Giving Up

Giving Up

I don’t know about you, but I can be quite the slow learner. Continually pushing shit up a hill until I realize what I’m doing isn’t working out very well.

Einstein posited that insanity was doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. That said, it’d be fair to question my sanity at times.

My default in the past has been to buckle down and toil away. Years spent competitive swimming instilled in me a head down, ass up ethos. It’s served me well, but it’s cost me too, when I have persevered to the point where misery has prevailed and a sense of reward completely dissolved. All to avoid the sinful act of giving up.

In year 12 the quote I chose to pair with my yearbook photo was from kooky Australian swim coach and motivational extraordinaire Laurie Lawrence:

Be proud, persist, work hard, stand tall, don’t quit, don’t bend, don’t break, don’t fall.

My adolescence spent labouring up and down the pool was measured in effort. My coach would stand on the pool deck in his polo shirt and shorts carefully penning the session in his smooth handwriting on the whiteboard, as the squad would nervously scan how many times the words Max Effort would appear, dreading the pain that lay ahead.

Effort became my focus to the point where I left fun a long way behind. I continued to swim well beyond the expiry of my enjoyment. And success. Which was no coincidence. I reckon enjoyment and success belong together. Otherwise how successful are you really?

There’s tremendous value in perseverance and grit. Resolve and effort saw me learn how to surf as an adult as Christ knows that’s harder than pushing dung up hill.

But there came a time when I was struck by the fact I was approaching surfing in the same effortful and competitive manner I had swimming. It was forced and it devolved my experience into a conflict with the ocean. Far from dancing to the ocean’s rhythm I would feel continually pissed that I wasn’t performing the way I wanted to.

Was that really what I wanted surfing to be? Worse still my competitive career wasn’t shaping up well…I was looking awkwardly underdone and decidedly over the hill and incompetent for the World Tour.

No…the reason I started surfing was that it made me feel like a kid romping around. Being dumped was a lark. When else do you get rumbled and tossed around like a youngster. It was pure pleasure. Play. It wasn’t work and toil.

I started surfing because the freedom of the ocean was the antithesis of a walled- in basin of chlorine. The unpredictability and individuality of each wave opposed to the ho hum of stroke counts, tumble turns and repeated intervals on the clock.

Over time I’ve become more discerning about when I paddle out to keep things lively. Not so much in regard conditions- some of my funnest surfs have been in woeful conditions. It’s mostly weighing up crowds and how my body feels with niggling injuries.

Lately my neck’s been giving me grief and I had a run of surfs in crowds that drained my verve. But rather than buckling down to toil away in the surf and thinking that if I don’t I’m being soft and throwing in the towel, I move towards what makes me feel that child-like sparkle.

The last few weeks I’ve mixed it up by pouring my spare hour or two into skating ‘cos it feels fresh. Light. And it doesn’t wind my neck up.

I’ve been losing myself in sweaty concrete gliding. No crowds or waiting for waves, my neck doesn’t get cranky and I have a walloping great time fooling around.

I’m a slow learner but I’m getting there. When something stops being lively and playful I do something that is. There’s enough drudgery in life as is. I’ve given up pushing that shit up a hill.


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