So many people ask me – Emily, how are you so talented at so many things? I never really know what to answer to that. Finally, after much deliberation, I realise that the most honest answer to this question is – Well, how are you not?
Because it is not about what enables us to learn the things we dream of. I believe we are all inherently able to learn anything we put our mind to. It is what stops us from trying.
The fear of not being any good at it, for example. The fear of sucking. (read: our egos)
Contrary to what many people think, I was not naturally good at many of the things I have learnt. Flying trapeze did not come naturally to me. I have no background in gymnastics. I was not particularly athletic when I began. In fact, I was a little bit fat. I was a sloowww learner. It took me years of perseverance to get to a level that some people achieved in a few short months. But I kept going back. Why? Because I did it for the love of it, and not for the end goal.
And what about surfing? No one decides to learn to surf in order to feel the quick reward. Learning to surf means setting your alarm at sunrise and dragging your sorry ass to the beach morning after morning to get smashed over and over and over, for months, or even years, before feeling like you’re making any progress. Before experiencing that sensation of dropping weightlessly onto a wave.
So really, if we’re being honest, being good at a lot of things actually means sucking at a lot of things for a long time – and being okay with it.
Okay, so now we’re fine with being really shit at something and doing it anyway. In reality, we probably don’t have time for it. And if we have the time we certainly don’t have the money.
Here we go – you have to make time for the things you love, for the things that make your stomach churn. The things you go to bed thinking of and wake up in the middle of the night sweating about. The things that you waste hours drooling over on pinterest, maybe. They are not going to just appear one day, in your life. You have to chase them. Hard. And without glancing back over your shoulder.
I didn’t wake up one day and discover that I was a really talented painter, as many people imagined when I surprised my facebook followers with a photo of my artwork earlier this year. The truth behind the painting is that I chose to do art as an A-level in high school, instead of a more sensible academic choice that would lend itself to a successful city career (much to the dismay of my career advisor). I know how to paint because I spent hours and hours slaving over paintbrushes and canvas in my teenage years. And why? Because I loved it. Because it set me free. Because I saw an open window into an area of myself where I could progress. Because I could pour myself into my paint strokes. I have never sold a piece of art in my life, and right now I still never intend to. I choose passion, above money-making, and somehow it always seems to work out.
It is all about the priorities we make and the choices we take. If we dedicate ourselves fiercely enough to what we love doing, money will come in time if we believe in it enough. I learnt to kitesurf because I couldn’t stop watching the kitesurfers gliding around on the ocean so beautifully as if it were a ballet. I never intended in that moment to become a kitesurf instructor, or to manage a kitesurf school. I started the trapeze because I walked past a rig one day in Regent’s Park and the people looked as though they were having such a whale of a time flying around up there. Never could I have imagined that one day I would be up there as their catcher, or their coach. And I started writing because I tore my ACL and couldn’t do any sports for 6 months, and now here you are reading my words.
DON’T MAKE EXCUSES! You owe yourself that much.
If you haven’t found anything that you love doing, then look harder. Maybe you want to know my secret. And here it is. I never stop searching.
Some people have one passion that they dedicate their entire life to, and in many ways I envy them. But it is just not who I am. What fills me up and sets me free is to keep moving, changing and learning. When one place or one sport or one passion stops serving me, I move on. And through this, I have created a life that is such an incredibly rich tapestry. My ever-expanding universe.
A universe split across oceans, mountains, beaches, jungles, deserts. Across continents, cultures, languages. Kitesurfing, snowboarding, skiing, spinning fire. Flying on the trapeze. Writing, taking photos, making videos. Painting. Cooking. None of these things are enough to set me free on their own.
And even, if I’m totally honest, all of these combined are not enough. Because it is the act of learning in itself that is what I truly chase. The insatiable desire to keep learning and to keep growing.
I still write goals and make personal pledges of what I will learn next. Learn how to surf. Sail a yacht around the world. Write a book. Learn to play the piano. Study marine conservation. Learn new languages. Canoe through the amazon. Live off grid. Build my own house. Live in a monastery. Walk across a mountain range.
To learn is to live; to live is to learn.
So dream, and dream without limitations. Because you are only capable achieving whatever is within the boundaries of what you allow yourself to believe in.