“Well, I think everyone struggles with self-love. That’s pretty much the human condition, you know, waking up and trying to live your day in a way that you can go to sleep and feel OK about yourself.”
Philip Seymour Hoffman
The other day I met a friend I haven´t seen since 1997. Mick. We met first time back in 1988 when we crossed parts of the Sahara Desert together, pushing our bikes south through Algeria and Niger. Our lives have been quite different since we first met. Mick owns a big house in Edinburgh, married his school sweetheart Kate, has two lovely well behaved kids, one boy at 14 and a girl who is 11 and he makes a lot of money working in the insurance business. He is one of the most generous and kindest people I have met. In comparison I have taken a different road in life. I have been married before, own no house at all, actually nothing really and I have very little funds. And I am careful with my money. So it didn´t take long until he asked me:
“Are you happy with how your life has turned out to be so far?”
It took me some time to figure out an answer. His question made me feel a bit uncomfortable and I suddenly felt like a complete failure, so I blurted out:
“With a wife like Pam and two wonderful daughters like Eva and Dana I must have done something right.”
Mick could do nothing else but nod in agreement. Pam and the girls are beautiful, intelligent, kind, happy, positive, loving and great company. After we said goodbye, I spent the rest of the day thinking about how extra ordinary lucky and privileged I was having these three ladies in my life. And I once again tried to figure out why Pam had chosen a possible great career and comfortable life back in the USA to live a semi nomadic, insecure and relatively frugal life with a failure like me. I still today don´t know why. But what I do know is that Pam and having a family has completely changed my life for the better.
When I came back home after that meeting with Mick, I spent a fair amount of time thinking and I realized that my existence before the family was a life dominated by too much selfishness, a certain amount of self aggrandizing due to a poor self confidence and a general sloppiness towards life. I tried to be something I wasn´t, like for example pretending to be extremely happy, successful and positive when I wasn´t. A bit like I portrayed in my previous text here. Believe me, today, with the responsibility and my new respect for life, I don´t for example wake up every morning feeling:
“Gee, another great day in life waiting for me.”
It is more like:
“Gee, I have no idea how to survive the day, yes, I am still alive and I have to see that I get enough work, I need to be there for the girls!”
I am a big worrier. But this constant anxiety drives me to get things done. This bothersome feeling suddenly hits me any time of the day;
“Mikael, you need to get things going if you are going to support a family!”
Sure, I am who I am. I still love being on stage. I am still very outgoing and love being with people. And I still want to make a difference in a positive way. And my drive to do more Expeditions and everything which is involved with that, yes, I want more. But I don´t have the need anymore to tell people how good I am. I have passed that stage of my life, thanks to the family. I want the girls to remember me mostly for being there for them, always, at times that will mean us struggling, sure, but hopefully me being there will make a major difference. I don´t want them to remember me as the dad who needed the attention of others before them. I know we all need to survive and I will continue with my work, preferably doing documentary films with the main aim to build bridges of understanding between cultures and people, but there´s nothing more important than creating opportunities for the kids. That is one lesson of life I have learned. Having said that, I know nothing else than this life I live now and have for the last 28 years, which means I also know I will never, ever be offered a normal job. Which is good!
I don´t do many lectures nowadays. I say no thank you to almost all interviews. Well, in fact, I don´t get many requests anyway nowadays. I prefer to put my effort into this blog or homepage you have visited. It is more rewarding and important to publish others. And let them inspire! And I will continue to dwell into long time projects where I can be together with the family as much as possible, but still do the only thing I can do to support, do Expeditions. It is the best of life, when the family is together, when we are all on Expedition. The family were together with me in Yemen and Siberia/Yakutia. Yes, these are the best of times!
So, my answer to your question, Mick:
“Yes, I think so. Just because I have finally accepted that I am a very flawed human being, restless, content but never happy, who has taken many a beatings from life. But those hard lessons have been for the good. At least it shows I have tried to live to its fullest and most of all, they have taught me to try to become a better human being each day. And, Mick, yes, because I have nothing to prove for myself or others anymore. I have realized I don´t have to be perfect, always happy, successful, thin, well dressed with a nice car. Being flawed, even grumpy at times and trying to do one´s best, is good enough. As long as one dares to try to live to its fullest. Which I try to do each day. And with these three ladies, it is easy to feel content, even happy! “
My only lessons of life I really like to share are these two:
Be who you are with all the flaws. That is good enough. And. Do remember life is short, so live to its fullest!
Moss Side, 16/1/2014
*An important addition to this section is this article http://www.mikaelstrandberg.com/2015/01/08/editorial-dropping-explorer/