Friday, June 26, 2015

Do You Have The Time To Become You?

How Did I Become Me?

I wandered around the world until I was thirty-three before I discovered what I wanted to do with my life. Globe-trotting and learning about different cultures fed my thirst for adventure for many years, and I always had one eye open for what it was I would become. However, there came a point when I was beginning to feel a little frustrated and tired of living such a selfish life. I thought it would be too easy just to travel forever, and so the desire to contribute to the world in some way gradually began to devour my wanderlust.

Coincidentally, I met a woman on a beach in Portugal after I had just returned from my latest stint in East Africa and was actually at a loss for the first time in years as to where to go next. I moved into her summer house and then she invited me to come and live with her after the holidays ended. She basically brought me in off the street and then began my reintroduction into society. I thought I would finally work out what I was going to do with all the time I had left on this planet. Not so- it still took a long-winded, stormy relationship and four more years before I stumbled upon a sculptor at a local market and knew instantly that sculpture was to be my life.

I signed up for a one year course in the Sociedade Nationale Das Belas Artes in Lisbon and I also enrolled in an international sculpture apprenticeship. From here, my life changed drastically. I had always been known as the party man- Ger don’t care, but I’d found something more important than my anger and my idealistic excuses to get wasted every day, all day. In fact I soon realised I could not do sculpture the morning after partying: I actually needed a clear head. For many who know me the idea of a clear head was absurd.

For the first eight years of my artistic development I refused to do exhibitions because I knew I was still learning and making mistakes, perfecting and experimenting. I wanted to wait until I was producing pieces which were well crafted. Then I was diagnosed with Hepatitis C. Facing death and at the same time on the verge of getting married to the first person I had ever met in my life, who I truly believed loved me, and without drugs to depend on anymore, I temporarily drowned. I wandered around my town in a daze for a few hours after hearing the news from the hospital.

Luckily, my iron shirt was not far away and I approached the planned six month treatment, for which there was an 80% success rate, positively- I’d contracted the best Hep C possible- Genotype 3A, the most curable. They could even trace back the strain to the country of origin and almost refused to treat me because I had obviously contracted it years before in another country. Hepatitis C is only blood transmitted and was not discovered until 1989, until that time best practice in most dentists’ and doctors’ surgeries did not protect people from the virus, tattooists’ parlours and many other places either.

Everyone has the right to be tested for the virus, but it is not encouraged because there are too many of us and governments are worried about the cost. If you are over twenty-six, you should go to the doctor and demand a check up. This killer virus often shows no symptoms, while at the same time it slowly destroys your liver. By the time you feel signs of something being wrong, it is often too late to reverse the damage done. If you need help or assistance this British based foundation is the best place in the world for advice and support.

It was during this fuzzy haze of a six month period, which actually lasted two years that I began to write up all the thoughts I had written down over the years. Although, I absolutely do NOT believe that everything happens for a reason, I know that stepping stones lead somewhere. I found a wonderful quote the other day by Nora Roberts, “If you don’t go after what you want, you will never have it. If you don’t ask, the answer is always no. If you don’t step forward, you’re always in the same place.”

I could not sculpt during my illness, I could barely leave the house because the injections and pills I was taking were so strong. For once, I was glad of my cursed second passion- writing. Wow, I suddenly realized I could still be productive in my dark hole, tapping away at the computer. I wrote three books over and over and when I reached the light at the end of the tunnel, I did not feel like the illness had stolen much of my life- incidentally, I beat the virus. And that is how my path led me into the writing world and that is how I became ME.

I honestly believe in following your heart and being as idealistic as possible in Life- Do not constrain yourself to deadlines and time-frames, enjoy the ride as well as the destination and you will look back on your life with satisfaction and pride, instead of regrets and hankering after what could have been.

Gerald Freeman