I heard a voice shouting at me, “are you alright Mike?” “Are you alright?”
It was violent, sudden and devastating. The wave that crashed onto the boat came from nowhere. I hadn’t seen it coming and I wasn't prepared for the outcome. An outcome that would have long lasting effects on the task I was conducting and on my life. All I remember after the assault on boat and body was Rob, my colleague shouting, “are you alright?”
Its 2pm on a hot day in the Indian Ocean. We are around 2000 miles and 50 days into a rowing adventure from Australia to Africa. We were attempting to break a world record for an unassisted row across the Indian Ocean and raise significant monies for a children’s charity. After some scares that the massive ocean had revealed to us earlier in our trip, we were doing well and morale was high. Then the ‘wave’ happened. It changed everything. It changed me.
Rogue waves (also known as freak waves, monster waves, episodic waves, killer waves, extreme waves, and abnormal waves) are large, unexpected and suddenly appearing surface waves that can be extremely dangerous, even to large ships such as ocean liners.
One hit us. The effect was devastating. Firstly, it threw me off clean off board and secondly, it punched a large hole into the bow of our tiny 21 foot rowing boat. As I scrambled back on board I knew that I had hurt my head, but survival instincts kicked in and drove me back from the edge.
Over the next 12 hours my condition deteriorated from splitting headaches to passing in and out of consciousness. These were desperate times as a tropical storm hit us to compound our misery, tossing our little boat all over the sea like a rag doll. I started to ask the question: was this my life really coming to an end?
Questions and statements began to flood into my mind. How will my family react? I’m too young to die! Who will come and recover our bodies out here in a watery grave? This was not how it was meant to be!
Incredibly and slowly however, my mind started to reconcile itself with the fate that I now found myself in. Ok, I told myself, the odds on surviving this crisis appeared to be slim. Rescue was on its way, but we could not expect that to arrive for 4 days such was the remoteness of our location deep into the Indian Ocean. I began to find an inner peace and question myself over and over again centered on 3 core questions:
If it appears that this it, the end of your days, you will certainly need to know if you truly lived your life to the upmost. Your life, not the life others may have desired for you. We spend much of our time worrying about what others think about us. Parents, close friends and teachers have all played their part in trying to point us in a direction for our lives. Their thoughts - not yours. You will certainly gauge to see if you were lively as well as happy enough to actually live. You will want to know if you dreamed enough and fought valiantly enough to accomplish your own potential – not someone else’s. Had I lived enough?
You will surely assess whether you cared sufficiently for those around you, treated them with respect and love. You will ache to understand who will miss you and whom you will miss. You will certainly think of all those times when you were surrounded by love and now perhaps you will miss out on all them. You will certainly wonder about whether you dealt with all individuals with an open heart, compassion and humility unconditionally. Had I loved enough?
Ultimately, in your last minutes, before the light finally twinkles away, a stirring deep in your body as well as in the core of your mind will ask yourself whether your life meant anything and whether you really did matter. Just what did your life truly mean? Had you made a difference some place, some time and to someone. Your soul will be announcing, "Did I matter?"
So, why not live life so totally in the ‘here and now’ for every moment that you have? Why not live through your heart with such strength and purpose that you have the ability to always see the great in others? Why not take the view that at any time the twinkling light of your life may just begin to fade and your are faced with those 3 questions?
In other words, start to view your life and its impact on the rest of the world with fresh intent. Mahatma Ghandi once said, “Be the change that you wish to see in the world”. Being that change though, requires you to be able to answer those 3 questions in the positive to say, “yes I did all that I wanted to, could have done and chose to do”. So, live, love, matter – now!