For as long as I can recall I have been more interested in the physical rather than the intellectual side of the employment spectrum.
This preference probably has a great deal to do with my upbringing.
As a boy, school holidays were invariably spent working on the family farm; weekends usually no different. When it came time to select a career therefore, given that labouring was the only money-making strategy I had ever known, working with my hands seemed the obvious way to go.
Furthermore having grown up in an environment where tinkering with cars was a common pastime, the decision to enter into the automotive industry was a logical step.
Given my flair for all things academic this ‘logical step’ was perceived by many as a questionable choice: in the opinion of classmates I was disregarding my natural talent; some teachers even believed that I was selling myself short.
I wasn’t bothered. I was following my passion. Besides, there was no bloody way that I was going to wind up behind a desk; heaven forbid, at a computer.
Leaving school on completion of Year 12 and securing a workshop position with a local transport firm, life seemed almost too easy.
Too easy. Ha. It didn’t take long for life to reveal its sinister undercurrents – less than 12 months later unforeseen circumstances forced me to turn my back on my beloved automotive industry.
Fortunately I still had that other, God given ability.
Much as I endeavoured to maintain the physical side of life, I could feel it leaving me – dexterity had become limited. Cognitively, small motor control was gone. I accepted these deficits. What I refused to accept was that I could no longer sustain hard labour. I believed – I still believe that if I can perform a task once, I can perform it hundreds of times. I always used to have a seemingly infinite supply of stamina so, I query somewhat indignantly, why the hell should I have to pace myself now?
Well, I am older now than I have ever been. I don’t think that’s the reason though. I think the real issue is in my head.
I think it’s that cliché that we like to direct at the defeatists of the world, those people who give up before even really trying; those who say it’s hopeless before even beginning the search for hope…
To these people, we like to say: “Harden up loser, it’s all in your head.”
Great. So if my issues really are all in my head, surely my old faithful Mind Over Matter will cure what ails me..? Right. Here we go then.
‘Come on, I’m keen as to undertake a day of gruelling physical labour. Bring it on. Why should I not? Nothin’ stoppin’ me. I’m fit, strong, energetic, I have an athletic physique – shit man, I’m buff as. I am the personification of physical labour…’
If only it were that simple. If only the issue were not in my head.
It’s not a heavy head either; it’s not even overly large, yet it is my head that slows me down. Who could have imagined such an occurrence – my own brain has become the bane of my desire to commit to physical labour.
I still split a lot of firewood, still ride my bicycle with furious abandon; still like to do whatever it is that raises my heart rate to near popping point and causes perspiration to cascade from my brow.
Alas labouring is becoming increasingly laborious. Despite maintaining the peak of physical fitness, physical labour soon drains me.
So what am I doing now?
Whatever I can do within the physical realm.
What about those things that I can no longer do?
I leave them. Focus on what I can do. In other realms. I focus on the intellectual side of life. For me, that is now the escape. The physical side has a habit of presenting insurmountable obstacles. The intellectual side has its barriers also, but they can generally be surmounted.
Don’t misunderstand me, I am still passionate about my physical labour – nothing gives me greater satisfaction than working myself to fatigue. Problem is that these days it doesn’t take terribly long.
So I write stories about my hardship in the hope that it might help another through theirs; I write stories to make people laugh; I write stories because it’s something that after everything, after sustaining severe brain trauma, I can still do well.
So here I am, over ten years on, writin’ stuff.
It’s what I do now.
Article by Mit Reklaw
Edited by Harten Upp
Photography by Dusom Reel-Wurke