Day 84: Four Memories That Changed My Life

I thought that, in the spirit of getting to know me a little better, I’d share four memories that impacted me in some way. Do you ever find your mind casting back to certain times in your lives that impacted you? Not necessarily the most important, maybe not the ones you’ll tell people about when you’re on your death bed. Simply, the quietly impactive ones. Obviously, there will be thousands that I’ve missed off (including my testimony, I’ve already covered that here) and no, I’m not picking the top four or anything like that. These are just the memories that no one hears; the ones that have stayed with me and shaped me into the person I am today:

A Setback in Writing

I was five. Maybe six at a push. I was in a class called the ‘Robins’ and our teacher was Mrs. Fraser. Now, she was short by our standards back then…she must have been minuscule. I remember the dressing up / play area in the corner of the room…you got to go there if you’d finished all your work and been really good. I remember the sand pit outside which was a particular highlight. But this memory isn’t about them. I remember that we were learning to join up the letters in our handwriting. The people who did it well could progress to the next table and do even more complex joining up. I had decided that that promotion was for me. ‘King of the Cursive’ would probably have been the title I would have chased if I’d had a better grasp of the English language at that point. There was a slight problem though. My ‘A’s. For some reason, I just could not figure out how to join letters to and from ‘A’. It kills me even thinking about it now! Because of that stinking letter, I wasn’t allowed to move up a group. I ALWAYS moved up groups quickly. I was mortified. I remember wanting to disappear in shame after Mrs. Fraser mocked the loops around my ‘A’ on the blackboard. I think I was probably ahead of my time, as my attempt at the cursive letter looked distinctly like an @ sign…

That memory always comes back to haunt me. It’s not that I’m concerned about my handwriting, you only have to see it to realise that I’m really not – rather, it was the act of not being moved up a group that shaped me. I really do not cope with not being in the ‘top group’. It makes me feel like I’m not good enough or doing enough or working hard enough. It makes me feel like I’m getting things wrong. The reality is that now, much further on, I’m able to override that feeling to a certain extent but it’s still very much alive in there. All because of that conversation. In fact, I’ll let you into a secret. I think about that moment every single time I do any creative writing. Especially these blogs. I always have and I probably always will. I hate making spelling mistakes, misusing words or using incorrect grammar (that’s not to say I don’t make mistakes, simply that I get really frustrated when I do), because I think I freak out about the possibility of being considered as anything other than from the ‘top group’. The high achievers and over-performers. It still haunts me!

Me, aged 6, around the time of the writing ‘incident’. I won’t lie to you, it’s not my best photo…

The Rugby Match

I’d been playing for Bracknell Rugby Club for around four months (late 2002 / early 2003 I suspect) and I didn’t really have a clue what I was doing. I was tall but not the tallest; I didn’t have the best ball-handling skills and I had only the smallest of ideas about positioning. But I tried hard. I wanted to be as good as the others were. They were really good. One miserable Wednesday night, we were working hard on fitness. I struggled to keep up but I gave it everything; memories of strong blackcurrant squash from a muddy flask still lingers. Lying on the floor, moist dirt squelching between our stiffening fingers, we began the press-up drills. Over and over again, it seemed. I was weak and feeble then. I’ll never forget Andy Parkes, one of the coaches at the time saying this: “it’s quite common for guys your age to be able to do 50 press-ups”. Fifty?! I remember thinking he was mad, but my step-dad agreed with him. He helped me get to that sacred number and his words have never left me. Around a decade on and Andy’s throwaway comment has been etched into my mind. At least once a week I’ll do some press-ups for no reason other than to make sure I haven’t dropped into the red-zone. I wouldn’t consider myself fit or strong, and this most certainly isn’t a boasting point. It’s the one exercise I actually can do, purely because of that man’s comment.  It’s amazing what you pick up from cast off statements like that!

The Music Lesson

My early teenage years shaped me in ways that I can’t even begin to explain. Early 2002, not long before I joined Bracknell Rugby Club, I also started learning the guitar. I’d seen a shell-backed acoustic that my now step-brother owned, left lying in the lounge of my Dad’s house. Having plucked a few of the strings (cluelessly), I realised that I had to learn the guitar. Fast forward about three months and I remember heading to my music lesson, guitar in hand. I’ll be honest, it wasn’t a great guitar. A deeply scratched, un-tunable ‘loaner’ guitar designed simply for deciding whether you wanted to pursue the instrument or not. I’d just learnt the Green Day song “Time of Your Life”. Don’t get your hopes up, it wasn’t fast enough, it wasn’t accurate enough and it most certainly wasn’t well enough in tune. But I ‘knew’ it. I remember sitting with crossed legs in the school hall, head bowed (and probably pulling the concentrating tongue out look) as I tried to get to grips with playing it. I looked up and saw the girl I had the hugest, hugest crush on standing in front of me with her best friend, looking at me with an impressed smile (she actually ended up being my first ‘long-term’ girlfriend not long after that…nearly two years at 13/14 or so is a big deal! Whole other story there…). I was crazy enough about that girl that if she liked me playing guitar, I was going to be a rock star. No questions asked, it had to happen to make her like me. Yep. That’s when I decided to start a band. Ultimately, that led to me being a Music Director. The things you do for love…a genuinely (but stupidly) life-changing moment!

 The Friend

When I first got fully immersed into Kerith Community Church life, my friend Hudson Holt was the man. He was a worship leader, he founded Revolution (the youth worship team I’m so privileged to lead now) and as well as a fantastic stage presence he had a phenomenal way of making new friends and making people feel included. On one of my first ‘adult church’ Sundays, I remember watching in awe as Hudson made such an effort to talk to pretty much everyone in the building. He had a particular focus on new people, but had a way with whoever he’d come into contact with. He was border-line idolised by the young people because he was just such a nice guy!

I remember sitting around a huge table in the church offices for one of my first staff coffee meetings on a Tuesday morning (the staff meet first thing every Tuesday and Friday for half an hour at most just to talk about things that are happening in the life of the church, pray collectively for it and build team) and a lady – who I think was Karen Mehta but I didn’t really know anyone at the time – was absolutely singing his praises. She’d seen him talking to a new family and was particularly impressed. I was amazed that Hudson’s seemingly casual actions made such an impact like that. It inspired me so much. I remember dreaming of a day where I’d have that kind of relationship with people at church. I still aspire to be like that – it helps shape my behaviour…I want to be like he was then! Hudson doesn’t actively attend Kerith Community Church any more, but I’m praying that the church he is at is benefitting as much from him as we did.

Hmm, feel like you know me a little better now? I’ve never shared most of those memories with anyone before…hope you liked them!


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