"Children cannot bounce off the walls if we take away the walls!"
When I was a teenager and it felt that the world was crashing down around me, there was a certain beech tree I would climb for solace. In those limbs I felt safe, protected and I could feel myself calm as I lay in its branches. I learned that nature was a source of comfort: Something I could run to that would accept me no matter what, without judgment, and where I would be embraced unconditionally. I recall a self confidence in nature from an early age. I have many childhood memories of knowing that I needed space and going out for a walk in a wild place. It calmed me. Even as I grew older, whenever I felt unease in a social setting, I knew I could walk out into nature and be myself.
Johnny Tan is the author of the best selling book "From My Mama's Kitchen.' His FMMK Talk Radio show has amassed over one million listeners and ranks in the top 1% of all 73,000 shows on Blog Talk Radio. Guests have included New York Times bestselling authors, publishers, artists and experts in the field of personal and professional development and relationships. Johnny recently shared his own life story in an interview from the heart with Australian based author and therapist Veronica Farmer from www.madebeautifulby.com
Some of us are fortunate to realize the contributions and sacrifices our mothers made on our behalf early in life. Others take a little longer to appreciate motherly love. Regardless, our mothers love us the best way they know how. They usually miss us more than we miss them.
My sister Leng, and I experienced a wonderful childhood growing up in Melaka, Malaysia. We were pretty much showered with all the love any children could expect from their parents. As a younger brother by six years, my constant desire to engage my sister’s attention eventually led to many and at times testy sibling squabbling. It was during one of these trivial infuriating episodes when my sister told me that I was adopted, and that was why my unbecoming behavior was reprehensible. Leng really reached for the bottom of the barrel that time to put an end to my relentless bedeviling personality. She surprised me with that antagonistic comment. I knew my sister was adopted, but me, no way! This can’t be true! I remember, my birth certificate clearly stated that I was born to my parents, no aliases like it was on my sister’s document.
Interviewed by Veronica Farmer, images kindly supplied by Pulitzer Prize winning photojournalist Ken Lubas.
At 19 years old I was a guitarist in a rock band playing some of the big places in Hollywood. Staying at my manager’s place we would wake up to the classic picture of sleeping bodies in the living room and party remnants. That was my life for a very long time working with a variety of bands, some of them quite famous and getting great airplay. I connected with song writing because you could create a punchy story that meant something in just three minutes. I never wrote any “I love you baby” type songs – more satire and political stuff. There came a time though when I needed a change from that world. The late nights and the constant travelling around to clubs playing the same songs was getting old. I needed to be somewhere I could give something back and get myself outside and into nature.
I had that freedom you get from being the youngest child, a little more rebellious I guess. At the age of five, I was already outside pruning and taking care of the garden – it became a passion early. I was aware of the impact that people and pollution were having on the environment and told my mother I wanted to be a gardener. She said to me “Don’t be a gardener, be a horticulturist- a scientist who studies plants.” Family and friends made jokes about me being a ‘tree hugger’ and that I would grow up and ‘marry a tree.’ At the age of 15, I was devastated when my grades did not match my desire to follow the scientific path towards horticulture. I turned instead to geography but was not sure where that would take me. It was only in the army and in the thick of the jungle in Brunei at 18 years old, that I realized how helpful geography was for distinguishing places by using terrain, plants and trees.
I’m just like anyone else who has a burning desire to live life to the fullest and with purpose. I want to leave a mark on this planet with my work; connect meaningfully with others; be in love. These are all standard things for a 38-year old single successful guy to want. It’s common to want to explore a life that reaches all the edges of human emotion from frustration to wild elation depending on the day and to be free to express myself without fear of other people’s limiting beliefs, or what that should look like.
I have severe cerebral palsy, a condition that does not define me, but does confine me to an electric wheelchair and this creates a story in many people’s minds. A story that is not true.
Image credit to Jeroen Hofman
Kevin Richardson was interviewed by Australian author Veronica Farmer before coming out to Australia for his next Speaker Tour...
I was born on the 8th October 1974 in Johannesburg, South Africa. I spent my childhood in the suburb of Orange Grove, far from the African bushveld that I now call home. At around the age of 4, this calling to work with animals began with the rescue of a baby bird I helped raise with my father. The neighbors started calling me 'The Bird Man of Orange Grove' as I began to take in and care for many more waifs and strays.
I planned to follow a career with animals and set my sights on veterinary science. However during my teens, the usual teenage drive for exploration of life and a natural rebelliousness, took my focus away from studies and I was not accepted onto the course.
Image by Mark Crocker
SPIDERS - FROM FEAR TO FASCINATION...
My mother turned 90 this year. She is perceptive, insightful and beautiful. She has an easy grace and a natural charm. She reminds me more of Lauren Bacall than Marilyn Monroe. She is politically progressive and doesn’t suffer fools gladly. Oh, and one more thing... She is afraid of spiders.
I really had no idea my mother was afraid of spiders until I started writing a book about them. She must have known somehow that the fear can be passed on and wanted to protect us from the dread and horror she felt when she saw a spider, or even a picture of one so we never knew.
I was completely unprepared when she couldn’t skim my book about spiders and enjoy the amazing photos. Instead, she recoiled with a shudder and a grimace.
Interviewed by Veronica Farmer, images by Mike Bhana from www.wildfilm.tv
Ocean environments are vital to us on so many levels, especially for island nations like my own home of New Zealand. Oceans are intrinsic to our way of life, to our culture, summer holidays, happiness; all of those elements for us of being truly Kiwi. If we woke up one morning to find that all our waterways were polluted, that there were no more fish in the oceans, no more Saturday mornings out with our kids, teaching them to fish or swim, we would lose a sense of home and who we are as a people. The sea has always been a huge part of my life, it's in my blood and helping others understand and connect with that world is important to me.
Interviewed by Veronica Farmer, author & storycollector for the Made Beautiful by... series
I had a premonition before the event, a sense of dread. I knew this was not something to be ignored as I had a similar kind of premonition many years before, one that left me with a gnawing undercurrent of deep discomfort. That time, it had proven true as my father passed away soon after. I had only been a teenager. This time, 14 years later, the premonition showed me a tragic accident and I knew the vision was showing me my own death.
Looking back to that day over a decade ago now, I was at the height of my music career and life was good. My debut album “Wrong Place, Wrong Time” had three hit singles and had reached the Aria Albums Chart top 60. I was feeling on top of my game, but there was a sense that there was something missing.
Interviewed by Veronica Farmer, images by Lawrence Scott
Six years ago, I tried to die. I was overcome in total despair. There was nothing left but a swirling black hole full of loathing with a one-track mind that screamed for annihilation, a cleansing of me from myself.
As I stood there alone in that room, about to make that final decision, I began to sharpen my liberation, my device to inflict pain, to feel something other than this roar of self-hatred. I stood there, afraid of what I was doing and yet the darkness engulfed me, was what I had become. There was not enough energy to stop forward motion. My mind was a jangling chasm of broken glass and was telling me that the body must break next.
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