Four years I have been a parent. 12 Years I have been a teacher. Gone are the fancy-free days of my youth. The fast metabolism that never ended. The natural fitness and athleticism that my body possessed. The obsession with tight shirts and singlets. Gone, all gone. I used to have dark coloured hair too! Some of the year 9 boys that I teach lovingly call me 40! As in my nickname, to them is literally 40. Because to them I look 40 years old. Punks.
But more to the point, and really this is my own fault. For the past 2 to 3 years a life of exercise and exploring the wilderness has fallen by the wayside, as full-time work for some odd reason gets busier and busier each year, but throw in three kids, there is barely a moment to do anything for myself anymore. My life is about my kids at the moment, and I love it, but I am absolutely exhausted.
I remember a mate of mine who married way earlier than I and had kids much earlier too. I remember during a conversation how he would say, the only moment he really had to himself, was when he was sitting on the toilet and would extend his stay on the can, just to bathe in the bliss of peace and quiet for a few moments longer. I remember listening to this and being horrified that his life was like that, but only a few years later, look at me now. I honestly can spend a good 15minutes on the loo just scrolling through YouTube, bathing in the peace and serenity the bathroom offered.
Exercise are you kidding?
Three weeks ago the young buck of the staffroom, the super sports person of the HPE department, the “life hasn’t quite destroyed his resolve just yet” colleague, sends us a group message. It is a link to thepushupchallenge.com.au and he says “Hey boys, would you be keen to do this together? We could raise money while also getting shredded pecs and arms?”
As I look at the website and see what is involved, my stomach tightens, beads of sweat roll off my head. You have 21 days, to do 3046 push-ups!!! My body is telling me no, my mind is telling me no, but once I knew what it was for, my heart was saying absolutely yes, let’s do this.
My heart is filled with sadness as I hear the outpouring of people I know on Facebook, who have lost loved ones to suicide. Just this week I learnt of a former colleague who took his life, and my heart is so broken for him and his family. The strength of the challenge that I mentioned above, is not so much the money raised, but rather the comradery built between participants, men and women who set out on a journey together, to achieve a goal, all along the way keeping each other accountable, and most importantly having life altering conversations along the way. You feel like you are in an environment of trust, safety, where you can be yourself and you know there are people around you, who have your back.
This is what we need as humans, humans need community, humans need relationship, humans need people they can talk to and work out the complexities of life together with. Humans need people to journey with.
How do we fix this?
3046 people in Australia killed themselves in 2018. For each push-up we complete, we do it in remembrance of someone who tragically took their own life. The issue of mental illness and suicide is deep and complex, and there is so much that can contribute to someone having suicidal thoughts. It is hard to know exactly what to do.
We need more mental health workers, not just in the big cities, but in country towns, in the mines, in schools on job sites. Our society is going through a mental health crisis and most people will be affected by this. Alas some of these issues can only be dealt with at a government level, new legislation needs to be put in place.
But while our governments are dealing with this on the floor of parliament, as a community we need to mobilise and start our own initiatives. The social media challenges are good, but unless we actually get out into our communities and start checking in on our friends, family and neighbours, not much is going to change.
I think about the early church and how members sold land and possessions to ensure everyone in their congregation was taken care of. People lived in close community to each other, sharing their wealth and resources, no one was left without. COVID-19 has devastated our economy, many are left without jobs and hope for the future.
What if we returned to the church of old, what if we gave up some of our wealth, time and possessions so that those around us never went without, what if we completely changed how we do things, people over profit, people over projects, people over comfort, maybe, just maybe we can start to battle mental illness, and put an end to suicide.
Jarred is an HPE and Mathematics teacher on the Sunshine Coast in Queensland, he is married to Haley and has three beautiful children Chelsea, Nathan and Ryan.