Little steps

The first step was extremely painful. I limped and looked up helplessly at the winding and rising path ahead, which teased and challenged me. In that moment, I could have surrendered and given up my walk. But something very familiar happened in that moment, yet again. An unseen force took over and pushed me.

My first little step was followed by another little step and then another. I kept moving slowly on that steeply rising path, one little step at a time, with my head down and eyes firmly on the path ahead that seemed to unroll endlessly. Initially, I was afraid of tripping and falling backwards. However, after a while, I dared to lift my head, slowly, and looked ahead, humbly. Soon after, I started looking far ahead, a little audaciously, with my eyes set on the farthest end of that seemingly never-ending path.

During my little journey, my physical pain had reduced to a much smaller part of me. Initially, I did huff and puff while treading on that up-slope but my breath had started getting easier with each little step that I had taken.

After a while, out of curiosity, I stopped and turned around to locate the point where I had started my walk but I could not see it. It had fallen out of my sight, hiding somewhere far below and around the corner that I had unnoticeably turned sometime ago. To my realisation and disbelief, it appeared that I had walked quite a distance, albeit slowly. I had also been walking on a much higher ground than where I had started.

My pain was still my companion and but the unseen force accompanying me had greatly reduced its relevance and intensity. That unseen force had tamed my little unwanted companion.

… Bill Koul (Perth, Western Australia, 17 February 2021)


This piece has been inspired by my election campaign between early October 2020 and February 2021 when I have walked everyday with pain in my left ankle. In particular, I can’t forget that excruciating and debilitating pain which I experienced, sometime in late January 2021, on my return foot journey from Canning Highway to Davy Street, on an approximately 400 m long, steeply inclined pedestrian path along Barnard Street, on the western boundary of Wireless Hill Park in Booragoon, which literally brought me to tears on that day.

Needless to say, I had many similar painful experiences during my campaign walks in the sloping streets of Applecross, Mount Pleasant and other areas of Booragoon. Some mysterious distress in my left ankle during the initial Covid-19 months had made my movements quite painful after June 2020. On a scale of 1 to 10, in a typical day, the degree of pain ranged between about 2 and 8.

Between late March 2020 and mid-July 2020, I worked from home and spent long hours in my work chair, sometimes sitting cross-legged with my left foot tucked under my right thigh. During the day, I would spend typically 10 to 11 hours on my professional (engineering) work. Alarmed by the state of the world affairs, I would not sleep much during those days, not more than 4 hours a night at the most. After work, I wrote my last book, We Humans — our initial 100 days during the Covid-19 pandemic, which was driven by everyday stories of strange human behaviours coming from across the world. The book was published in November 2020.

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