(written on 2 April 2020)
If you told me three months ago the World was about to change dramatically due to a virus called Covid-19 I would have been calling the authorities to get you help. Three months later we have entered a completely unprecedented, surreal and weird environment. People are getting sick and dying, hospitals are overwhelmed, people are losing their jobs, markets have crashed, economies ruined, and we are locked in our homes told not to leave. And the big one for me, the Olympics have been postponed for the first time in history, for a whole year.
This post is about my last two weeks and what it’s like to live through this. I have watched the past few weeks especially through social media as the world has changed. It is full of people executing tricks in their back yards and positive messages about how despite people’s goals and dreams having been ruined or shifted to various future dates, everyone is going to be better and stronger for it.
I have always prided myself as being one of the most mentally strong and resilient people on this planet. I have dealt with a lot in the past and overcome it. Yet this has even got to me. Yes this will all end and we will all get through it and move on, but I would guess there are a huge amount of people from all walks of life that feel the same way as me right now and are mentally struggling. What I have realised over the past week is this whole situation is weird and to be struggling is OK - probably even normal! Before this who would have even considered words like lockdown, social distancing, self isolating and bubbles being part of our daily life.
Firstly, the positives. To be completely honest I am really loving the lockdown. I have honestly enjoyed the time at home so far and just living a simple life. We are in a very fortunate position that we live in a great home with plenty of space and have enjoyed spending the days at home catching up on jobs that have been neglected while also spending quality time with family. We have just been enjoying being together and trying to occupy the kids and wear them out by bedtime. I have been out of the bubble twice to visit the supermarket, but I haven’t had time like this at home for as long as I can remember, and I love it.
Probably partly why I am enjoying it so much is that it’s a great distraction from what else is going on and the fact that the professional side of my life right now is at a complete low point. Ten days ago, I was on a high, I had just returned from a training camp and felt I had made some huge improvements in my rowing. At that point we were 120 days from the Olympics starting (127 days from retirement). I was on the downward stretch and really excited about the journey ahead and trying to end my career on a high. While there was a huge amount of uncertainty in the world, with events and build up races being cancelled, we were still on the water training and isolated from the rest of the world’s problems. I felt in a very good and strong position and that (in terms of my goals to get to and perform at the Olympics) everything was playing right into my hands and I could use that mental toughness and resilience to my advantage. Not to mention the depth we have in our training squad for comparisons and as a team it was looking very positive for us from New Zealand.
Two days later it was announced the Olympics were postponed till 2021 and earlier this week confirmed that the delay was one year. In one day, I went from being on a high to lacking all motivation and questioning if I even wanted to go to the Olympics. It got so bad that I went out for a 2.5 hour cycle and after 15 minutes I turned around to return home as I just couldn’t be bothered. I have never experienced anything like this; I have always been highly motivated and had an inner drive. I have never before questioned if I wanted to go to the Olympics – for me it was just weird! A week later we now have certainty around dates and that 120 days is now 484 days. That is insignificant in a 20 year career, but right now I am at a place where I am not certain that I have the drive needed to do what is required. Mentally it has been challenging. Anyone can do 120 days, you are literally into the final stages of ascent, you can see the summit, on the home stretch. But, 484 days and you’ve just slid down the mountain and are back at base camp.
It’s not over yet! Will I be in Tokyo next year? I am not sure but probably! I am not there yet but it’s not the time to make decisions right now and I am sure the answers will become clearer in the next few weeks. I am sitting at base camp having a good feed, a cup of tea, hanging out with the family and building my strength. The past week I have been doing a few acclimatising ‘walks’, testing the body and the mind to see if I have the want to get to the top again. It has been nice returning home each day and just being with the ones you love and enjoying being in the family bubble.
What a strange time to be alive! What the world is going through is unprecedented and quite frankly weird (about the 10th time I’ve used that word). So if you are struggling to deal with it, you are not alone. No one predicted this and everyone is making it up as they go. The rules are changing daily, so just go with it. Let go of the reins and make the most of everyday as best you can. It’s a great time to reach out and phone friends and family you might not of had a chance to catch up with recently.
It’s also important to remember in a time like this if you have your health and that of your family and friends then messing around in boats is pretty insignificant. Be the best you can be as a father, husband, family member and friend, there is plenty of time to sort the other stuff out. Keep in touch with people and don’t be scared to share how you feel. Trust me, even the people you would least expect, are struggling and having to find ways to navigate this weird new world. We will get through this! Ake Ake Kia Kaha
Article added: Thursday 16 April 2020