Taking a Moment Before The Premier League Returns.

The last phase of Project Restart has been passed, finally the Premier League can resume this week. So much has gone into this moment; big decisions carrying huge responsibility, training ground rennovations to allow restrictions to be adhered to, constantly changing rules, thousands of tests, wage deferrals. It’s been a steep learning curve for everyone; cleaning every bit of equipment, gloves and masks, players washing their own kits, no handshakes or hugs, no changing rooms, treating players outside. Now we are almost there, the anticipation is massive, the race to get back to some normality.

I just wanted to take a second. We are all focussed on going back to the way things were. But what about the incredible things that have come from it being different? Life kind of stood still for a while, gave us time to take stock, to appreciate things, to be creative and adaptive to change – surely there is some magic in that? I don’t think we should rush to put it behind us too quickly.

When the pace of football, and the craziness of real life has fully taken over again, I hope this post will act as a reminder, at least to me, of what really matters.

Non-assuming, open communication – During this period, everyone has been locked in their houses. The normal flow of communication that happens from seeing someone in person has stopped. The nature of social media means that people tend to only post when they have something to post about, so information flow there has also been reduced. Everyone has had to become more creative and thoughtful in getting messages to others.

Professionally, you could no longer assume that someone has been in that meeting, overheard that conversation or passed that message on, so you made sure they knew. I am so grateful to the people I worked with over this period for their openness with information. The guidelines changed almost daily and it would have been so easy to get left behind. I’d rather hear something twice than not at all. I am trying to carry that on now we are back in work, oversharing and double checking I have got my message across, rather than assuming everyone knows what I need them to, asking questions rather than assuming they would have told me if I needed to know – it has made a huge difference to my effectivness already.

Personally, you could no longer presume that the people you care about were OK, you’d see them soon, or they were distracted doing something else. It became important to let people know they matter, when it always should be. Video calls, gifts, messages through windows, across gardens. Neighbours socialising for the first time. Live music on balconies. A whole nation clapping for the NHS. No one can deny that something beautiful was reborn here. Something worth holding on to. The level of kindness and care you’d read about or hear about from older generations.

Exercising outside – before Lockdown I would go to the gym to get in better shape. Alomst every day, can of Monster, headphones in, angry workout. I loved it, and no doubt I will again. I never ran. Ever. I couldn’t complete a 5km at the start of March. Now I run all the time and have done for 3 months. My times are getting quicker, I’ve pushed my distances up to a half marathon, I feel so much fitter, and lighter. But that isn’t what I love about it. I go out and enjoy being out. It has kept me sane over these few months. I love where I live, the coast, the forest, the village. In the gym I am basically unapproachable, frown on, don’t talk to me. Out running I say hi to everyone, smile at dogs and sometimes just stop and soak in a view for a bit. I get time to think, or not think, to flush my mind and switch off. I run based on how my body feels, where I want to end up, however long my head needs to play something out. Not on science, or sets and reps, just on what feels good. Very not me – and to be fair, I still track it most of the time.

3 months

Making time for the people that matter, and less for the people that don’t – I saw my family for the first time in months the other week. They live in Yorkshire, so we met half way in Stratford upon Avon. I cried like a baby when their car pulled up. I have missed them so much and it meant the world to me. I have been guilty too often of putting other things, mostly work, ahead of those I love. I haven’t meant to, and often haven’t realised I am doing it. But whatever it was that I put ahead of them at various moments doesn’t matter now, whilst they still do.

The same goes for my best mate. We’ve been friends since forever. I always thought that whilst we are still friends, we had grown apart because of the physical distance between us. Lockdown has made me realise it is because I have been ‘too busy’. We have spoken more in the last 3 months than we have in the last 3 years. One of my biggest regrets in life, was that I left her wedding early because I had to get back for work the next day. I’ll never get that special time back. Despite that, despite that I so rarely make time for her, she is always there for me, always at the other end of the phone when I need a friend.

There are people during this period who have been awesome friends. Texting, calling, meeting up for socially distanced walks. People I had massively undervalued before. People I had taken for granted. There are also people who just disappeared. People whose lives have not been affected by whether or not I am in it. People I haven’t missed. Way too often, I have spent my time on the second group, at the expense of the first.

I am not bitter about it, and I am not saying work etc doesn’t matter. It is just that time isn’t infinite. When everything goes back to normal, I want to spend mine a little better.

It being OK to take time out – football is an environment that fuels fast paced, busyness; and so it should. That, alongside doing a PhD, means that Lockdown is the first time in years I’ve had to get to know me again. Before this, I’d go to work, come home, study and/or sleep. I didn’t leave much room or energy for actually being Laura. I forgot that I love getting lost in a story, painting for hours in my own bubble and making a total mess with colour, exploring new coastlines, little paths that could lead anywhere, sitting somewhere beautiful and people watching, guessing lives. I forgot that these things define me just as much as my career, my education, my family and my friends. These things that make me who I am have been buried by things that demand priority. Everything I did was geared towards answering a question, reaching a destination or being successful. I can still do all that and take time to just be a person too.

I haven’t forgotten why I’ve had this time to reflect. So many lives at risk of this terrible virus. That is still the case and I feel it is our duty to protect everyone we can by taking the right precautions. For all those people who have suffered, who have lost someone, I think the least we can do is reflect and take something from this time, rather than complain of the inconvenience.

I can’t wait for the first whistle to blow and the games to start again. To see the lads back on the pitch, hopefully reaping the benefits of the last few months of hard work, accountability and commitment they’ve shown. I can’t wait for the pubs to open, to hug my friends or have my family visit for a few days.

I just wanted to take a second to make sure I learn something.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards”

Soren Kierkegaard

TTFN, Laura

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