If you ask me to tell you a bit about myself, I’ll tell you my name is Andy White. I may use words like husband, father, follower, leader. I may also throw in words like coffee-lover, mac-addict, business owner, coach, trainer or maybe even consultant. But, while all of those words describe things I can do, and roles I fulfil, they don’t tell you who I am.
Not who I really am.
So who am I?
As I watched the picture unfolding before my eyes – a hillside coming alive as, one after another, people caught fire and awoke from their slumber – I realised my purpose – my calling.
The misfit life can be an uncomfortable one, especially at the beginning. And mine got super-uncomfortable the moment I discovered my calling – my purpose.
I was on the way to my cubicle existence to grind out another day in corporate-dom when I found myself stuck in traffic. Gazing out of the window of my car, a picture formed in my mind. It was a picture of a hillside, filled with people standing, motionless. As I looked more closely, I could see these were dead people. It was like a scene from the Walking Dead.
Then, suddenly, fire descended from the skies and engulfed one of those people, a woman, on that hillside. She was ablaze, but not burning up. The fire was on her, but not consuming her. In fact, it seemed to bring her to life. She started walking, knocking against others on the hillside, setting them on fire as they touched. And those who caught fire also came alive and started moving, knocking against, and igniting, others. Soon the whole hillside was ablaze.
As I sat, taking in this incredible scene unfolding in my mind’s-eye, I realised what it was I was called to do – what my purpose in life was – the thing I am here to do – to start fires. I was a Firestarter
The day I realised I would never fit in, that I would ever be accepted or seen as a success, was the day I was set free to become truly alive.
For years, I had pursued the usual dream – great career, great house, great car. And it was going well. Only I was not happy. Quite the opposite. I hit promotion after promotion, got pay rise after pay rise and was, according to my bosses, on the fast track to stardom and glory.
I was living the dream. Only, it wasn’t my dream. It was someone else’s dream for me that I had tried to make my own.
And it was slowly killing me. Almost literally, as it turned out.
The discontent rose, day after day, year after year, until, one day, it just spilled out. That was the day I discovered I was a misfit. That was the day that I discovered that living someone else’s idea of what my life should look like had drained my soul and left me empty. That was the day I knew I had a choice – live – I mean truly live – or just embrace the death that is existence.
That was the first day of the rest of my life.
My misfit life.
Since that day, I have made it my life’s mission to shatter the chains of injustice, raise up the downtrodden, fight for the helpless and upend the status quo.
The trouble is, the world doesn’t want Misfits. Or Firestarters. The people who don’t fit in, and the people who stir up fires, make things messy. And messy makes things complicated. Complicated makes things uncomfortable. And no-one likes uncomfortable. This was a lesson I learned very quickly.
But I am a Firestarter. And I am a Misfit. It’s in me. It’s who I am. And I was sick of being someone else.
As I set about discovering my life – my real life – I saw people, trapped in the chains of injustice. I saw the product of oppression, rejection, inequality, despair, helplessness and hopelessness. I saw the reality of addiction, homelessness, hunger, poverty and crime. And this wasn’t in some far-off land, this was right here, under my nose.
My heart broke.
And out of my broken heart was born my own revolution.
A revolution to wage war on injustice, to overturn the status quo, to fight for those who cannot fight for themselves, to love those who no-one else will love, and to bring hope where there is only despair. To incite a revolution in the lives of those I brush against.
So I set about building my revolution, and starting fires that would release the phoenix of new lives to rise up out of the ashes of the past.
And so I embraced my identity: as a revolutionary.
In that moment when I realised I was a fire-starting misfit revolutionary, I understood the difference between life and death.
In that moment, I finally ‘GOT IT’.
In the years that followed, I worked with all sorts. From the corporations who want the high-browed strategic input I can offer, to the individual living in a hostel who wants the hope and belief I can bring, I have been involved in all sorts of projects and schemes.
And because I have pursued my path as a Misfit, fire starting, revolutionary, with all its ups and downs and twists and turns, I get it.
I get what the Misfit life feels like. I get how lonely it can be, how hard it can be, how many tears it can cause you to shed. And I get how exhilarating it can be, how energising it can be and how it can cause joy to overflow from your soul.
I get how you simply have to follow the pull of your heart, and go where your passion leads you, even when the world says you are mad, and your family and friends don’t understand you.
I get how, sometimes, you don’t need answers, you just need encouragement. And how, sometimes, it’s not a solution you want, but a fellow sojourner who will walk with you, just a little way, into the adventure that lies before you.
I’m no expert on how to live the Misfit life, but I get it. And the fact I get it drives me to pursue my vision with an unrelenting determination.
The vision that drives my revolution forward is not so revolutionary. Or even that bold
In fact, it’s beautifully simple:
LIVING THE LIFE IT WAS MADE FOR.
It is a vision that I share, and have crafted, with my wife, my soul-mate, Kate. Together, we have walked this path, followed its twists and turns and ups and downs, never losing sight of what we saw as we stood side-by-side at the mountain top.
As we looked from the mountain top, towards a horizon where our dream was a reality, we saw vibrant, purposeful people, alive with hope, aspiration and freedom.
We saw children, eager to learn, to absorb and to create.
We saw communities in harmony, living and breathing together with unity and cohesion.
We saw bright, vivid, colours.
We heard the bubble of energy and activity.
We smelt the sweet aroma of nature, and the diversity of life.
From our mountain top, we saw a society where the oppressed have been set free, the poor no longer go without, the hungry are fed, and the naked are clothed. We saw shelter for those who once were homeless, jobs for those who once had no work, and comfort for those who had known the pain of loneliness and isolation.
From our mountain top, as we gazed upon that horizon, we saw a world raised up from its deserted ruins, with walls rebuilt and homes restored – alive once more.
With that view burned forever into our souls, together we pursue our vision, striving to fulfil our mission to inspire and equip those who long for change, who know that they are meant for more, but who do not know where to begin.
Hand in hand, Kate and I have made it our life’s purpose and devotion to incite a revolution that will ignite an entire generation to live a big life.
I am Andy White