I haven’t written for a while – and that’s not deliberate. I haven’t had anything worth saying of late. Often the stresses of London cause me to find a distraction to the misery I feel sometimes. I convince myself I’m too busy for internal thought or I deserve an extra pint down at the pub because I’ve earnt it – however, this is a completely different topic and something I’m trying to unravel and clarify currently.
But a recent experience hit me right between the eyes. I was coaching at my old club. Coaching Olympic aspiring swimmers between the ages of 8 and 11. I had come in to help the later session but decided I would help the head coach with the previous session for the last 20 minutes or so. She introduced me as a National Champion and the younger swimmers suddenly all perked up and focused a little harder with their skills and drills. I was also wearing an Olympic trials jacket complete with the Olympic Rings. I felt like I had a strong positive impact on these kids immediately as their intent quickly changed.
But then suddenly, out of the blue this young man came up to me and asked, ‘sir, did you go to the Olympics?’ My heart stopped for a quick second as all the emotions of previous failure came rushing into the fold once again. I smiled and I politely said ‘no – but I was close, maybe I’ll see you there one day though.’ He smiled and walked away. A minute later another young man asked me the same question, followed by a young lady 5 minutes after that. In that moment, I felt that I had achieved nothing in the sport – that I was a failure once again. I calmly observed those thoughts and moved on with coaching the next session, watching the future of swimming unfold before my eyes.
Fast forward 2 days and I’m back in London – listening to an audio book by Russell Brand about addiction. I’m two chapters in, and he suddenly says something that resonates with me on a deeper level. He is talking about being famous (not that I ever want to be famous – but the conclusion is key). He is talking of the glittering glamour that is associated with the idea. But he stops for a second and concludes that people who are famous are amongst the most unhappiest people in the world that he’s ever met (he says it far more frankly than that – but you get the point). He goes on. He elaborates that these unhappy famous people have achieved their dreams – they should be happy, but the high they were expecting to feel at the end of this torturous journey isn’t actually there. Something is missing. Instead, this bitter, underwhelming feeling encases them and they find themselves asking ‘is this really it?’
I have contemplated with these separate events and find myself asking – would I have filled that void if I achieved my dream of making the Olympics? Does that define me as a person? Does that make me less skilled, less determined or less of a man compared to the parallel universe version of me that has made it?
These are the thoughts that breed the fear and anxiety in my bones. But then I realise I’m no less of man – I am me. And my life is a multilayered journey filled with unique experiences that are completely different to the next man or woman. It doesn’t mean I am worst or better than the next man or woman. It just means that I have had different experiences. More importantly what I realised after these two events that it is how one chooses to react within those experiences that make them who they are and defines their level of happiness.
My Olympic journey regardless of the outcome was a dream that I lived out. I was an elite athlete aspiring to swim and compete at the world’s greatest stage. I lived out that dream – and yes one may say ‘well you didn’t make it.’ It’s actually not true – because I was living that dream since the age of 8 and I was happy. I didn’t quite complete the journey in terms of my goal, but I completed the journey physically, emotionally and spiritually. It is about the journey towards a goal or dream. It’s about what excites you. It’s about setting out and aspiring to be the best you can be and following the idea of being better than you were yesterday. It’s about being happy in the moment because you are living out your dream.
I believe that it is important to note that for any dream no matter how lofty or ambitious, the outcome of that journey isn’t the dream, living the dream (i.e. the journey) is the actual dream. That’s what brings you happiness.
Currently I am searching for my new dream as I’m sure many others are too. And it’s hard not to get disillusioned by societal forces that operate in our current reality. People who tell you that you can’t do that or that’s not stable or that’s not what living is – screw that! Do what makes you happy, find your dream and live it!