As a kid… I never stood still; I grew up in a neighbourhood of about 40 kids around similar ages. I was either racing around the streets on my bike, skateboard or billy-cart, playing down the creek or the park, or raiding my dads scrap timber he would get from work for the bbq, to build boats and whatever else with nails and fuse wire. I was also crazy about Lego, I’d make anything that I could imagine, and that would be my toy of choice until I got bored with it or inspired to build something else.
In the years between primary school and finishing High School, I played a lot of sport, primarily soccer, but also dabbled in tennis and golf. I never stopped physically, and usually filled my remaining spare time building cubby houses, home made pinball machines, plastic airplane models and what ever else my imagination led me too. As I progressed through high school I got more interested in woodworking and tech drawing, and planned for a career as a builder or carpenter, but that was not to be.
I left school in 1984 at the end of year 10. Building and carpentry apprenticeships were hard to come by, but a twist of fate led me to an apprenticeship in sheet metal working for which I have no regrets, and to this day still think it was one of the best things I ever did. In my final year I began studying mechanical engineering and went on to work as a mechanical design draftsman at the end of 1988 after completing my apprenticeship.
1988, I was 19 years old when my mental health began to fluctuate, not that I knew what it was until I was formally diagnosed with clinical depression, OCD and Tourette’s syndrome in 2001. During those 13 years I still managed to complete my trade and study in mechanical engineering, get married, start a university degree (I graduated in 2002), change careers into IT, see my first child come into the world among many other things. I also developed a love for European exotic cars well beyond my price range, so I built plastic models of them instead.
1991, I was 22 and started training in Tae Kwon Do, which gave me confidence and helped with my mental strength. I also started dating my wife who is also my best friend. Around the same time I saw a picture of a Bonsai tree in a book that belonged to my Aunty. This triggered another passion of mine, which still continues today. I have many trees that are being trained as Bonsai. This taught me patience, because it takes many years to develop a true Bonsai.
2017, I’m now 48 and my mental health issues are well under control. Although they presented many personal challenges, and still do some extent, there have always been several constants in my life: A drive to design, make and create. I never stop thinking about ideas, with a constant urge to design and build, and to overcome complex problems and challenges. I apply all the skills I have developed across my career and life experiences from sheet metal working, engineering and drawing to information technology, business and agile software development.
Studies into mental illness indicate strong connections between highly intelligent, artistic and creative people. In some ways, I’m glad if that’s the case with myself, because I see these attributes as a gift, and have now reached a stage in my life where both my career, my personal life, and hobbies are benefiting with my mental health under control.
Most importantly, its taken many years, but I’ve learned that you must be happy and content within yourself for any of the above to matter, and to enable you do your best work in your personal life and your career.
The Human brain is truly a gift (apart from obvious reasons). Even though it has a few “bugs”, it is capable of so much more that is yet to be discovered and understood. But the more you exercise it through creativity and problem solving, the more you can unlock its capabilities, so treat it with CARE and RESPECT. You only get one!