I am obsessed with the idea of the Multiverse.

Anyone going through the tunnel under the Frenchgate centre will know how we can enter different parallel universes there. You enter the tunnel, the radio loses signal and silence- or white noise- pursues. Darkness and lights zoom by and as you leave the tunnel, you feel different as the daylight hits you. It lasts just a nano-second but you feel different.

I believe Doncaster has many versions of its own multiverses. I also believe we are haunted by the spectre of each version of Doncaster’s history.

You see, throughout our lives, we will come to find ourselves in a lot of different places..

a lot of different rooms

a lot of different corners

a lot of different wheres’

Those wheres’ will be unexpected. They will surprise us. They will scare us. The will change everything. They will change nothing. They will break our hearts.

Some years ago, I fell properly sick. Everything changed and my world fractured. Time was broken and my timeline branched. In one timeline I went on living in Sheffield or maybe NYC, building this somewhat self important -maybe even self absorbed- art world practice. But in this new timeline- the one I’m living in today- I would spend months in hospitals and in bed in my mums house in the Donx, going through various tests and treatments. I would feel more pain than I’d ever felt before and I would be unsure if I’d every get to leave.. or live.

I had hundreds of people rally around me, they literally saved my life. I couldn’t have imagined I would survive it all, but months (nearly two years) later, weak and hobbled, I was forever changed.

I kept coming back to this question in my head. What is a meaningful life? Did I have one? I also asked myself if there was any point in saving my life if it wasn’t a meaningful one?

I couldn’t get my old life back. Even if I had wanted to; it didn’t fit me anymore. I was, however, gifted a new one back here in Doncaster.

I can tell you that even thought those were the most painful months of my life, even though I am still living with the legacy of chronic illness; I know I am in the right timeline. I am in the right multiverse. The one where time had suddenly become so much more important and my “where” had changed too.

I know that because it is now a “where” of friendship and love. Not just one of loss.

For me, friendship is a tool of social activism. It’s about the renewal of our imagination about who we are and who we wish to become. It’s about being in a discourse and engaging in things about others and us. To be- or want to be- entwined in allegiance.

I came out of that time with a list of things I had always wanted to do. Terrified of losing everything again, I got to work. I graduated in radiotherapy, won a bunch of awards. Adopted a border collie dog. Did more inner work. Took bigger risks. I ran to be a local councillor and travelled to lots of places on my “Fuck it List”. One thing on that list was surfing and that’s where we find Doncaster in my “Parallel State”.

In the parallel State, Doncaster values time over currency and is known for its surf. Learning from Native Hawaiian scholars on the history of surfing, who assert that Native Hawaiians exercised agency and resisted colonial encroachment by surfing. It became a radical and revolutionary act. Like making art or standing up for communities can be.

People come here to catch mavericks and chase giants. We measure ourselves against the surf, not each other. We respect Mother Nature and a culture of significance, where everyone matters. Doncaster surfing in the Parallel State gives us lessons through the relationship of the water and how its waves form. What is represents in our town and how it helps us grow.

We grow up somewhere between waves and words. Our hair turns grey and decades go by. We spend hours, months and years between big waves, small waves. Epic ones and forgettable ones and eventually everyone reaches the shore.

The ocean is the definition of chaos and power. A place where Doncaster sits in all of its universes. Some waves are slow and crash quickly. Other waves, at an ideal speed, are like a clean palette for an artist to work with. Each wave completely different from the next but the wave you get is the wave you get. That’s life.

There is always one more wave to catch and much like a surfer, a community is never truly done.

To us, Doncaster’s Surfside communities, its all about craft and care. A commitment we make to the grave.

You have to realise at moments that you are on natures schedule and that natures schedule is never perfect or convenient. I wonder if surfings purpose is to teach us to be patient. Much like the surfer has to be patient enough to develop their style. Communities and artists have to patient enough to develop their voice, with everyone as equity partners in our culture transformation.

If you do either of these things for long enough, you’ll realise that waves come in sets. Unfortunately, the only way you can learn to avoid the impact zone is by getting caught in it. It’s a lesson in timing not to dissimilar to falling in love, it’s either right or it’s not.

If you decide to take the journey, you should be ready for the ride of your life but remember, if you catch one good wave you’ll be hooked.

In the Parallel State, Doncaster has endless enthusiasm for trying new things, regardless of ability or protocol. It makes us realise that sucking at something can lead us to a better place. Seeing ourselves suck at something- regardless of how trivial- might make us a bit more sympathetic to how hard things really are. Be that trying to navigate health issues, listening to our neighbours or changing hostile cultures.

By exposing ourselves to the experience of trying and failing we can develop more empathy. If we succeed in shifting from snap judgements to patience, we could be a little more helpful to one another with a whole lot more understanding. If we accept our failures and persevere nonetheless, we might provide respite from an imperative to succeed and find acceptance in trying. Failing is okay. It makes us more likely to find a place of compassionate innovation. Surfing, like art, is thrilling precisely because of its unpredictability. It’s about depth and it’s a lifelong practice.

In this timeline, I have devoted myself full-time to living as if I was on borrowed time. I reSURFaced. Whatever time I have left “I” have to own it. So there’s no better time- whatever multiverse you are in- to put people and compassion first. Money is circulated, time is spent. We can always get money back but time is a different story. So lets invest our time, starting with our hearts.

We can’t stop the waves but we can learn how to surf.

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