Tuesday, May 12, 2015

The Narrative of Our Journey (Craig Ruddock)

Guest Post

I have been niggling my cousin Craig (and you) to write a guest post. He found a moment while in the air and he got into the flow. I ask for about 500 words since most of us are busy. A short post on one idea means we can read it in a few minutes. It isn’t a big ask to read, and hopefully gets us talking about stuff that matters. Craig got in the zone and wrote a bit more than that. Awesome. There are no rules. What I am keen on is people chatting about the good stuff. If that is longer, so be it. If it is just what you are thinking, brilliant. No one is your high school English teacher. Sorry Mr Robinson. You are my high school English teacher. But I think the point is the idea, not the number of words. Not the grammar. Anyway, you get my point, so let's get to Craigs.

Craig finding moments in the air

The Narrative of Our Journey
by Craig Ruddock

We’re all on a journey, we just don’t always realise it. In the end, one way or another it will be concluded.

For a long time when somebody said “journey”, I assumed there was a purpose and a plan; a reason to travel, a clear destination and a logical route to follow. Increasingly I relate more to a metaphor of a journey - our journeys through life, of which travel is a part, and very often a game-changing part. Being with children really helps me with this approach. Watching and sharing their unprejudiced inquisitive exploration of opportunities presented to them. Every journey, big or small, is an adventure where they investigate every possible detour along the way. From crawling to walking, then climbing and dancing, gurgling to being bi-lingual, the journey from the bathroom to front door - they are all equally explored and valued (often to distress of time-conscious parents).

As we grow we all too often follow familiar pathways and explore less and less, taking fewer detours. We have safer journeys, but possibly a lot less exciting. As we are all on our own increasingly complex journeys, our pathways very often cross. For me this is where the magic happens, the unexpected surprise of a detour and being able to discuss and share our life travelling hopes, fears, dreams and experience.

I started to become aware of a journey when I was 4 and my parents told me were going to relocate to South Africa. I remember every detail of that moment, early on a Sunday morning in Birmingham in the autumn of 1982. I had no idea what it really meant or what a life-changing moment that would turn out to be for me, but the excitement was uncontainable. The next 9 years were a roller-coaster ride in so many different ways. Ultimately it was fantastic experience of sharing journeys of unimaginable diversity. Journeys of childhood, friends and bonding with South African cousins, journeys of privilege and poverty, of oppression and freedom, of pleasure and politics, journeys of struggles and of people.

Me and Craig's sister Jude as little people in South Africa

Six years later after moving back to the UK pathways started to cross again. On registration day at Uni. in Chichester I noticed someone wearing a sweater with the logo of my old school, Waterford KaMhlaba in Swaziland. She looked vaguely familiar so I marched over and started a conversation. She turned out to be an old friend, Carla. She was a pupil of my Mom in grade 5, and her mother was my old Grade 5 teacher at primary school in the parallel class. We hadn’t had contact since Swaziland and she still lived there travelling to UK annually to study… on the same degree course as me! Big coincidence but I got used to it. After 2 years at Uni. a mutual friend from our course said one evening “I’ve just had a pint with your cousin Trevor in the Pub - he says ‘Hi'”. This confused me as I did not have any cousins nearby, especially cousins called Trevor. The only Trevor I could think of was in Durban. Think again. Next day Cousin Trevor Black walks into the Student Union bar.  Fast forward to today and now my old best mate Andrew from Swaziland is living in London, and is best mates with my cousin Stephen Black. One of my best childhood friends from the UK, Sam, has landed-up as head of department of music at the same school in Swaziland where Carla, Andrew and I studied, and Carla moved back also to work with Sam at the same school. 

We’re all on our own journeys and these instances they have magically and beautifully intertwined at various points. That has become part of our journey together. A shared journey.

We’re all simultaneously on a personal journey as well as communal one. Be it family, friends, colleagues, our local community or human kind, we are also on a journey together. Like an intricately woven tapestry that weaves itself in time, each of our journeys is a thread in that tapestry and without it the cloth would not be the same. 

Having well defined life and career goals and destinations is an increasingly popular topic in personal and career development. This is great. Having a destination is an obvious tool for planning and budgeting a journey. Taking the most efficient and direct route and mode of transport needs a destination to work towards. However goals and destinations are only helpful if you’re willing to move and adapt them. Things happen along the way that are outside of our control, especially when you are travelling with others. 

Even if we post rationalise events to retrospectively build a journey, there is huge value in it. What is important is that we are writing the narrative of our lives and in doing so highlighting importance, adding value to and developing our sense of identity. We will always arrive somewhere, and sometimes our arrival becomes the destination.

Back at Uni. in Chichester, Carla also introduced me to a Swedish exchange student who is now my wife. Another game changer. My destination moved - to Stockholm, where I’ve been for the past 15 years. That’s far longer than I’ve ever lived anywhere else. And this leg of my journey has turned pages on my map, opening a million new pathways, intersections and learning opportunities. Not least 2 great kids, the career path I’m on (so unplanned) and a new 3rd language and culture.

Zoom out, look a the map that grows as you move back, notice the increasing numbers of paths to take, the obstacles along the way, but also the options for changing the journey to move around the obstacles. Notice the intersections, the crossing of possible pathways, and the pathways we don’t choose somebody else will choose for themselves. All of this enriching the journey and ultimately the narrative of time where we are a key character in wonderful chapter.

Have a plan and an itinerary, stay inquisitive, explore different avenues, dare to discard the plan and change the destination, consider where you are on your journey, remember everyone else on a journey too - and most of all, enjoy your travelling through life.

I’m writing this in seat 5A on a B777 at 36000 ft., somewhere over Kazakhstan, en route from Bangkok to new intersections in my life journey.
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