I remember my tree fort as a kid. It was bigger and more gnarly than any other in the neighbourhood. It was up a rocky bank crawling in ivy, built from the remains of an actual house. Access was via rope, steps and planks and coming down was via a slide that was so fast and long my hair would blow back as I whizzed all the way down.
That place was my haven, a place for creating childhood treasures and to dream of adult adventures around travelling, entertaining, connecting… living with cerebral palsy was never seen to get in the way. Well, not by me.
When the rest of the community would come for a family day at the Calkoen’s people would look all the way up at my tree fort and say to my parents things like “Do you really let Cam climb all the way up there? What if he falls?” To which mum and dad would respond with “But what if he makes it to the top?”
I’m glad that I grew up in an environment of risk explorers rather than risk avoiders. If I did try to make it to the top as quickly as the other children I would fall, but through strategising and taking it slowly I did make it to the top again and again and again. Falling wasn’t something we had to worry about and those adult dreams have become, well… part of life.
I find reflecting on our childhood to be a fun way of deciding what to do next in our adulthood. While our goals today may feel more sophisticated and less ‘part of the path’ it’s only because we never stopped climbing. Remember how uncomfortable it was tying a shoelace for the first time, learning times tables or learning to drive. So why stop now? Why stop ever!
I like to ask people who succeed beyond what others have imagined possible, what their secret is. They all respond along the lines of “Once we get comfortable, we challenge ourselves further."
Challenging ourselves further can bring about fear but it can also bring more awesomeness than ever imagined and that’s part of the thrill, the thrill of thriving rather than simply surviving.
Stepping into the unknown is always pretty scary and I often ask mum and dad what choices they made when they heard that I’d been born with cerebral palsy, something that they did not expect. They always respond with the same words, to keep hold of the dream that inspired them to be parents.
Dreams are not airy fairy impossibilities; dreams are what see us achieving more. But we have to be prepared to take a risk, to do what’s different and get comfortable with the idea of taking on the uncomfortable. With that, we can dream, we can climb and we can achieve more!