I’m not quite sure how to start this story; it’s one that’s been on my mind for quite some time now and I’ve never had the courage or the words to gather my thoughts in a way that I could eloquently write this from a perspective that could be understood.
It was the 21st of June, 2017; I’d suffered an excruciating panic attack and had been advised to take a Compassionate Leave.
I’d been in Sydney, Australia for the well-over Eight Years now; away from home, away from family.
I wasn’t quite sure why this sudden cloud of anxiety had taken over me, but I knew I had to get back home.
I’d just gotten off the phone with my sister, and in the few minutes that followed my entire family had gotten together to get on the phone with me and make sure I was doing alright.
About ten minutes later, my dear Father had booked me a ticket to fly back home. I was due to fly home in a week.
The next day I made my way back to the University, packed up my remaining inanimate pieces of nostalgia and walked over to my Psychologist; for one final examination before my departure.
It was a light-hearted meeting, one which consisted of us mostly discussing our love for David Byrne and Talking Heads.
I departed the meeting, letting the doctor know I was going to be okay and that I was going to be alright.
But in the back of my head I was planning the easiest possible way to end my life. I found myself waiting at the University’s usual Bus-Stop that would take me home.
And although I’d promised my family I’d make it back home, I knew that was not my intention.
I’d just been considered a failure in my own mind, I thought about what a waste everything was and how much of a coward I was for just running away from it all — at which point I truly believed ending my life was the only and easiest way out as there was since there was nothing of significance left ahead for me.
I’m not quite sure if it was coincidence or destiny that I’d run into an esteemed Professor, who’d taught me in my first year and had played a crucial role in securing me a job as an Undergrad within the University’s Research Department.
Unbeknownst to me, running into this man was an eerie moment for me. He’d played an important role in mentoring me and recognising my worth; and I wasn’t quite ready to share a Bus ride with him out of fear of not being able to contain my emotions enough to hide from him the fact that I was about to give it all up.
We got on the bus, sat next to one another. The conversation that followed somehow made the moment not feel awkward for me.
He didn’t ask me how I’d been doing or what I’d been up to. Or why my eyes were all red and my hands and legs were shaking uncontrollably.
He simply kept his attention to enjoying the view of Moore Park as the bus drove us towards our destination.
He asked me how I liked Surry Hills, where the bus was headed.
We ended up discussing the issue of Affordable Housing and the Homeless situation that had resulted as a result of The City of Sydney allowing the construction of a new Casino and forcing people out of their homes at Miller’s Point.
As we got closer to home, he said to me; “Isn’t it a beautiful neighbourhood? The higher up you go Surry Hills the wealthier the occupants become. And the closer you are to the bottom is the closest to where the Homeless people camp.”
I smiled and acknowledged the irony of it.
I finally said, “I’m going back home, I put in my resignation today.”
And he replied, “Well..I hope you enjoyed the experience.”
I looked down and wasn’t quite sure what to say to that.
He continued and said, “You know..most of what I teach at university has no practical value. We don’t design courses to be practical. Practicality is something we hope students learn at work and can slowly be taught through work-ethic. Courses are designed to give students the right mind set, the right experience, the right lesson, to have the ability to gain practical experience and absorb knowledge.”
I said I didn’t, we were discussing Architecture and hence it made sense of what he’d just said to me. Design was often something we thought of as something that could only be derived from experience.
We almost got to our stop where we’d part our way, but he felt the need to stick around for one more minute to say something to me; unbeknownst to him, this very thing would end up saving a broken kid from committing suicide.
He said this, “I have a friend, I can’t tell you who it is..but he took Fifteen Years to Graduate from University to become an Architect. He only did it for fun, but now he’s one of the most respected Architects that I know of. You have to be grateful and be able to remember and count your blessings.”
It is in that moment that I walked back home, put on Neil Young’s music — and wrote down on a piece of paper all the blessings that I’d received since first arriving in Sydney.
— I got to visit the most beautiful country on the planet.
— I had the chance to come across and meet the most wonderful people that I’d ever encountered.
— I was the first Undergraduate in the history of my university to be employed as a Lead Research Assistant.
— I’d had the opportunity to be mentored by some of the most talented humans within their field.
— I’d been a part of one of the best universities in Australia and in the World.
And I’d accomplished all that just by being true to myself.
It was in this moment that this gentlemen without realising had contributed a minute of his life; towards convincing a young, naive, and confused kid to not end his.
That he’d been lucky enough to make it this far. And god-damn-it somewhere along the way he forgot to think just how ungrateful he’d been to all the blessings that he’d been a part of.
Of all the beautiful experiences that had led to this very moment.
An unquenchable thirst and curiosity that had led me to become the man that I grew up to be; and the kindness of a Professor who’d just saved a life by nothing but the power of his words and a minute of his life.
My deepest respect for the man that saved my life,
Mr. John Gamble.
Dedicated to Mr. Wayne Gillespie and Mr. John Gamble.