It’s hard to say these days what constitutes as a ‘normal’ childhood and upbringing. For me it started off simple and harmless enough in New Zealand with loving parents, an older sister and a pet hedgehog named Harrold. Unfortunately, things began to fracture early on and as the result of a divorce I found myself living in Australia by age 10, with my life essentially reset.
Young, confused and unfamiliar with my surroundings I threw a few good tantrums and then I hid. I hid from my family, my friends and everyone around me. I hid what I was thinking and feeling and I hid who I was. It just seemed easier that way. Consequently though, I spent a lot of my earlier years sitting with my own loneliness and unable to connect with anyone around me. School was no exception to this either, with each recess and lunch time bringing with it a deep feeling of anxiety around how I was going to yet again, hide the fact that I had no one to spend it with.
Around the age of 12 I stumbled into skateboarding and what started off as a weekend hobby soon became my portal to the world and to myself. It very quickly became my biggest outlet and my solace. Whenever things felt challenging or out of control, the skatepark was where I would turn. It was this magical world where who you were and how you were didn’t matter, where personal beliefs and values fell second to the sharing of a common interest. I made friends with people twice my age and living polar opposite lives; and I learnt that I wasn’t alone. Although our stories and circumstances may have differed, we were all thinking and feeling the same things. We all wanted to be accepted and we all found it in skateboarding.
This changed everything for me. I started to feel more comfortable in my own skin and I stopped worrying so much at recess and lunchtime because I knew I had a community waiting for me once the final bell rang. I became more confident and learned to think outside of the box, to look at the world through a different lens and to back myself in any situation. The deeper I went into skateboarding the more I learnt about myself and of the world around me.
The impact that one little area, one space could have on an individual’s well being was mind blowing to me and it’s something that’s never left. In fact, it’s shaped and guided me and my life into what it is today. It’s motivated me to dedicate the past three years to travel the world and give back, to go into developing countries and build a space for others, a skatepark, where they too can feel accepted and a part of a community just like I was. The privilege of being able to share something so personally transformative with people on the opposite side of the world and see their eyes light up just like mine did years earlier has truly brought me full circle.
Skateboarding, this time through the building of skateparks has again given me something I wasn’t able to find elsewhere. It’s given me the self-belief that my grand ideas are more than achievable and that following my gut can lead to some pretty incredible moments in life.
Feeling complete my gut now pulls me in a different direction. A direction of facilitating men to have more authentic conversations with one and another and help combat some of the looming and alarming effects mental health tends to bring. Although it may seem different on the surface it all boils down to what I see as my mission in life - creating spaces where people can connect and be accepted for who they are.
“The gift of this watch represents compassion and empathy; core values which resonate strongly with me.”