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The joy of trying something new

2019, I have decided, is going to be the year to be more conscious of the life I want to create. This year heralds a change of career for me (or rather a hanging up of one set of boots to spend time more time wearing the other). There must be something in the water, because the collective atmosphere of my friends is one of change, growth and choice. It could be our age, and a sense of our own mortality, but it feels more like we have just had enough of being pulled in a million different directions and we are so very ready to be a little truer to ourselves and our values. We want to be more present and stop running from point ‘A’ to ‘B’ in a caffeinated haze. We want to have time with our families, and to do the things we always wanted to do; things that are constantly pushed into a far corner to gather cobwebs under a burden of over-commitment and mis-guided perfectionism. In effect, we are Marie Kondo-ing our lives. Being ‘Intentional’ is what it’s all about, a lofty ambition when life is so manic, which I imagine is why the word has been positively done to death lately.

In the spirit of all this, and dusting off lists of long forgotten goals, I decided to try something I had wanted to do since forever: surfing. My daughter had one surf lesson through school, and loved it, so I thought having a lesson together while we are on holiday in Nelson would be fun, and a great chance for some bonding too. Besides, learning new things is scientifically proven to be excellent for keeping our grey matter in check and creating new neural pathways (little highways for messages to be transmitted in your brain). The more new things you learn, the easier it becomes, and the more you practice those things, the stronger those pathways become, hence ‘practice makes perfect’. Studies have shown that learning new skills even reduces your risk of developing dementia, and it makes us feel good too. New experiences and skills cause the brain to release dopamine, the reward chemical, so we get a burst of happiness every time we do or learn something different.

So, with our shiny new Mini Mal soft boards tied precariously to the top of my husbands trusty Hilux, we set off for Nelson. With some help from Holgeys Surf shop, we found an instructor who was willing to teach my daughter and I. At this point, all I knew about this person was his name was Mark, and I sincerely hoped he wasn’t an impatient millennial who would snigger every time forty year old me fell off my board (which I was pretty sure would be a lot). After a message from Mark saying that his lessons ‘end up with every surfing until they can’t talk or walk’ and (more reassuringly but also with a fair dose of humour) ‘It’s easy to surf, you just have to stand up!!!’, we scheduled to meet at Rabbit Island, where the waves were big enough to surf but not too scary for learners. Mark turned out to be around my age, with a cheerful Aussie twang from an earlier life in Tasmania and a super-human level of patience. If I fell off, he kindly blamed the wave (and I did fall off a lot – I have the bruises to prove it) and gave me feedback on what I could do better next time. With my daughter, he was patient and fun, making her laugh, and sympathetic when she fell off or felt frustrated. He was the perfect instructor, and even though it was for a split second, I did get up on the board, and so did my daughter. We came away exhilarated, tired and happy. So here is to crafting the life you want, living more intentionally and trying new things. What are you going to try this year? What unnecessary things are you going to change in your life to make room for what matters?

Image : Kensuke Saito Surf Photography

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