Stuart (my very best and enduring friend) captured it during our 'River' period. Late in our teens we were liberated from the repression of childhood by fresh new driving licences. We spent our weekends driving in the country, looking for rivers to conquer. The pair of us had an obsession you see, a purpose even; to find the most convoluted river and follow its path for as far as we could, irregardless of obstacle or difficulty.
Looking back it was quite a wholesome diversion. We spent many hours climbing rock faces and loose river banks to follow the path of our rivers. Mind you, afterwards we usually went out and got shitfaced, just to balance the teenage karma of course.
Perhaps these were my halcyon days. I do look upon them fondly, but I'm far from the same person that I was then.
I was spotty, cocky, priggish, both shy and extrovert at the same time. A typical youthful confusion then. In truth, I don't really miss being a 'yoof' at all. I was closed minded and put simply, a bit of a twat. That said, I was a twat who drank a lot of beer, played in some quite cool bands and slept around sufficiently to feel comfortable that as an emergent middle-ager, I can hold off the crisis for a little while yet.
Is it me in that photo? I can certainly see someone that looks a bit like me, just with more hair and spots. But to say that I'm that same person would be absurd.
Fifteen years have passed and I've had a myriad different experiences, met countless people, and read immeasurable amounts of stuff. Each of these experiences has changed me. Some fundamentally, like meeting Miche and having children. Others more subtly, like my use of the word 'So' at the beginning of sentences, which is a habit I think I've picked up recently from a close colleague.
So, who the hell am I? And by extension, who the hell is everyone else?
It is an impossibility, a farce even, to define ourselves singularly. Who we are is so intertwined with the ideas and experiences of others that in distilling down the bits that are truly individual to us, there wouldn't be much left at all.
John Donne summed this up better than I ever could;
"No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main. If a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend's or of thine own were: any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee."
Happy new year