My story is full on, but it’s a journey which has made me stronger and got me to where I am today.
It began with my move up north to live with my then girlfriend. What I thought was going to be a mutual partnership turned out to be an expectation to become an instant dad overnight which at the age of 30 I wasn’t ready for. I was suddenly paying $500 p/wk in rent, working all day to bring home the paycheck, cooking and cleaning, making dinner – doing the works without any reciprocation. While I don’t mind contributing in a relationship, these expectations were too much for me, especially as I was recovering from stomach cancer at the time. The relationship deteriorated, resulting in me being kicked out overnight, causing me to live in my truck for a week without food or money.
I took a job that paid me 50% less than normal. It was disheartening, but I had to survive. This job also meant working 40hrs a week, but only getting paid enough to cover rent and buy five pies a week to keep me fed. This was during lockdown, so I ended up moving 4 times over this period in a state of alert.
The day before my birthday, after driving from Mangawhai to the Mount to collect some belongings, I crashed my Ute after doing a 9hr day on the building site and 4 hours of driving. Along with the exhaustion, alcohol was a factor. I made a poor choice, but at the time, all I could think of was driving home or paying for a taxi and going hungry for a week. I chose to ensure I was still fed so I had the energy to work and get back on my feet. It was the wrong choice. When I crashed my truck, I died and had an out of body experience. I flew around my truck looking at my body as it hung over the steering wheel for 3 minutes. That’s a moment I’ll never forget.
As a result of the crash, I lost my license, my transport, my tools and my job (around $70K worth) and went hungry for another two weeks. To add to the stress, I had $1000 worth of bills to find a way to cover, with no way of working to help ease the burden.
I knew my life couldn’t continue on this trajectory. I needed to make some positive changes. I made a choice. I decided in addition to focusing on my building business, I also needed to focus on my health, both mentally and physically. I had gone through a lot, including working 18-hour days for the last year without any help of support from anyone, knowing I was very lucky to be alive.
I also needed a more permanent place to live. I don’t know if it was the negativity energy that was hanging around me at that time but I couldn’t seem to find a place to be settled. I kept moving into places that didn’t last and having to move out again. The repetitive cycle of sleeping in my car, going hungry and living paycheck to paycheck continued.
While this was happening, my business was taking off. I had 6 staff and 3 jobs on the go. But running a business while living in your car which was parked outside your gym, is not sustainable. I started expanding my business with the hope to sell cabins to pay for a place to live, food on the table and a new truck. My hard work paid off and I successfully expanded my business, my health improved, and I found a new place to live (I move in next week). I don’t know what the future holds, but I do know that I have lived a lifetime in the last few years. But I have also come out stronger. I have never stopped moving forward, and by refocusing my life, I have become someone that I am proud of today.
Growing up with a father as a mariner, the sea has always been a big part of my life. Very early on I knew it would be an aspect of my career and I’ve now been working in the off shore industry for 10 years. This has a significant effect on my relationships with my family, friends and partner.
I have decorated my body with reminders of things that are important in my life, inclusive of shared tattoos with my siblings and friends, memoirs of pets and references to the journeys my job has taken me on. The swallows are significant in representing the distance I have traveled at sea and encouraging the safe return home, mirroring the swallows constant return to their home land.
The sacrifice of working away is not for everyone and the toll it can have on the body both mentally and physically is not for the faint hearted.