Christmas is a time for family, relaxation, and reflection, so on that note I'd like to post something thought-provoking and perhaps helpful. This undoubtedly will not resonate with everyone, but it certainly impacted me.
It's a useful life tactic when things are tough and you're feeling down to be able to imagine how much worse your situation could be. Often, the simplest way to do so is to bring to mind someone else whose life has been vastly tougher than yours - and the tale of Alan Carter, a bright young British motorcycle-racing star of the early 1980s, is an exemplar of the genre. What follows is a transcription of a portion of an article which was written by Stuart Barker, as published in the December 2013 issue of Bike magazine.
Carter was a sensation on the British racing scene in the early ‘80s, winning Pro-Am races and one-off international events all round the country. But it was in 1983, in what was his second ever Grand Prix, that he wrote his name in the history books by winning the French GP at Le Mans – from 31st place on the grid. At just 18, he was the youngest GP winner in history and it was hard to find a pundit who didn’t expect Alan Carter to go on to win an entire collection of world titles. Yet he never won another Grand Prix.
If Carter’s life was sensational on track, his life away from the circuit was tragic beyond reckoning. There can be very few people who have endured more than the 49-year-old Yorkshireman.
Consider this [bullet points mine]:
• In 1970 his mother was involved in a car crash which left her paralyzed and in a wheelchair for life.
• Two days later, Alan’s four-year-old brother died as a result of injuries sustained in the same crash.
• His father Mal – a legendary sponsor in the bike racing world but a harsh, domineering figure - moved in with another woman the very same week, leaving his young wife to adjust to life in a wheelchair without him. Alan was only six but he and his brother Kenny, three years his elder, were left to care for their mother themselves.
• Wracked by guilt at having unwittingly caused the death of her youngest son, Christine Carter would eventually take her own life in 1979.
• Kenny Carter would grow up to become one of [England’s] greatest ever speedway riders and a double British champion but then the unthinkable happened: in 1986 he murdered his young wife Pamela before taking his own life.
• There should have finally been some cause for joy in 2002 when Alan’s partner gave birth to baby daughter Charlie but the infant died later that same day, finally causing Alan to break down to the extent that he [temporarily] lost the power of speech.
• By the time Mal Carter died in 2009, Alan had buried his mother, father, both brothers and his baby daughter. And by then the money and fame he had enjoyed as a young racing star had long since dried up too. “I don’t even have the trophy from my French Grand Prix win,” Carter says as we sit in the car park of his local pub, The Pineapple, in Wakefield. “I had to sell it.”
Despite all the trauma, Alan today carries on as normal a life as possible. His business failed in the early days and he does “odds jobs” in town and on the oil rigs to make ends meet. He has three sons and “has found happiness with his partner Cath.” He loves motorcycles but his “diabolical” finances won’t allow ownership, although “I still watch all the racing on TV.” He underwent numerous monthly sessions with a psychiatric nurse and got to the point where “there was nothing more that he could do for me – it was just a matter of time.”
To sum it all up, Alan says, “I’m not brilliant now, I’m up and down but I’m happy to be up and down – it’s a hell of a lot better than just being down.”