Most people I know have the pleasure of planning and looking forward to an annual holiday or, at the very least, every second year. Options are plentiful and there is an abundance of choice from camping to luxurious destinations along the coast or in the bush, mountains and cities depending on your preference and the size of your paycheck.
Average, working, white South Africans simply take going on holiday for granted even if it’s merely going away to visit family.
I know. I did. You work. You take leave. You go on holiday.
But, my holidays came to an abrupt end – like most other things after my accident. Much of what I had grown accustomed to suddenly changed – mainly due to physical and financial constraints. Only then did I truly understand how spoilt I had been. Isn’t it amazing how I only began to appreciate much of my life – things I had taken for granted – only once they were gone? Sad.
I don’t begrudge anybody having a holiday and least of all my friends. I see how hard they work. They deserve the break. But, I’ve also learned that to be able to work and earn one’s own money is a joy and privilege that most people take for granted.
For years now I have listened, enviously and longingly, to my friends planning their trips. I always feel their excitement and enthusiastically share in their joy.
Secretly, I cried myself to sleep many nights.
I knew – or at least I thought I did – that the chances of me ever getting an opportunity to go away on holiday again were incredibly slim – unless I were lucky enough to win the lottery – which is also ridiculously impossible since I never buy a ticket.
That reminds me of the story of a man who prays to God to ask Him to help him win the lottery. God answers: Hey, c’mon meet me halfway and, at least, buy a ticket.
Anyway, he invited me to visit him in Port Elizabeth. So, with the blessing of my family and the encouragement of my friends, I was soon planning a holiday to the sea.
My initial enthusiasm was soon replaced by overwhelming panic as I totally underestimated the difficulties of going away and leaving my comfort zone for two whole weeks.
I mean, not too many people have to consider lugging their own bloody toilet halfway across the country when going on holiday. A real shitty situation – isn’t it?
But this special lady’s real gift to me was not a commode, but rather her three powerful words:
Don’t be scared!
Her calm, sensible expression was so poignant – like soothing balm for my troubled soul.
Don’t be scared: of love and rejection; adventure and disappointment; joy and sorrow; commitment and failure; happiness and heartache. In essence don’t be scared of truly living a full, meaningful life.
From that moment on, my mindset went through a complete transformation. I let go of my fears and I became out-of-my-skin excited for my first holiday in what-felt-like-a-hundred-years.
I also needed to see for myself that Sexy Legs was genuinely-who-he-said-he-was. Besides, I wasn’t going completely alone. I was taking my care assistant along and I knew that help was only a phone call away. And if I was really unhappy I could get back on a plane and come home.
Then the most important catch-a-wake-up-slap of all:
As we drove to the airport, it dawned on me that my care assistant had never even been to our local airport.
I knew that she had never been on a plane but, I never really gave it much thought other than to worry about myself and my own needs. How is she going to cope with me all by herself?
Sheesh, here I was feeling so proud of myself for being so brave in going on this big adventure. Not once did I think about her joy, excitement, courage or fears.
Here right in front of my eyes was a strong, dedicated, compassionate woman who epitomized the phrase: Don’t be scared!
And I simply took her for granted. How dare I?
She is 41 years old – my age on a bad-hair-day – and she has never seen the sea; never set foot on a beach; never had a holiday – away – anywhere – in her entire life.
Up until then I had considered holidays a right. How dare I?
She also made new friends and I don’t think that I have ever seen her smile so much.
If I die tomorrow, at least I know that I have made a difference in one more person’s life and she can be rest assured that she has forever changed me.
And, don’t be scared!
Pssst…Sexy Legs turned out to be more than everything-he-said-he-was and some. Mmmmm…