Saturday 3 December 2016

Making hard work of swimming and radio

Published 13/07/2015 | 02:30

Dive right in: Life is not a constant journey of self-improvement, it is about bombing through the water, enjoying yourself.
Dive right in: Life is not a constant journey of self-improvement, it is about bombing through the water, enjoying yourself.

So right now I am learning to kick and getting nowhere. Somehow, I came this far in my swimming journey without ever kicking. I used to drag myself along in the water, so focussed on my upper body that I honestly had no sense of what my legs were doing. If I did try and concentrate on what was going on down lower, I'd lose concentration on what was happening in front.

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So for now, Coach wants me to just kick. And I am pretty static. But you have to view it as one of those periods where you are investing in the future. And presumably if I keep kicking for 20,000 hours or something, then it will be absorbed into the subconscious and I will start doing it automatically. But you have to have these times where you put in the work and get nothing out of it. Running to stand still.

You can waste away your life like that too can't you? Investing in what future? A time when am I going to get to this place where I will suddenly become a satisfactory swimmer? The whole project has been going on for years now. I suspect it may never end. I will never become a swimmer. I will die and they will say he spent his life learning to swim. He never got there, never got to enjoy the fruits of his labour. He put in the work in preparation for some time in the future when he would reap the benefits, but that time never came for the poor bastard. His life was a bit pointless really.

Last week I took a sidestep from the constant improvement programme and just swam for the sake of it. It was very liberating. While I had to be willing to go nowhere to get somewhere with the kicking. Last week, due to time pressure, I just bombed up and down the pool for 20 minutes every morning. Bombed is probably too strong a word for it, but it was lively enough. I forgot about kicking training and just pulled myself up and down. I was getting somewhere in the short term but going nowhere in the grand scheme of things. It was swimming for the sake of it. It was nice actually and it woke me up before I headed in for my latest challenge which is doing morning radio for four weeks.

Given what hard work I've turned going for a swim into you can imagine the heavy weather I'm making of doing the radio. Well meaning people keep saying to me, "Are you enjoying it?" And I'm thinking, "are you insane? Of course I'm not enjoying it. It's not supposed to be enjoyable. It's supposed to be enjoyable for the listeners. For me, it is supposed to be really hard work!"

And in fairness, like the kicking in the pool, it is exercising a whole new set of muscles I don't use much. So certainly, initially, your ego and your identity and your very self feel like they are being repeatedly hit by a train. Funnily enough, I had got used to standing in front of a live TV audience every Saturday night in complete denial. Because if you were being rational, and you were standing there on live television knowing that the whole show depended on you, the only logical reaction would be freeze or to run out of there. But somehow I got used to it.

But, possibly because I'm not used to it, radio is scarier. There is even more jeopardy in radio. You want to be yourself and try and have a laugh but equally, if you're me, you are conscious that you are always just a split second away from saying something completely inappropriate that's going to bring the whole thing crashing down. So this past week, I focussed on survival. I decided it would be a successful week if I could get through it without any major cock up or without the airwaves going completely silent for an uncomfortably long period of time (which is, in radio, about three seconds). But next week I think it's time to start enjoying myself. Because, in a way, you do have to enjoy yourself if you want the people listening to enjoy themselves. So last week was kicking training, next week I need to start just bashing through the water for the sake of it. Life is not a rehearsal after all, and anyway, in radio, you get no rehearsals.

So out with the Catholic guilt for now. Everything does not have to be hard work to be any good. And life is not a constant journey of self-improvement.

Sometimes, indeed maybe all the time, you have to just swim for the sake of it.

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