"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.