Confession time: I do love a list! I am a compulsive planner. There’s nothing more satisfying than a plan coming together. But how often does that actually happen? The very essence of life is that we have no idea what the future holds, and any attempt to control it is futile. Looking back, the very moments one imagines to be significant for our future paths, often turn out to be cul-de-sacs. Rather, it is those more insignificant decisions which - in retrospect - are laden with potential.
It was an otherwise-unremarkable Wednesday, in September 2010, when I stepped through the door to a bright, new future.
Don’t be thinking of anything elaborate or fantastical, by the way. Nothing like the smoke and spotlights employed in that television programme Stars in Their Eyes, when contestants would declare: “Tonight, Matthew, I’m going to be…!” and then step through the doorway of their dreams. No, no, in reality, I staggered up the disabled access ramp of my local community centre, dragged open the heavy outer door, and turning right, peered through some frosted glass at the fuzzy figures of the club I was intending to join. The chances of me doing an about-turn, and heading back home, before I’d placed my sweaty palm on the brass doorknob, were pretty high.
It was one very, big step for me – I was nervous but entirely convinced it would be another mad idea destined to fail. If only life could provide dayglo signposts, along the way, to help with decision making: ‘Step over this threshold to experience opportunities you never thought possible!’ Or alternatively - ‘Have you lost your mind?’
The very thought of joining a writing group, when I’d never written anything other than lists, random diary entries and work-related pieces, not to mention voluntarily placing myself in a room full of strangers for two hours, was verging on lunacy.
So, what had led me to do something so ridiculous: the need to escape the claustrophobic walls of my home and increase my social circle from virtually zero. After more than fifteen years of a life-limiting illness, I was in desperate need of something challenging but also an activity not too demanding from a physical point of view.
I was greeted by a flurry of friendly faces, a formality of forms and, fortunately, a few other newbies exhibiting equally-fearful expressions.
Any of those Wednesdays, during the first few months, I might have walked away for good, so low was my confidence, so great were my nerves. Gradually, however, some of those fuzzy strangers transformed into warm, encouraging folk and the seeds of friendship were soon sown. It had been a good decision for that reason alone, to challenge myself on that September night. But there was no way I could have known how life-transforming, stepping over that threshold was going to be.
Had I been able to look into the sands of time, and see my future-self admire competition certificates upon my wall, glimpse the long list of pieces I’d have published, witness the workshops I would lead, and watch the poetic performances I would give, I most definitely would have said, “Have you lost your mind?’
Step forward into your future – you never know what delights lie ahead.