It’s a special day for me today, September 4th.
Each year, on this day, I take a moment to reflect on my life and how far I’ve come.
And with gratitude celebrate the fact I am still alive, I am free to walk the earth and no one is telling me what to do.
On September 4th 1999 I was arrested on the streets of Brisbane and charged with 7 counts of theft, 7 counts of break & enter, 1 charge of wilful damage and 1 charge of common assault.
Now why would I tell you that?
Because the night of September 4th changed my life forever.
It threw me into ‘the dark night of the soul’ that some of us need to finally wake up and start thinking, acting and being different.
So different am I now that it’s scarcely a memory in my mind and has become more of a legend than a story.
But either way… my story continues and I am grateful.
It took 15 months to go through the judicial system with 12 appearances in court.
My lawyer encouraged me to gather letters of recommendation of which I did
And to begin voluntary community service to show I am repentant and ready to give back to society for all I had taken.
I undertook a drug counsellors course with an organisation called Drug Arm and began fortnightly street patrols giving out food and blankets and helping drug users find help and support.
I was 19 years old.
Every young person on the street was attracted to me and shared their deepest wounds.
I found myself listening with attentive ears to stories of teenage drug abuse, overdose, rape and more.
Emotionally I grew rapidly.
From my working class, 2 parent family
Acting out to break the mould by busting into parked cars to steal small change for a thrill
To hearing real life hell on the streets of Brisbane from girls and boys as young as 12.
On the day of sentencing the judge took kindly to my efforts to restore my life and with this statement let us go:
“You’re a good kid who made some bad choices. But if I see you here again, I’ll throw the book at you!”
My friend and I received a ‘no-recorded conviction’ meaning no permanent record, and 150 hours community service.
I was over the moon and ready to move on with my life.
I had deferred University a year earlier and was working full time managing Vodafone stores throughout Brisbane.
A natural at sales and leadership I was promoted quickly and given many opportunities. Money was abundant and so were the accolades. I was excited to continue my growth in business and in life.
On the short walk out of the courtroom I was faced with the man who caught my friend and I 15 months earlier as we were trying to break into his car.
He was broad shouldered in a dark leather jacket.
As I walked past he glared at me. Into the cell phone at this ear he said:
’Yeah, they got off!”
It was chilling.
Yet I was free, and quickly regained the lightness in my step as I strolled out into the sunshine.
The next morning on my drive to work I met this man once more. Screaming at me through the open window of his car telling me he was going to kill me.
I couldn’t make this stuff up!!
I sped off through the red light shaken but not stirred.
The next morning I woke up to find a brick through the back window of my car. Not a good sign.
The following day a phone call came through telling me I was going to die.
My friend and accomplice of the past was still tied to the streets and was able to find out who he was.
The owner of a local car audio shop it turned out… Hmm, interesting.
A day or two later I received another phone call this time the man was threatening to kill my 9 year old sister.
OK, this just got real!
I told my Dad. A short, stout, part Maori, ex-footballer from Sydney with a hell of a temper and a history of violence.
We drove to his shop and my Dad promptly got to work threatening him back.
To no use.
He had decided I was part of a crime syndicate out to destroy his small business.
Some connection he derived in his mind about my girlfriends, sisters boyfriend who was the manager of a car audio shop in a chain throughout Brisbane.
All of a sudden I was a ‘goon’ (his words) sent to wreak havoc and collapse his empire.
I was working full time, trying to clean up the mess I made the year before.
Crime was the last thing on my mind, let alone being a ‘goon’ trying to put some poor bastard out of business.
We left his shop having got no further, other than to realise the man was serious.
He meant what he said. He was going to kill me if I made “one wrong move”.
Whatever that meant.
On Dad’s advice we went straight to the police and put a restraining order on him.
The crazy man in the leather jacket was no longer permitted by law to speak with me or come within 100 meters of me or my home.
The next morning (you know how this goes right) he called me.
“The Police just visited me! You’ll be dead by this afternoon!”
I told Dad.
“Ok son, you’ve got 2 options” Dad started.
“One, we put you in protective custody and you fight this lunatic in the courts.”
“Two, you get on a plane right now and fly back to Cairns (where we grew up) and stay with Aunty Kathy.”
I was shellshocked and stunned. I asked Dad what I should do.
He told me to pack a bag… you’re getting out of here!
I called work and told them I had to leave… immediately.
I reluctantly sent a fax (ah the good old days) with my letter of resignation.
Dad covered me under a blanket in the backseat of this car and drove me, at speed, to the airport.
Having worked for Qantas as airport ground crew for the past 8 years Dad just swiped his card and drove straight into the secure compound.
He literally walked me onto the plane (having phoned ‘work’ and got me a seat. Again… the good old days)
He told the flight attendant, whom he knew well, to take care of me.
Two hours later I was met in Cairns airport by my dear Aunty Kathy.
Feeling overwhelmed with emotion I asked if I could borrow her car to have some time alone.
I drove to the old lookout at the top of what was then just a bush track overlooking Cairns city.
For more than a few hours I totally lost it. Totally broke down and wept like I had never before.
My life was in ruins.
I quit University for the job of my life. A long career in corporate making incredible money.
I had 16 criminal convictions, albeit non-recorded.
My family was ashamed of me.
Friends didn’t want to know about me for every time I went to a party I got stupid drunk and ended up in a fight.
All of this in just 2 years since leaving high school head held high as School Captain and head of the Student Representative Committee.
I was a good person. I thought.
At least that’s what I wanted to be.
So what happened? How did it all get so wrong??
I reflected deep that day well past dark. I thought of everything that had happened in the past few years.
I asked myself the tough questions that a 19 year old usually doesn’t’ seek answers for.
But I was now different.
From courtrooms to drug addicted street kids; to high rolling, making lots of money.
I was changing so fast it was hard to keep up with ‘who I am’.
I started to piece together some common threads in my mind and I came to realise a few things that may have contributed to arriving in this desperate place.
1. Violence had caused me a lot of pain.
I received my back belt in Karate from the Police Youth Club after 6 years of training with some of the most honourable men I will ever know. My Sensei (head teacher) was a decorated bravery award winning SWAT team officer. My Sempai (second in charge) were 3 other Police officers of great standing.
6 times state champion in full contact Karate. I attended the Australian championships as the only Brown Belt there. An early disqualification saw me out of the race. Never mind. My dreams of becoming a professional fighter still held strong.
When I left Cairns and the Dojo I fell into Ronin territory, a wandering warrior with no allegiance. I was lost without their guidance.
At 17 I stood up to my father, who was again drunk, and he hit me. Not hard but enough to rush adrenaline and my instincts to kick in.
I bashed my father in a rage and our relationship splintered.
At 18, just out of high school I began to drink alcohol myself for the first time. My system lapped it up and rage grew in me.
Every party I went to for the next 6 months I was in at least one fight. On a few occasions I decided to fight 3 or 5 guys at once.
I was in so much pain inside I didn’t care, I just needed to fight.
So, atop that mountain, I realised violence was a root cause of my current issues.
Oh yeah… don’t forget the assault conviction. Shit!
So violence had to go.
I made a vow that day, now January 25th 2001. (I celebrate this day like it’s my birthday every year)
I vowed, not hoped, not wished, not even decided.
To never lift my hands in violence again.
And I never have!
18 years later and I have never been in a fight
Never thrown a punch (other than in training)
And learned to calm the fire in my belly to use it for construction, not destruction.
I am very proud of this.
The second realisation I had on that day was that I had been doing what everyone else wanted me to do and not what I wanted to do.
I was ‘a pleaser’.
I pleased my parents by going to University
I pleased my school principal by acting in the way she wanted me to (let’s call it proper).
I was pleasing society by striving into the workforce and making lots of money (I knew at the age of 19 I would be a Millionaire).
But with all this pleasing others, of doing what ’they’ wanted… was I actually doing what I wanted??
The answer was NO!
So… on that day, and everyday since, I vowed, VOWED, to never do what anyone else wants me to do ever again!
That I would do what I wanted to do and nothing less!
Ahhh… that felt better.
A weight off my shoulders. No one else to please, but me.
“Well then…” I asked myself.
“What DO YOU want then?”
Wow. The cup was empty.
As I sat looking out over Cairns, now just a twinkling of lights, I took a deep breath and sighed.
What do I really want?
I want to be happy!
I just want to be happy. Nothing else. That’s it.
Just to be happy.
“Well what does that mean?” My mind asked.
“Well… I honestly do not know. Because right now, I am miserable!”
It was then I had the great idea that has guided my life ever since.
“What if I do all the things I’ve ever wanted to do… maybe that will make me happy!!”
“And what do you want to do Scotty?” I asked myself with great interest.
“I want to travel the earth!
“I want to jump out of airplanes!
“Go rafting and kayaking
“Scuba Diving and all the fun things I’ve always dreamt of doing!”
With a huff and a chuff I was excited!!
I decided then and there that my life would be nothing less than an incredible adventure of doing everything I want to do… to be happy!
I trotted down the mountain with a lightness in my step.
I slept sound.
The next morning I awoke to find my Aunty and Uncle at the breakfast table, a little hesitant and unsure as I approached.
Upon asking how I was… I exclaimed:
“Amazing! I’m so excited!”
And proceeded to tell them all about my 2 vows and my dedication to being happy by doing ‘all the things I want to do’.
I said all of this still standing, mind you. As if giving a great speech to an important audience.
My uncle offered for me to start with breakfast. I did.
And when we were eating he told me about his recent Scuba Diving adventure where he earned his PADI dive certificate. He suggested my adventures may begin there.
2 days later I was breathing underwater for the first time.
2 week later I was working as a Dive Master Trainee on the back of a boat bobbing upon the Great Barrier Reef.
2 years later, after having received dual instructor certification with 13 specialties, been to 65 meters solo, shagged more tourists than one man should, partied harder than any dive instructor I know…
I left diving and moved to Japan to learn the first of my 2nd languages.
And so the adventure continues to this day.
Following my heart
Doing what I love
Nothing more. Nothing less. Nothing else!!
Happiness is all I desire from that day until my last.
And so today, I celebrate all of this and more.
The man I am because of who I was.
The man I am becoming because of who I am today.
I have a feeling it’s all perfect. Even when you’re about to die at the hands of a lunatic in a store.
It’s all perfect. The rain clouds and the rainbows. The sunshine and the storms.
I am just so grateful all of this happened now 19 years ago
That I’ve been able to live my dreams every day since
I was one of the lucky ones who got to ‘wake up’ early and enjoy the fullness of the day.
Thanks for listening.
I hope my story inspires you to follow your dreams.
To be happy.
To give up pleasing others and trying to be someone you’re not.
I love you. I am you. We are one.
I’ll see you on another adventure soon!!
And until then…
Just be yourself.