Hayes, at left, and a fellow Unsettled retreat participant kayak in the Atlantic Ocean near Cape Town.

From a young age, I’ve always had an acute understanding of mortality – that life could be snatched away at any moment. This oversized childhood fear was birthed from my family’s reality. By the time I was 13, my family would bury my grandfather, lose my vibrant 40-something-year-old aunt to cancer, and see my uncle pass away followed two years later by his son (my first cousin) – both as a result of commercial fishing accidents.

Death, and the inevitable cycle of life, seems to be the one thing we can all relate to. The only differences lie in our chosen methods of moving forward after tragedy. For me, my family members’ untimely deaths served as a quiet, but constant reminder to really live, and live with no regrets. So from a very young age, as much as a child could, I made an unconscious commitment to myself to attempt a regret-free life, in a sense honoring what my relatives didn’t get to finish doing – which was living.

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Tahira Hayes


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