Put Down Again

Well that stirred up a few comments then. When I wrote my last post I was anticipating a response but not quite the response I received. Thank you to those of you who provided some technical insight around horse racing and particularly the welfare of horses. Whilst I understand the logic for the decisions made, I remain sceptical as to why in a multi-million pound industry the easy way out is ll too often followed. That debate will rumble on and it is not the heart of the issue that I was highlighting. Revisiting the post I can see I’d put the emphasis on the wrong detail. So let’s try again.

In Put Down, I was trying to highlight the way in which disposability seems all too easy in life unless there is some value in the thing which might be disposed and at the same time the almost arbitrary way in which that value is bestowed.  My urge to write it was from personal reflection. In all honesty, many is the time that I feel on the scrapheap myself.  Having pursued a traditional career I often now feel rudderless, put to one side – sometimes in cotton wool, sometimes in a bin liner – and given up for, if not useless then could have been better. A host of contextual factors shape this but I can’t help feeling in a last chance saloon far too often.  What do I do now? How do I reshape my life?

This is a theme – a series of recurrent questions – that has sprung up remarkably often this week. Yesterday I read Daniel Friebe’s interview with Italian cyclist Ivan Basso (unfortunately only available in hard copy in this month’s Procycling magazine). Some of you will know that Basso was the next Italian Grand Tour star until his admission to associating with the wrong “sports doctors” led to a 2 year ban. Coming back from that ban he has shown glimmers of the form which gave rise to those great expectations but has all too often failed to reach those heights again. Put aside your views on doping, riders who have doped and the appropriate length of punishment, there is something more important here. He is 34. His best years are arguably behind him. He made a misdemeanour, paid the penalty and now has a second chance. Basso comes across as a character shaped by his past, as a rider who won the Giro d’Italia, who’d finished second in the Tour de France. A rider who was expected to fulfill his career by taking the big prizes.  That he hasn’t, that time is running out, that he seems ill at ease with what that means was a familiar tale to me reflecting on my own position. Friebe outlines in the article a series of choices which Basso might make, reshaping his career in a variety of ways – again, familiar territory – but Basso seems most at ease talking not about cycling but his new project owning a Blueberry farm. A lesson for me and others (though he does have some resource to fall back on).

Today, Barcelona FC announced that their coach, Pep Guardiola, announced what had been long anticipated: he was leaving his post as manager. Guardiola is 41. He’s been manager of the Barcelona for 4 seasons. In that time he’s won the Spanish cup once, the Spanish league three times, the European Cup twice and the World Club Championship twice. An enormously successful though short managerial career. In various media outlets there was speculation about impact of the job on his life, Sid Lowe’s article spelling it out quite clearly. And today enough was enough. Why? Because Barcelona isn’t so much a football club, its an all consuming passion, a quasi-flag bearer for an autonomous region/wannabe nation. It’s motto is “Més que un club” – More than a club. And for Guardiola the vultures have been circling – they’ve lost the league title to bitter rival Real Madrid at the Camp Nou, then they lost a supposedly unlossable European Cup Semi-final to faltering Chelsea.  As is so common in football as elsewhere, memories are often short and despite past glories there is the expectation of more to come. Yet for Guardiola I can’t help feeling that there is major personal question of what to do next. He hit the heights so young, what is there left to do? Where does he go from here?

Where this takes us I am not quite sure. For me, the reflection on these two is prompted by the similarities of the environment in which I am, where world class has been the baseline, where the job is almost expected to be your life and where deviation from these parameters is seen as odd. For those looking in from the outside making a change, moving  and changing career seems like the obvious course of action. Being in that position is somewhat different with all the inherent pressures, both real and self-created. Yet there still remains the question of what to do. Feelings of low, diminished or little worth in one position can be a brake on moving forward, undermining confidence and seemingly limiting choices. And whilst work isn’t everything, unfortunately most of us have to and it therefore becomes a prominent feature of life. Admittedly improving life balance would help but being happy (happier) in work would help.

So whilst my initial post was about our disposable attitude to so many things in life, it was really underpinned by my own anxieties and fears. Hopefully this made some sense.