In the latest of our WISE WORDS interview series - where stars from a whole range of fields share the important life lessons they’ve learned along the way - we’re posing some of the big questions to Eddie 'The Eagle' Edwards.
This week sees the release of the film, 'Eddie The Eagle', telling the extraordinary, inspiring true story of how a lad from Gloucestershire became the first ever ski jumper to compete for Britain at the Olympics. Eddie's fans will remember how the ginger-haired, ever-smiling competitor failed to find sporting glory in Calgary in 1988, but nevertheless secured a permanent hold on the hearts of everyone who watched him prove it really is all about taking part.
It hasn't all been sweet victory for the man born Michael Edwards, however. To mark the release of his story on film, Eddie sits down with HuffPostUK and talks about some of the harshest lessons in heartbreak he's had to learn along the way...
What do you do to switch off from the world?
I will just stay in my hotel room and watch telly. My home is a building site, so it’s very difficult to relax – no heating, no bathroom, no kitchen, but I do love my building work. Doing my building work is almost a switch off from the PR, they’re such different beasts. When I’m not working, I love doing my building work, it’s just me and my radio – plumbing, doing my electrics. Then, when I’m too tired, I’ll just sit and watch a movie, feet up, and within five minutes I’ve dozed off.
How do you deal with negativity?
I’ve never really let any kind of negative things affect me, generally. I would take a positive out of the most desperately horrible situation.
Having said that, the last couple of years have been the most difficult, mainly because of my divorce. Two years ago, my wife announced she wanted a divorce, and that affected me really badly. I never thought I could suffer from depression, but I realise I actually was depressed. I wasn’t nasty, I was just in a very down place all the time. It was a real effort to go out and do things. Being Eddie the Eagle was nice because I had to perform, and that kind of helped pull me up. But when I got home, I switched back to Michael Edwards, and I’d be weeping in front of the telly, because I wanted to be at home with my kids, reading them a bedtime story.
That was two years ago, and it’s taken this long to get out of that, and I feel a lot, lot better now. I have tasted it, and I have a newfound respect and empathy for mental illness, depression, and just how easy it is for people to get in a situation like that. I never thought I’d be someone who could get depressed, but it turns out it’s very easy.
When and where are you happiest?
On skis. I’ve been skiing since I was 13, and I’m just as excited now to to put on skis as then.
I’m two completely different people. When I’m on skis, I think I’m unbeatable, I’m the king and this is my domain. All the girls I ever asked out were on the ski slope, But take me away from the ski slope, to a bar or a club, and it’s a different matter, I’m very, very shy, and I would find it enormously difficult to speak.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
My dad said, make friends with a chef and you’ll never go hungry. And he was right.
What has been the hardest lesson you’ve learned?
The value of money. I’ve been in a situation where I really didn’t know where my next meal was coming from, and I didn’t have enough petrol to get me from one place to the next, and I’ve earned £10,000 in an hour, opening things. So the real thing is knowing the value of money, enjoying it when comes but surviving when it’s gone.
What would you tell your 13-year-old self?
I would say, get out there and find a purpose, because I’ve always thought the most important thing in life is to be happy, but you can’t just be happy, I think happiness comes from having a purpose, something that makes you want to get out of bed in the morning and make you happy. Whereas before, I’ve always said I don’t care what my girls do as long as they’re happy, but now I just want them to find a purpose, and I don’t care what it is, because I trust that will make them happy.
What 3 things are at the top of your bucket list?
I want to travel more, there are still places I haven’t been.
Fall in love.
Get my house finished.
What do you think happens when we die?
I am not religious in the slightest, I think all religion is a complete hogwash, but that’s not to say I don’t believe in the afterlife. I’ve met some very interesting people who say they can see things, and I think, I can’t not believe them because I can’t prove one way or the other. Why would you lie about something like that? I would like to think that your spirit lives on. I think there is something after you die, just not necessarily what religion tells us.
I’m not frightened of death. If I died tomorrow, I would be a perfectly happy man. I’ve had an amazing life, it’s been fantastic. I wouldn’t want a funeral, I’d just say goodbye, get on with your lives, as I have.
When do you feel a sense that we live in the presence of something bigger than ourselves?
I like nothing more than walking down a country lane, or along a mountain path – its not proof that there is anything bigger then ourselves, but I feel very much at peace.
What do you try to bring to your relationships?
Laughter. When I’m on form, I have a very sharp sense of humour, my best friend is a cartoonist and we bounce off each other. We have the most amazing time.
What keeps you grounded?
My building. My family, and my girls, 9 and 11. They tell it how it is.
What was the last good deed or act of kindness you received?
I receive kindness every day. I love to smile when I’m out and about, and if someone smiles back, which happens about half the time, I think that’s an act of kindness, every couple of minutes in my day.
'Eddie the Eagle' is in nationwide release in the UK from today.