Uludamu | ooh-loo-dam-moo |
noun – ginger; plural noun – gingers
I often feel like an island. I feel like my thoughts are isolated from nearly everyone else. I have always felt that, and one of the few things that has been a constant in my life. My mind is almost always active, moving to different thoughts like my mum’s knitting needles weaving in and out when she’s in full flow. It can be pretty unsettling if it leads to uncomfortable decisions or actions, and it can be freeing and gratifying in equal measure too.
It is very easy to fall in line in every facet of your life. The ‘norm’ is a well-trodden path, and like a vinyl record, the needle easily finds its place in the grooves. An element of doing things automatically can occur and with that can come a lack of thinking and unbecoming.
Keeping you authenticity
You can lose your authenticity. Growing up with bright red hair made me stick out almost instantly. My dad was a redhead too; ‘Rusty Ryan’ as he was known to his mates. Even if you don’t want to, you stand out like a Belisha beacon at a zebra crossing.
I have always liked having red hair even before I got too many bangs on the head playing rugby. In a way it gave me an introduction to being true to oneself. It made me feel vulnerable. Feeling vulnerable is not a feeling that sits easily when growing up as a kid, but it did help me grow that belief that I needed to be myself, that I needed to be authentic. Over the years, this feeling has been tested; tests you don’t always pass but ones you certainly learn and grow from. The personal tests growing up I will leave for another day (or for the book’s release in May!) but many of the brightest moments in my career to date have come from learning these lessons.
Becoming an island
A memory came up on my Facebook timeline this week; four years ago was my last tournament with England 7s, the Rugby World Cup 7s in Moscow. It was a WEIRD week. That season was a huge lesson. We had a poor year on the field with injuries and unavailability contributing, and although we still won one leg of the World Series and had some notable wins, it disappointed us all. I was under pressure from above at the Rugby Football Union. I had ex coaches and ‘pundits’ writing negative stuff that became pretty personal. I felt unsupported and misunderstood. I was back to being an island. A shit island that no one wanted to visit.
I lost my authenticity for most of that year. I got it back in those weeks before Moscow and felt a freedom of thought alongside an embarrassment of how I had been, with fellow management especially. I was treated badly as I left my position with England 7s, but ultimately, I got back to being the kid with the bright red hair and being the one thing you should never fail at; being yourself.
Obstacles or signposts?
I think often that the obstacles in our path are actually our paths.
Sometimes it is about removing all those things that aren’t you and bringing yourself back to who perhaps you were always meant to be.
Be ferociously authentic. Don’t waste time pretending, or not being true to yourself. It will not be an easy journey; people might disapprove, but it will make your life come to life.