How to deal with challenges: by Nick Mattia


Hey Pilotfish crew, my name is Nick, I'm a friend of Joe’s and he asked me to write about challenges. How I overcame them, and how I'm still working on them. So I'm going to tell you a story.

“Estrangeiros” scorned the elderly, hunching, weathered-skinned man, whilst spitting at our feet.

It was a warm summer's morning and I was down in the village, where I bumped into some friends, on my way for a quick coffee and then, ultimately, a surf.


Luckily for me, as I had been dedicating quite some time to learning Portuguese, I understood him clearly and could cheerfully reply to him. What I said and what I thought, however, were completely different things.

“Bom dia señor, tudo bem?” I replied in my best Algarvian accented Portuguese. What I really meant, however, was “Fuck you, you old racist bastard, I understood your insult. Nevertheless I will remain polite and respectful.”

My reply didn't seem to impress him either (even though I've been reliably informed my accent is excellent!) I laughed aloud in acknowledgement of his simultaneous ridicule and ridiculousness, said goodbye to my friends, got into my van and merrily went off about my day.

Yes. That actually happened. That really actually happened to me. An old man spat on the floor at myself and the two other people I was with for no other reason than because he was annoyed we came from another county than the one he was born in.

He was clearly not happy about the conversation happening around him in English by the “Foreigners” as he so charmingly put it. Wow. And they complain about the younger generations having no respect.

But why am I telling you that story I hear you ask? Well, it's simple really. No, it's not intended to be a slight on the elderly generations, or even on the aforementioned *ahem* gentleman in question.

It's not a woeful account of the seemingly increasing racist sentiment occuring in our world today, that is to say if you agree with the news you read, which is ironically dictated by those with such views themselves. And it is not to say that the Portuguese people are narrow-minded. No. Not at all.

It's just to show you that you never know how people are going to act. Or react. It's just to say that everyone is different. Everyone thinks about things differently, and everyone acts differently too.

Their negative reactions may be based on many things; anxiety, fear, past experiences, local culture, things they have read, or recently spoken to other people about. Or maybe someone was just having a bad day.

People can also have a positive action or reaction too. It's ultimately all about choice. You can choose to be positive or to be negative. It might not be easy. But you can. It's up to you. Life is full of little situations. Like or unlike this one. Little challenges, if you will. In fact if you think about it you can chop life up into a million ‘little situations’. Really that's all it is as we pass through time. Life. A million ‘little situations’ all stitched together to create a single lifetime. Your lifetime. Your life.

Therefore it's how you face these challenges that will determine the course of your life. My current ongoing challenge, learning Portuguese. Have I accomplished it? Not yet. Am I working on it? You bet I am. It's all about small daily changes, choices and challenges.

All the small decisions you make help to plot the course of your life. That in itself is not a statement designed to fill you with dread, quite the contrary, it's designed to empower you. You run ting. You're in control. So take the bull by its horns. Jump onto its back. Ride that mother fucking bull through life. Smashing your challenges like only you can. Yes! And don't take any bullshit either.

Sound like a plan?

PS in no way am I suggesting that you ride an actual bull. Fuck no. Bulls are dangerous animals and bull riding should be left to the professionals. Wait. In fact, even the professional bull riders shouldn't do it. It seems damn cruel for the bulls and not to mention wildly foolish. I in no way condone bull riding, bull fighting or any other activities that impede the freedom of bulls. That bull riding thing I said earlier was a just metaphor.

PPS and I slipped the ‘don't take any bullshit’ part in at the end as a cheap gag that I think I'm regretting now, especially having just written a complete bull(shit) disclaimer. Ok. Ok. I'll stop now.

Joe Pack