A few weeks ago I met Myrtle Simpson. The lady is well over 80.
In the 1960s she became the first woman to ski across Greenland with four others on an unsupported expedition.
As this wonderfully feisty lady recounts her adventures to a small enthralled group of mostly women, she says so many things that make so much sense.
“Don’t assume the answer is no, you will never know if you don’t ask.”
“Your family is most important, even if it means you climb one less peak or go on one shorter expedition.“
But the one thing that really stayed with me and has been echoing over the last many days is the answer she gave to someone who asked her, “why do you do what you do – why the mountains, why the exploration?”
“I want to see what is beyond the horizon,” she answered calmly. Simple and yet so profound!
Over the last many days I have wondered what it was about her answer that struck a chord with me. Then, as I lay supine on my bed staring at the ceiling and reflecting on life in general (my favourite Saturday routine), it suddenly came to me.
I left India 12 years back to come to Canada.
I had a very comfortable life with the usual trappings of the upper middle-class Indian family – cook, maid, chauffeur, and most importantly a mortgage-free home (oh yeah!). Yet there was a hankering for something more, a desire to move, to leave, and to explore.
My friends and family thought I was nuts.
“Why?” “Don’t rock it.” “Stay, we will promote you.”
There were dire warnings: “You don’t have a job, what will you do?” “You don’t have Canadian experience, no one will hire you…“
It went on and on.
Strangely, I too could not articulate what was pushing me – the “why?”
My most oft-repeated answer (very banal) was “doing it for the kids”.
Fast forward to this Saturday, 12 years later (yeah I must be slow), I woke up to the realisation that like Ms. Simpson in the 60’s, I wanted to see what was beyond the horizon. I wanted to explore to stretch my boundaries, to push myself into the unknown, to take a risk.
Gratefully what was beyond the horizon was this amazing country, a beautiful mosaic of different cultures. A land of immigrants where every beautiful tile in the design had its purpose, and, opportunity to shine.
It was not a melting pot.
I did not have to become mush to blend in; I could be me and live in a kind caring compassionate and ever so polite environment.
I got a job beyond my dreams, I made friends, the children thrived and we learnt more about kindness and goodwill than we ever imagined.
We learnt this from a stranger from whom we were buying some equipment.When he realised that we had no way to take things home other than on the bus (could not afford a taxi then), he put us and the stuff in his car and drove us home. We learnt from our neighbours who dropped us to the train station during winter so that we did not freeze while waiting for the bus. We learnt and learnt and most importantly learnt to pay it forward.
What was beyond the horizon was a country I am proud to call my home.
Thank you, Ms. Simpson, for helping me articulate my ‘Why?” albeit after 12 years.
Kiran Ramnane is an extremely curious person who is also a mom, a corporate educator and a Leadership Coach. Having travelled extensively her passion is exploring the diversity of human beings and cultures. Kiran lives in Oakville, Canada with her husband Satish and their dog Zoe. Her favourite place is home and her favourite thing to do on any day is curl up on the couch and read – anything!