I apologise in advance, this is beginning to take on a life of its own. Grab yourself something strong over ice, settle down and let’s begin…
I don’t know whether it’s approaching 30, the state of the world at the moment, or something else entirely, but recently I’ve started to become extremely interested in mortality; namely my own mortality. I don’t mean this in a depressing way at all, but more a case of looking at my life and what I want to achieve from it; embracing the positive. I have always had a rather positive outlook on the world, and it is my belief that the only way you can be optimistic is to realise the negative aspects of the world and your life. It is only by acknowledging these that you become free to embrace the positives, and realise just how many positives your life has.
The fact that you are reading this at all proves the biggest miracle of all: life. The chance of you being alive at all, of any of us being alive at all, is so astronomically low as to render it next to impossible. But against all odds, here you are, sat in your armchair, or on the bus, living and breathing. We are each of us a miracle, and as a magician I honestly believe that this is real magic. We allow the world to take control of this though and change us. Matt Haig, in his phenomenal book ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ says, “The world is increasingly designed to depress us. Happiness isn’t good for the economy.” Our world encourages us to worry about everything and focus on the negatives so much that it becomes hard to embrace the positives. As the ever faithful Tyler Durden states,
“I see all this potential and I see squandering. God damn it, an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables, slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of the history man, no purpose or place, we have no Great war, no Great depression, our great war is a spiritual war, our great depression is our lives…”
We take so many positives for granted: a roof over our head, a job, food on the table, clean air to breathe; it isn’t our fault but a product of our society. I think we need a revolution, a reason to see the joy in the world. Now more than ever. This is what I have decided to do, and hopefully this essay will inspire you to do something similar.
It started a few months ago at the suggestion of something I read that, at the time, seemed inconsequential. I started quite simply by writing down ten things I was grateful for. The next day I wrote down ten things in my life that make me happy. The day after, I wrote down ten things in my life that I was proud of. On the fourth day I noticed something. I felt happier in myself. I started noticing positive things around me, simple things that I had taken for granted; and those things that had been grating on me or annoying me had started to disappear. It’s similar to when you buy a new car and all of a sudden you start noticing your car everywhere, because you’ve attuned yourself to that stimulus. I know much has been written about this before, so I won’t go on, but just by allowing myself to notice the positives, I felt myself becoming more positive.
Then I moved onto my overall aim: The Apocalyst. This journey served to make me even happier with the state of my life and my mortality, albeit in a rather accidental way. I have always tried to make things happen in my life, whether that has been travelling, recording a CD, publishing a book; but I’d never given much thought to any of it. If I wanted to do something, I set my mind to it and I did it, I didn’t realise how lucky this made me until I started making my list. For those of you unsure of what an apocalyst is, essentially it is just another word for a bucket list, with the idea being that there will be an apocalypse before you die of natural (or other) causes. Disclaimer. I don’t believe there will be an apocalypse in our lifetime. I heard the phrase on a TV show (No Tomorrow) and just loved it and adopted it for my own use. But it got me thinking. What if there really was no tomorrow? Would I have done everything I had wanted to do? Would you? Would any of us? I decided I was going to make my own list, but I wanted to do my research, find out what all of you wanted to do. The results were surprising.
There were the obvious ones, such as travel to certain places, get married, have children, but one thing I kept noticing is that as I was scrolling through I found myself saying, ‘hey! I’ve done that, it’s awesome!’ I began to realise that without knowing, I had been completing my apocalyst long before I started my list. If I wanted to do something, such as go to Florence, or go sky diving, I set my mind to it and got it done. I’d never given much thought to the fact that people out there may have listed that as their number one thing to do. And once again, it highlighted how much we take for granted in our lives. Some of you reading this will be great cooks; I spoke to one person whose absolute dream was to cook just one great meal for his family. If you can cook I can guarantee you don’t think about how amazing that is. And I bet you never realised that there are people out there who would give anything for the ability you take for granted.
But a strange thing happened when I asked why he hadn’t learned. He replied, ‘I’ve been busy man, I work all day, come home, help around the house, and that’s me done.’ I know there are a plethora of pressures and challenges on us every day, but I guarantee you, that man will look back in years to come and say, ‘I wish I had learned to cook’. What’s stopping you? The worst thing I think you can hear from a person is, ‘I wish I’d had the chance to…’ You do have your chance. Every second that you are alive is a chance to seize what you want.
What stops any of us doing those things and taking those chances is ourselves. We put ourselves in the way, we make excuses; I’m guilty of it myself at times. But I don’t want to sit back on my death bed with wishes. As I said in my introduction, we are a miracle. We are here for a hiccup in time, the world span fine before us, and it will continue spinning long after we’re gone. I would like to make the most of my time here.
So I took inspiration from some entries from around the world and I added my own desires and wishes. I decided to focus on 52 entries, and I have given myself 52 months to complete it. Instead of numbering them, I have given them each a playing card, in an attempt to keep this magical! I will post my complete list below, but I would like to offer you a challenge. I challenge you to create your own apocalyst, perhaps with only 10 entries, perhaps even less. The quantity isn’t important, but what is important is that you give it a go. I suggest trying to complete one entry per month, or trying something each month. There is an inspirational TED talk by Matt Cutts (link below) where he suggests trying something new for 30 days. I tried this myself and found something astonishing: instead of months just blurring away and being forgotten, there was something memorable, something I could remember. He goes on to talk about how his self-confidence increased and how he became a much more interesting person. The person, who instead of saying I work in an office, can now say I’m a novelist. I’m not for one second saying that the purpose of this challenge is to make me a more interesting person; that doesn’t bother me. The purpose of this challenge is to challenge myself, to not wait for life to happen to me but to go out there and show life how it should be lived. I want to be the person on their death bed that coughs, splutters, then just manages to exhale one last sentence, saying, ‘F**k, I did a lot!’
I know this isn’t for everybody, and I know that there are so many factors affecting each individual. But if you don’t do it for yourself, nobody else will do it for you. The amount of people I talk to that regret not doing something is astronomical. I would much rather regret something that I did do. And I know that this won’t be an easy ride. I will stumble, I will fall. But I guarantee you that I will give it my all. And that’s all anybody can expect.
I would love to hear about your own apocalyst, please keep in touch and keep following my progress!
Until next time,
Matt Haig’s book, ‘Reasons to Stay Alive’ is available at the address below:
Matt Cutt’s TED Talk
- Swim with dolphins (Ace of Clubs)
- Visit Thailand (Two of Clubs)
- See the Killing fields in Cambodia (Three of Clubs)
- Learn to meditate (Four of Clubs)
- Ride a motorcycle (Five of Clubs)
- Live in Tokyo (Six of Clubs)
- See the red square in Moscow (Seven of Clubs)
- Play the piano live (Eight of Clubs)
- Fall madly in love (Nine of Clubs)
- Visit the Magic Castle in LA (Ten of Clubs)
- Deliver a lecture (Jack of Clubs)
- Play a concert in a band (Queen of Clubs)
- Visit Canada (King of Clubs)
- Set foot on all 7 continents (Ace of Hearts)
- Ride the longest zip line in Europe. (Zipworld, Wales) (Two of Hearts)
- Play a gig in Nashville (Three of Hearts)
- See the firefly squids in Japan (Four of Hearts)
- Climb a mountain (Five of Hearts)
- Visit the Grand Canyon (Six of Hearts)
- Drive around Ireland (Seven of Hearts)
Give blood (Eight of Hearts)
- Hug an orangutan (Nine of Hearts)
- Learn a new language (Ten of Hearts)
- See the Northern Lights in person (Jack of Hearts)
- Go to Oktoberfest in Munich (Queen of Hearts)
- Go snowboarding on a mountain (King of Hearts)
- Attend Edinburgh Fringe Festival (Ace of Spades)
- Base jump (Two of Spades)
- Go to a drive in movie (Three of Spades)
- Witness a meteor shower (Four of Spades)
- Run a half marathon (Five of Spades)
- Go to the airport and take the next flight anywhere (Six of Spades)
- Ride a Segway (Seven of Spades)
- Build something significant (Eight of Spades)
- Take a homeless person for a coffee/some food (Nine of Spades)
- Go zorbing (Ten of Spades)
- Attend Comic Con (Jack of Spades)
- Drive on route 66/Take a road trip in USA (Queen of Spades)
- See the firefly forest in Japan (King of Spades)
- Hike through one of the US National Parks (Ace of Diamonds)
- Stay in a glass igloo (Two of Diamonds)
- Gamble in a Las Vegas Casino (Three of Diamonds)
- Stay in a log cabin (Four of Diamonds)
- Attend the bull run in Pamplona (Five of Diamonds)
- Walk the glass bridge at Tienanmen mountain, China (Six of Diamonds)
- Watch turtles hatch (Seven of Diamonds)
- Sleep in a hammock (Eight of Diamonds)
- Jump off a waterfall (Nine of Diamonds)
- Watch the top 100 films (Ten of Diamonds)
- Go skinny dipping (Jack of Diamonds)
Be part of a world record (Queen of Diamonds)
- Learn to lead climb (King of Diamonds)