Monday, 3 November 2008
With A Little Help From My Friends
Well, It's Been A Hard Month.
It's difficult when your family mean so much to you. Doing things your own way, being out on our own is, in one way, empowering, but in another isolating. I've done it for years now and I've got used to it. Not that they don't love you. On the contrary, I am rich with the love. Early on in my career, they helped me out financially, a lot, supported my decisions. Now that I'm on my own two feet in a precarious industry, with several jobs to make ends meet, it's been time to put a little of that help back.
When Mum suddenly fell ill again in October, my world did get a little darker. The overwhelming desire to just drop everything and go up and see her was immediate. The need to be beside her, hold her hand whenever she went for tests, like she did when I had my brain haemorrhage all those years ago, was immense. I knew I had a party to help organise, I'd promised loads of people that I'd be there to lend a helping hand. It felt like a really cold-hearted and calculated decision. I went up to see her on the Monday because I knew that was the only day off I was able to get from my temping job. Wednesday was the party. If I went up on Monday I'd at least be able to judge for myself how she was and make that call to see whether I was able to make it to the party or not. It sounded really trivial. It was just a party, like any other. Was I being selfish? Was I just being self-centred? I needed to know before I could make that decision. When I got to the hospital, I was surprised to see her laughing and joking and she'd even put make-up on for my visit. She's a proper lady. Always presentable when receiving guests. At least I knew that she wasn't hooked up to machines that went 'ping' with wires and tubes sticking out of her. The doctors had taken test after test, litres of blood. They'd ruled out a lot of things early. The pain in her shoulder and chest indicating one thing, the blood tests indicating another, both signifying nothing. She actually looked tired but not without humour.
Satisfied with Mum's condition, I was able to fulfill my duty to the party, help with the set-up, take the photos that were required, be on door duty. It was fun, it was a good distraction. I know I missed the speeches, taking calls from Fazz and Ma at various intervals throughout the night. From the feedback that everyone has got from the players and the venue, it must have been a resounding success. I think I've compartmentalised my joy somewhere along with the need to scream at the top of my lungs. Remind me to open up that joy box at some point.
Thursday night was the cruncher. A phone call. Mum may have to stop work altogether. As the major breadwinner in their home, it has a knock-on effect for Adam and me. Perhaps not so much for Adam as, financially, he's in a good situation and is able to help. For me, knowing that everything that I've earned gets sucked up straight away into bills and living, it's heartbreaking to know that I can't. I am the bad son. The exhaustion of the last few weeks, the worry, the fear. To those that knew, I want to thank those that have helped me through this period, gratitude fills me from the tip of my hair to the bottom of my toes.
Looking at it now, nearly a month later, mum is out of hospital, still awaiting tests. She's considering taking it easy. Dad is going to have a major operation which'll put him out for a few months, but this is a known, expected. The worry levels aren't going to decrease but at least he will be in good hands at Addenbrooks and hopefully the operation will make his life a lot easier.
However, with all of this going on, and that single violin playing in the background, I have questioned my taking part in the Everest Test.
Why Am I Here?
Do we doubt our abilities to do this? Perhaps I have that big questionmark over my head. If I had the financial ease of my brother, this doubt wouldn't be so pressing. We've all got financial troubles at the moment, we're all struggling. It's not just me. But we're still here. The support (in lots of ways) that I've been getting from my family and friends in this project has made me think that there is hope out there, that I am doing some good, that they believe in me, that I will find the rest of the finances, energy, strength and courage to pull this off. At this point I want to thank my flatmate Obe, who hasn't complained (yet!) since I've turned our kitchen every Sunday into a production line for making and selling curry. The finances are trickling in! The artworks that I've made at home sell to friends and it does make a difference. The acting work that is also trickling in helps a great deal (I guess that's my biggest disappointment so far, that those jobs haven't been forthcoming until lately). I just have to have faith that it'll happen. It'll just take more time than usual. I just have to have faith.
Yes, it's good to help a community thousands of miles away do the basic things that we take for granted, but why, when you're finding it hard to help the ones you love? For what reason am I doing it? Yes, I have many personal reasons (I don't believe there is any such thing as pure altruism. Even on a Geldoffian level, he's able to see the world and use his celebrity to create change. But he's seen the situation out there, to him it's tangible. To a lot of us, cuddled up in snuggly duvets it's hard to imagine. I haven't fasted since I was child to even know or remember what that is like.)
I do want to be the first in my whole family to get to Base Camp. Surely I can do that at any point in my life. Why now? And this is a reason? My uncle in Malaysia was playing golf with someone who said they were supporting me do this thing. (I don't know who this is, but I have an idea that it's an Old Boy connection from V.I.). For someone to approach my family in Malaysia and talk about this gives me a great sense of pride. A Malay guy I spoke to asked me why I was doing this - Am I chasing a datukship? (a 'datuk' is equivalent to a knighthood in Malaysia.)
I laughed. I certainly wouldn't be the first Malaysian to attempt this.
I do want to challenge myself. This will probably be the most physically taxing thing I have ever done or will ever do. Why now? Times are hard enough. Because I'm still privileged, because I still have all my facilities, because I can.
For recognition. On a small level, doing something like this is going to give you some kudos. For the players, it's much bigger. For the Trektators, are we just in it to bask in reflected glory? What will happen to the Trektators in May? Recognition is not a strong enough reason, I'm afraid. Currently we're still un-named on the official website (a rather large hint here to get it sorted guys and gals, come on, update that page).
For that sense of adventure. I spent the weekends as a kid scrambling up the hills behind my house finding secret waterfalls, building minature dams out of the orange mud, going jungle trekking, finding a box of dynamite and then realising that we didn't know what to do with it, being chased by wild dogs, throwing rubbertree pods into clear pools to see whose pod would go the furthest. To watch the monkeys play on the border of the rubber plantation and our housing estate. To feel like that kid again.
For a sense of camaraderie. I started out this expedition knowing only one person and thinking I had nothing in common whatsoever with anyone else on the trip. That has changed now. I've met some good people and made some good friends and I wonder if we're all thinking the same thing? The Trektators who I'm in contact with regularly strengthen our resolve to get things done. It wasn't a reason to begin with, but with each talk we have with each other, that strength builds.
To support someone who you believe in do something they have a passion for. That is the strongest pull for me. It's a rare thing to find someone of (vaguely) my generation who isn't apathetic to the worlds problems. To see it in action is amazing. I want to be part of that. I want to be the change I want to happen in the world (to paraphrase Gandhi).
Getting on with the job is where I am going next. It's only been possible so far with the help of my friends over the past few weeks. Now that I'm biting that bullet and taking the step to committing fully to this challenge, I've gone all out to promote it. My justgiving page has been live for a day as has my facebook group page. Already people have started donating and I've managed to collect a fifteenth of my pledge and 128 supporters. This weekend has been a turnaround.