Dave Cornthwaite undertakes brilliantly bizarre adventures around the world. Skateboarding 5823km from Perth to Brisbane was the one that kicked off his hardcore adventure-habit (he burnt through 14 right shoes), and has since kayaked the Murray River, scootered across Japan and swam the Missouri River to name only a few of the adventures he’s undertaking in his Expedition1000. Why, you may ask? Well, he suffers from Delusional Optimism, and you could be a sufferer too (if you want to be).
At some obscure point in my mid-twenties, between wishing the hours away until home time and wishing the clock would stop so I would never have to go to work again, I contracted a disease.
Not a disease, strictly, that would finish me off, gasping for one, last breath of fresh air like everyone else in the City. Nor one, like Reynaud’s, which boasts only a lifetime of whitish extremities thanks to genetically piss poor circulation.
Instead, one illness was swapped for another. Each day blended so seamlessly into the next that I was left with so few memories from a half-decade slumber that I sometimes wonder whether I was actually alive at all.
And then, on the morning of my twenty-fifth birthday, I woke up with it, an infliction that would generally confuse my closest friends on a regular basis. One that would counteract all of the decisions I’d been taught to make when I was a child growing up in a line production education. One that would make life bloody marvellous.
Delusional Optimism. That’s what they called it.
Definition: Delusional Optimism
- The unquantifiable ability to take the smallest sign and see it as an opportunity.
- Positive almost to the point of irritation
- Sees no boundaries to the seemingly impossible and therefore proves that the word is quite normal
Unshackled by the mood of the general populous, Dave decided to do that thing that everyone else thought would result in certain death, when in actual fact he just pushed a skateboard for five months and got to the finish line.
I’ll be straight with you, if I ever have to suffer from anything, may it only be this. I spent a quarter century wondering what the hell I was supposed to do and towards the end of that period decided that the only way to deal with my self-inflicted misery would be to make a nest in a sofa-sized beanbag and game my thumbs to near breaking point.
And then the answer was very clear. Stop wondering, start acting. It was a shock to those around me, at first. When I told them I had quit my job to break a world distance record on a skateboard the retorts were predictable and included:
“I didn’t know you skateboarded.”
“How will you buy food?”
“What about your mortgage?”
“But you’ve got everything you need as a human. Grow up.” Etc. etc.
I decided, amidst that rise from the gloom of monotony, that life would probably look much more exciting if I followed up all those crazy ideas that I had in the pub by actually doing them, instead of waking up the next day with a headachy “Nahhhhh.”
And that’s how it started.
Of course, when people realise that you do indeed have a disease, there are only two evident reactions. Either they seem quite sure that it’s terminal and want strictly nothing to do with you should your demise impact negatively upon them, or they decide to help you make the most of the short time you have left.
And it’s the second band of people that are the important ones. Feel free to seek them out even if you don’t have a disease because they will be with you through thick and thin, they don’t weigh you down with all their own shit, and they accept you as being you.
They’re real friends but, and there’s a massive BUT. You can only find them when you’re really quite comfortable with yourself and the choices you’re making.
The Benefits of Delusional Optimism
My delusional optimism set in twelve years ago and it has changed everything. From the world’s shittest graphic designer to a man who adventures for a living, lives on a boat and accidentally started a happy cult.
I was never very good at taking instructions so it figures that school and working for someone else were never going to sit well. I zoomed from University to an office desk and ended each day with the lack of satisfaction that only comes from offering no value to the world or the people who are paying you.
After realising my cat had a much better life than me I decided to sort things out and started by saying yes more. This led to the trying of new skills, the willingness to give anything a go and ultimately a much greater understanding of what I enjoyed and what I didn’t, which I think is the best possible blueprint for making decisions. Simple.
An uncontrolled plummet down a snowy hillside on a snowboard led to an uncontrolled plummet down a tarmac road on a long skateboard and two weeks later Delusional Optimism set in and I quit my job to cross Australia on said board.
It changed everything.
The delicious morphing nature of embarking on a self-propelled, slow journey was a lovely reminder that I didn’t need anything more than a tent and a bit of food and water to stay alive, and that the added focus and mission of getting somewhere new in a weird way offered a feeling of identity.
In that period of my life I finally felt that I was waking up for something. I was skateboarding from Perth to Brisbane on a board named Elsa and it gave me an ice-breaker.
The simple pleasures of settling down at the end of the day with muscles-a-glow and the satisfaction of achievement.
The simplicity of waking each morning, eating something and walking to the roadside with my board under arm, with the only main question being, how far do I go today.
And the delightful realisation that as long as you have the time and the will, this glorious existence doesn’t have to end.
Afterwards, a couple of world records in my pocket and an enormous right calf as a party trick, I was totally lost in the chasm beyond Brisbane, which for so long had been my focus. Delusional Optimism is very handy when you’re suffering from depression, because as much as I felt like lying in bed all day I was nudged by the reminder that I’d just had the time of my life and all it took was to carry on moving.
“After realising my cat had a much better life than me I decided to sort things out and started by saying yes more.”