Picture this: you’re standing on the tailgate of a C130 Hercules flying at just over 10000 feet. The smell of vomit is faint now, whipped away by the blast of air that accompanied the opening of the huge ramp. On your back is a parachute and strapped to your legs is a rucksack that weighs about the same as a teenage child. Your rifle is tied to your body, the metal length sheathed in canvas.
The lamps – traffic lights for airborne troops – switched from red to green. A thumbs up from the dispatcher and you leap. And what a jump it is.
Memories of your first freefall descent are mashed and mingled with a rush of adrenaline and mental checks as you plummet towards Earth. This is good. Better – this is the pinnacle of your dreams. Once more you are at the apex of personal ambition.
And then you land.
Reality reminds you that, even though your body may ache and complain, there is still a job to be done.
A few years back you’d never considered the thought of growing older and even about your ability to continue meeting the physical demands of an arduous life. Now it's very different. You feel the bone jarring landing and a little voice in your head makes its presence known.
In a few years that constant companion in your mind will be loud enough to acknowledge: the dream is over – time to hand back your parachute and leave the hard life behind. Thanks for your time – you are now a has-been!
Wow! That cuts deep. Your dreams were real for a time and now they are about to be consigned to the ‘once upon a time’ box of memories you carry inside you.
Regardless of background we are all susceptible to the decline that come with age. Disease, injury and, most notably, death, have a cruel habit of taking the train set of our dreams – that labour of love you build in the garage or spare room of your head– and smashing it against the wall.
Now you stand amongst a scene of utter carnage. The locomotive, a powerhouse fueled by your own drive and belief, lies wrecked and broken. Carriages, containers each carrying echoes of your past desires and future hopes, are broken, crushed by Mother Nature's huge fist.
Worse, the track – the path you had chosen and built – is buckled and twisted with no hope of repair.
So that was life. It was fun for a time, but now you've succumbed to the inevitable. All you have left is a few memories, maybe a box of souvenirs and most notable of all the aches and grumbles nestled in your bones and muscles. Your dreams are at an end.
Wait! Rewind, please. Yes, we are all in agreement: the body declines and those lofty goals we once set and achieved are now passed on to the next generation, but you still have so much to give.
Your mind is a well of experience and one ripe for tapping. Memories can be molded, repurposed into cautionary tales and stories. Or better, insights made into the great things we can achieve when mind and body work in unison and towards a common goal. Rather than inspiring by doing, we mentor and nurture with the skills we have learned and honed over the years.
There are countless children out there in need of a guiding hand to help see them through the tough times. Take your knowledge of the arduous and what it takes to overcome, wrap the lessons learned in your life and fashion them into a form to be consumed, digested and acted upon. Make those who need help understand the power of they already carry inside them.
Time moves fast and has no respect for your dreams – the ticking hand of the clock and the passing of years are nothing more than a reminder of how fast your life will rush by. Those seconds, minutes and hours are also the lifespan of your dreams – almost endless. And even after the inevitable day comes your dreams will live on in the mind, body and values of those people you chose to nurture.
Now put yourself back on the tailgate and ask where all of this is going to lead: a few years of fun following only your dreams, or a lifetime in which you bring on the next generation and help them to reach those pinnacles you've have already visited?