A friend and I got talking about how to measure whether your life was different to everyone else’s and we came up with a framework where we score a point for each thing we’ve done that most other people haven’t done.
My friend went to Afghanistan with the Parachute Regiment. His life has been quite different to most people’s. I think my life was quite different too.
Here’s a stream-of-consciousness list of some stuff I’ve done.
I left home at 16.
I have evacuated from a burning building.
I fell from the bridge of a ship and narrowly missed hitting my head on the ship’s side.
I’ve emigrated multiple times. Four countries. Three states. 13 cities.
I drank 34 drinks in an evening (all of different colours).
I jumped off Bournemouth Pier.
I’ve brewed mead.
I fired a torpedo on a Polaris submarine.
I’ve met the Queen, Prince Philip, Prince Charles and Bill Gates.
I won a silver medal, rowing stroke, in the London Area Sea Cadet regatta.
I was CEO of a Silicon Valley startup.
I flew out of the side of the half-pipe at Squaw Valley on a snowboard and landed on my arse.
I was invited to a funeral by the Most Beautiful Girl in Moorea, French Polynesia.
When I was 10, I rescued a little boy who was floating, face-down, in the swimming pool while his parents enjoyed the entertainment at Pontins, Scratby. When we delivered their very wet six-year-old, they bought us a coke.
I was chased by a fur seal in South Georgia.
I was apprehended by the police for scrumping.
I loaded the shells for a Mk8 4.5in gun during 300 rounds of Naval Gunfire Support.
I scratched Prince Andrew’s car (his fault for parking too close to my ship).
I took my girlfriend to Saturday Morning Pictures on the bus every Saturday when we were eight. She was crowned Miss ABC Cinema by the prime minister, Ted Heath.
I had my bottom pinched by a German girl while swimming on the Great Barrier Reef. She thought I had previously pinched her but it was actually a sunfish biting her bottom. I thought I was being bitten by a sunfish.
I slept on Waterloo Station when I missed the last train home after a well-lubricated evening at The Goose and Firkin.
I attended a White House meeting with Vice President Biden.
I have fired an anti-aircraft gun at an aircraft.
I hitchhiked across Australia. Sydney to Cairns. Cairns to Darwin. The driver knew a shortcut.
I did A-level maths in 6 weeks.
I ran out of money in Tahiti and survived for three days on mangos & coconuts straight from the tree.
When my parents divorced, my mother married the next-door neighbour. So did my father.
I walked 70 miles barefoot through the Thai jungle because I lost a shoe getting off the bus.
I was a first responder to a fire on a nuclear submarine.
I was at a party — the infamous Sozzlehurst and Hiccup party — that made the front page of every newspaper in the land.
I was invited to meet the mayor of Raiatea who kindly suggested where I might be able to pitch my tent after gendarmes objected strongly (and violently) to my first location.
I was part of the team that won a Duke’s Choice Award for best new Java software in 2004.
I was chased by a Komodo dragon in Komodo. He didn’t catch us.
I slid down the metal strip between the escalators at Waterloo underground station. It didn’t end well.
I proposed over the phone. I got married on the beach in Jamaica 10 weeks later.
I ran out of money in Flores, Indonesia and persuaded the airline to let me fly to the nearest city with a bank for free so I could pay at the other end.
I made a bomb from magnesium dust and homemade gunpowder. Our injuries were not too severe.
I slept on the beach for a week on Bora Bora, French Polynesia.
I ate homemade crushed beetles with chilli in the jungle.
My ship was buzzed by a hostile Argentinian jet.
I was mugged in Amsterdam.
I almost tripped over an elephant seal on South Georgia.
I went to London on the bus for the day with my next-door neighbour. I was 10, he was 8.
The engine fell out the bottom of our van on a backroad in Queensland. Waited 8 hours for the next car to drive by and rescue us.
I snuck into Burma (twice) when the border was closed.
I danced naked in a shopping centre with 40 of my closest friends.
I’ve been on the cover of a magazine.
I was responsible, as a 21-year-old petty officer, for all but one of the sonar systems on a Polaris submarine at sea.
I climbed to the Top of the Rock in Gibraltar. A Barbary Ape stole my camera.
I was banned from all four pubs in Port Stanley, the capital of the Falkland Islands.
I rode an elephant through the Thai jungle.
I rode a freshly-made bamboo raft down a Thai river.
I woke up drunk at the end of the District Line on the last train.
I got snowed in for a week in Manhattan and for a weekend in Lake Tahoe.
I was the only member of Greenpeace on my Polaris submarine.
I won a gold medal in a London area shooting competition.
I held the hand of a loved one as she died.
Details available on request.
So maybe one way to think about it to make it seem less crazy would be to put it in a context of thinking about that as a kind of outlier decision among a large field of decisions where I am more open and risk-taking than other people. I’m sort of seeing more possibilities of what to do.
Even just when I walk down the street, and if there’s a little ledge, I’ll tend to walk on the ledge because it’s more fun. And I notice other people don’t do that.
Callard claims that, because she feels less constrained by convention than other people, she gets to try things that other people don’t think to do and, as a result, has more fun.
The fact that I walk on the ledges and other people just walk on the sidewalk. It’s fun. When I walk down the street, sometimes I skip, sometimes I dance. I’ve noticed other people don’t do that. So I get to have more fun than other people, because I’m seizing these possibilities that are there.
Callard decided to become a philosopher to rein in some of her wilder instincts. Maybe I should try that next.