This is a story about changing beyond recognition...
This 25 year old Londoner was hopelessly addicted to kitesurfing, and had secured a job in Bournemouth, where he would work mornings and evenings, leaving his afternoons free to go to the beach. Working for a huge international organisation, he had secured a ludicrously good deal - salary and relocation allowance - and the Human Resources (HR) people who he negotiated with had no idea that the real prize was to be able to kitesurf every day.
Despite being confident and outgoing, he was hiding crushing insecurities about his attractiveness to the opposite sex - a complete lack of self-esteem - and was struggling to find the girl of his dreams, who would be the cherry on top of a lovely cake. Being a hopeless romantic, and pretty inexperienced despite his 25 years on this Earth, he could fall in love at the drop of a hat and be heartbroken when a simple fling didn't turn into anything more serious.
Overcoming his ineptitude with women, he got together with a girl who looked perfect on paper and she was a pretty and petite blonde. He was smitten. She was a science graduate and a computer programmer. She even worked for a client that he'd worked for 6 years before, and he knew many of her colleagues.
In the words of one of his best friends, she was a "conversion project". He would teach her to kitesurf, and then they could travel the world together, chasing warm wind, soft sand and water that was mirror flat or had perfect waves. Brazil, Venezuela, Cape Verde, South Africa, The Canary Islands... there was an endless list of exciting countries to visit with this beautiful girl, and kitesurf together.
There she was, giving it a damn good go in Poole Harbour, under his tuition. Why she was wearing a buoyancy aid in water that's so shallow you can stand up in it, was anybody's guess, but I guess it made her feel more confident. Kitesurfing in those days was super dangerous - the emergency release mechanisms were just being developed, and if you let go of the bar, you'd be dragged along out of control, like being tied to the back of a speedboat being driven by a maniac, until you crashed into one of those harbourside houses.
After a year, he decided to propose. He asked her dad's permission. He did all the things that he thought he should do: buy a house, get married, get a pet, have kids. Thankfully - for the kids' sake - they stopped short of doing that last one. Just looking after their a cat had a very strong bonding effect. Their cat is probably the reason they stayed together as long as they did.
They got married in Hawaii, of course. He was allowed to wear flip flops, but not board shorts. In fact, he had a tough time from bridezilla for almost the whole trip until he put his foot down and said he just wanted to sit by the pool or on the beach, drinking ice cold beverages. She wanted to be sightseeing in a decrepit camper van that they weren't insured to drive. He checked them into a luxury hotel, which cost a small fortune - it was Christmas time after all - and finally, for a brief moment, he had a tiny bit of holiday relaxation.
Notably, they didn't take their kites or kiteboards. Travelling with a wedding dress and linen suit was a teeny bit difficult, but not as hard as lugging a 30kg bag that's nearly as tall as person. However, Hawaii has wind, waves. warm water and beautiful sandy beaches. Barely a few hundred metres from where Barack Obama was spending his holiday break, our missing young man was forced to try pole dancing (windsurfing) for the first time, in desperation to get his 'fix'. There was the shame and indignity of being a beginner windsurfer he was an experienced kitesurfer in a paradise location, who could have been having the time of his life.
After landing at London Heathrow, after over 20 hours of flight time, it turned out that his new wife had used an online booking website to arrange the taxi home, but had not accounted for the fact that they would be away over New Year's Eve. An innocent mistake, but it left them stranded, exhausted, in the middle of the night.
Within a month, he was in private hospital. It was all too much for him. She would rage and throw tantrums when things didn't go her way. He would bite his tongue and try to fix everything. The pressure to please her was unbearable... but it was never enough. He'd bought her a hot tub because she said she had loved having one in California. He'd shown her the world, staying in the best hotels and eating in the best restaurants. He'd married her in one of the most romantic destinations you could ever choose, and he'd even agreed not to wear board shorts. She was threatening divorce while he was sending her a different flower every day, from hospital, to show he still loved her. Despite him being a generous lover, she was on 'no strings attached' dating websites, looking for sex.
If crêpes Suzette, flambéed at your table, with the best views of any restaurant in Malta, is not enough to whisk a girl of her feet, he was left bamboozled as to how he could possibly please her. He was completely naïve, believing that if he treated her like a princess, she would love him as much as he loved her. He was wrong. It hurt and he was heartbroken.
It made no sense. People would come to their summer garden parties and be served home-made burgers and marinated chicken, plus endless varieties of sausages hot off the barbecue, while a range of delicious salads that she had prepared, were laid on for the vegetarians and to garnish the plates with. Fire pits and patio heaters kept people warm after the sun went down, and there was the hot tub kept at a toasty 38 degrees (100 degrees Fahrenheit).
It made no sense. People would come out for trips on his boat to see one of the largest natural harbours in the world. Him and his wife were a natural host and hostess. They were a great team when they were entertaining guests.
For her birthday one year, he took her in his boat up the Wareham River, moored up outside The Priory Hotel, and they ate lunch on the patio, which was some of the finest dining in Dorset - cooked by Michelin star standard chefs - with beautifully manicured lawns leading down to the river bank.
Why they quarrelled and grew apart is a mystery. She wanted to learn to sail and he was an RYA dinghy sailing instructor and experienced yacht skipper. She wanted to rock climb and he had the qualifications and experience to teach her. She wanted to climb mountains, and he had spent months in the high Alps and was a mountain leader (guide) experienced in dealing with emergencies, working with groups of varying ability, and acclimatising to altitude. He taught her how to snowboard and was grinning from ear to ear when she followed him off piste without a moment of hesitation.
However, he was baffled and slightly insulted that she spent a lot of money to go and learn from other people. He'd taken her sailing multiple times, and taught her a lot. He'd taken her rock climbing, and shown her the ropes; pardon the pun. He'd taken her into the mountains and shown her the basics of navigation, safety, route planning and even how to retreat when things don't go to plan. That's our missing man and his ex-wife, in every picture above except the mountain one. where he's the one taking taking the photo.
He was, undoubtably, looking for the love of his life, but married the wrong person. Friends warned him that him & her weren't a good match. "The poison dwarf" was too hot to handle, especially for a sensitive guy who was relatively inexperienced with women and still nurtured the Disney "happily ever after" idea of finding true love. He mounted a kindness offensive - an attempt to satisfy her every whim, her every ambition, but yet it still wasn't enough. He was delicate. She was aggressive.
It made him sick - mentally unwell - all this arguing and rejection. He wanted to just grab her and squeeze her tight until she felt safe and loved. Maybe that was the problem: she felt trapped and smothered. They met when she was only 23, which I guess is quite young, considering that he proposed when she was only 24. For their parents' generation, that would not have been unusual, and he did things the old fashioned way: buying a house to start a family. However, she complained she hadn't seen enough of the world; experienced enough of life's adventures. He set out to rectify this, but what she was really saying is "I'm not ready to be a one-dick woman just yet".
His best friend coined the phrase "conversion project", which is to take a girl and turn her into a kitesurfer; a sailor, a climber; a mountaineer. This friend literally asked "are you ready to be a one vagina man?". Soon after that, this friend went on a trip to sow his wild oats across Scandinavia, before coming home to marry the poor girl who'd had to tolerate this temporary break-up in the full knowledge that his motive was completely unreasonable. They're a happy couple with twins and a lovely house now, so maybe he was right. At the time, his wife wanted to punch his friend in the face or testicles, or probably both.
Before his petite blonde wife, the happy smiling 25 year old - pictured when our story began - had tried to make it work with a kitesurfer who lived 186 miles away, and nowhere near the sea. He'd tried to make it work with other kitesurfer girls too. An incredibly beautiful Burmese kitesurfer girl seemed to be flirting with him when she was on holiday with him in Sardinia, but he was so shy and inexperienced, he didn't dare try to kiss her.
Our missing man tried to make it work with his wife, again and agan and again and again, and eventually it broke him. He broke down and sank into depression, bipolar disorder, alcohol abuse and made a stupid mistake which was his ultimate demise: the abuse of legal highs. This was the beginning of the end.
In the chaos, confusion, stress and trauma of divorce, selling his house, saving his most precious possessions, leaving the town he'd called home for 8 years and all his friends... all mixed in with toxic additives like mental health problems, addiction and alcoholism, he was a little lost boy. He's been missing for nearly 11 years. There have been times when somebody who appeared to be him popped up briefly, but like an apparition, he melted away into nothingness again.
Is it any wonder that he disappeared? He gave so much of himself away - his love - trying to make relationships work; trying to make girls feel special and cherished and loved and like princesses; trying to please; loving unconditionally.
This blog contains the bitterness; the accusations of wrongdoing - the evidence of the inexcusable and terrible behaviour that was perpetrated against the author. This blog tells the story of why that young man went missing, and why he's still missing. Perhaps why he'll never be found. If he's missing, perhaps, you shouldn't search for him.
Perhaps there's no place in this world for a naïve little boy who has so much love to give, but nobody to give it to. So many times in life he was left reeling, hurt and wondering what he did wrong, when all he tried to do was to be as nice as he could possibly be. Perhaps that silly little boy got it all wrong, and life's not about being nice and kind to people; it's about using people and getting what you want at all costs. The boy was not made for this world - he was like an alien from another planet.
Look at this old man. Look at the sadness that he tries to hide, but something in his eyes betrays him. He knows he's nothing like that happy smiling 25 year old young man, photographed 12 years ago. He knows that all the kings horses and all the kings men couldn't put him back together again. He knows that whatever it was that happened, it damaged him badly. Unconditional love, infectious happiness, a sense of contentment and the enthusiastic exuberance that characterised our missing little lost boy, are qualities that this old man doesn't possess - they're completely different people.
It's a tragedy when we lose somebody who brought fun & excitement, adventure & exhilaration, thrills & spills, into people's lives. It's a tragedy when many lives are touched - improved - and then we lose that person.
I don't think we'll ever find him though. He's gone forever.
Tags: #relationships #depression #bipolar #mentalhealth #alcohol #drugs #suicide