A Moment of Solitude at The Edge of Paradise

I once sat at the edge of the world, in a place called Port Douglas, and saw the above. And I had nothing but time, and space, and myself at the edge of paradise.

After a fairly turbulent year, this was a moment of uninterrupted peace and tranquility, a site and place of pure reflection. Everything I was, and everything I had done, the reasons, the failures, the successes…everything could roll through your mind in this space.

It was a moment of blissful solitude, and exactly what one needs to make sense of this mental, backwards and sometimes fun ride we call life.

Try it sometime. OK, maybe don’t go the extent of travelling to the other side of the planet, but take a day, maybe a weekend, and disappear somewhere very far away from your day to day surroundings. Take in the air, take in the atmosphere, feel the world around you. Reflect, consider, and plan.

In my time there I examined quite a lot about…well everything. The story, the trajectory of my life to that point. Where I felt I took a misstep, where I felt I never made a decision at all. It was powerful.

It was also a humbling experience. There’s something quite profound about having given up everything (no matter how little that everything is) and arriving at a place, very far removed from everything else you know. OK, maybe it’s not as exotic as Vietnam or as alien as Iceland, but it was a pretty powerful thing to walk up to this spot every day:

Solitude 2

In that space, where all you could feel was coastal, crisp Pacific air, and all you could hear was the crash of the ocean waves on ancient rocks, you get a sense, a feeling, of what you want to do. The edge of the world is before you, a horizon in the distance you know stretches to infinity, all possibility space and history blending together into one.

It’s almost a singularity – no past, no future, just the immediate, the now, and everything you’ve ever done, everything you may be, rolled into a single point, on which you could figure out what truly, and utterly, matters.

To me, in those moments, I realised how my isolation back home was effectively killing me. The small world I had built for myself in the wake of university wasn’t enough, and created a feedback loop that made me…less than I could have been.

Here I was, far away from everything, every decision that could shape me to be a better person. I didn’t have to give up the things I truly enjoyed to do that, but find a better balance within my life to achieve it.

At this crossroad I could see so many possibilities….and so many futures, so many changes and paths that could be taken. At Port Douglas, I saw a space and a place removed from the world, isolated in a way, a time capsule for the human spirit. In my mind this spot will forever be the junction on which the rest of my life will play out. No other moment in recent memory has the same impact of that daily visit to the edge of the cliffs above.

In life, we have to make choices. Often, we sleep walk into them, walk right on by most of them, and overthink too many to count. These choices don’t need to be momentous. Life isn’t about the grandiose, the massive adventures nor the greatest of achievements. Rather, they are the culmination of baby steps, fumbles, mistakes, last minute changes of heart.

Small moments build up to them, and it’s the small moments that stick with us in our minds. Graduation day may be photographed but we’ll remember the kindness and friendship of those we met on the way far more. Achieving a great victory in a sport is the culmination of a thousand smaller victories to get up and practice again, and again, and again. Love, felt in small gestures and glances, hands entwined and the world reduced to two, for instants at a time.

We live to see the biggest moments in our lives, but it is the intervening moments we’ll truly cherish, that make every day matter, and every morning a joy and not misery.

At Port Douglas, at the end of a big journey, I realised the importance of those moments in between.

At the edge of an alien clifftop I saw what mattered to me. All it took was a moment of solitude, at the edge of the world.

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