boy with poorer than average muscle development. Therefore I had low self esteem and little confidence about my sporting ability.
With these personal challenges, at the age of 15 I entered life in a boarding school for two years. Being as self conscious as I was about my skinny, under developed body, I was a prime target for bullying, mostly in the form of humiliating and intimidating comments. I seemed to be surrounded by large numbers of well built athletic guys who had a strong focus on their sporting goals. Consequently I found myself on a highly negative comparison trip.
The loneliness was intense. I hardly slept for the first six months.
While the first year was extremely uncomfortable, in many ways it was probably one of the most beneficial years of my life. It forced me to take a close look at myself and the areas in which I needed to grow rapidly, especially in physical and social development.
Looking back, I can see that I could have really benefitted from a mentor at the time – someone who would have come alongside me and said, “I would like to show you how you can make a big change to your muscle and strength development, and sporting skills, and how to think more positively about your life in general.”
However, in the absence of that ideal mentor, between the ages of 15 and 18 I did a reasonable job of mentoring myself, through self analysis and establishing strategies for the personal development I needed to achieve. I emerged from boarding school with a significantly improved level of self esteem, and belief in my ability to achieve a rewarding life and form lasting friendships. Another legacy of my self-mentoring efforts is that ever since leaving school I have consistently maintained a commitment to physical fitness, mostly through swimming, running and body-weight exercises (and playing football up to age 25).
I am now very thankful for the fear, anxiety and loneliness I experienced during my teen years because they have produced in me a high level of compassion and sensitivity for anyone who experiences marginalisation or any form of social rejection.
It took me a long time to settle into a structured career path. Through a couple of years in National Service (Army), including a short tour of duty in Vietnam, I discovered the adventurous spirit within me. At the end of that term I found myself too restless to settle into any specific career for more than a few years. Between 1970 and 1980 I drove tractors, sold real estate, worked in an international hotel and operated a refuge house for homeless youth with alcohol and drug problems. Three years as a lifeline telephone counsellor helped me to identify that I would enjoy working with people with some form of support needs. Subsequently I spent 25 years working with people with disabilities.
Following that particular chapter of my working life, the next ten years in a contract management position with a Queensland State Government department took me through to my retirement at age 65 (2015). I then completed a diploma in youth work which prepared me for a semi-retirement career as a school chaplain which I am finding extremely rewarding.
Because of my clear recollections of what I went through in my youth, I have retained an awareness of the potential lasting negative impact any experiences of prolonged fear, rejection and loneliness can have on the self esteem of a child or teenager.
Now that I am at retirement age, mentoring youth has become a passion for me. I want to be the mentor I never had for young people who encounter challenges similar to those I experienced at the same age.
Reflecting on the past 66 years, I can now see how my combined life experiences have contributed to my current dream. Through the 100,000 Mentors project I hope to inspire and motivate others to identify and act upon opportunities to support and encourage young people to dream big, aim high and overcome the diverse range of obstacles they encounter through their lives.
I am truly blessed to be married for 35 years to the best wife I could ever ask for. We have a beautiful close family of two sons, two daughters, and their growing families.
Through the application of my personal spiritual beliefs, I am consistently aware of a power within me guiding me in the ways of perfect love and wisdom. I am also aware that I could achieve greater outcomes for the benefit of others by a more disciplined response to that guidance.
I’m working on that.