“We’re flawed because we want so much more. We’re ruined because we get these things and wish for what we had.”
That’s a quote from Don Draper, a wonderfully-suave but deeply flawed character from a TV show known as Mad Men.
There have been so many poignant quotes from this show that have resonated with me over the years, but this one, in particular, is something I want to discuss.
I had my first panic attack in 2011, stuck in Australia, and they would occur intermittently throughout the next decade.
My life continued to have no real direction or purpose, feeling like just a passenger, that never enjoys the ride. I consistently look ahead, like whatever is going on around me in the now, is just in my peripheral vision. Thinking “when I change careers I’ll be happy,” or “when I get my own place I’ll be happy” yada, yada, yada.
Never really focusing, on you know, just being happy. I mean, I have obtained most things I have set out to do but sacrificed ALOT to get there and now I find myself in this weird limbo, not happy, not sad …. just here.
And that’s my own fault.
“I have a life and it only goes in one direction. Forward.”
It is this line of thinking that I followed pretty sternly since my Australian dalliance. I can now acknowledge it may ultimately lead to the demise of one’s world, as it did for good ol’ Don Draper.
Unfortunately, you generally realise this when it is way too late. I am not saying this line of thinking is necessarily wrong, but a more balanced approach from myself and Don I’m sure would have been welcome. This is where I tie everything back with sports (we are a sports site after all).
The life of an athlete is no doubt a hard and surprisingly lonely one. Everything is geared towards the next match, all the hard work, all the real-life struggles put aside, for the purposes of one singular thing – winning.
My cousin Mikey Drennan was a professional footballer and told me, on the record, of the incredible loneliness he felt leaving Kilkenny at 16 to move to Birmingham to play with Aston Villa.
I was shocked by the admission, I mean I saw him play in Old Trafford. He has represented Ireland. So how could he feel in any way bad about his stock?
Later he stepped away from the game altogether due to his mental health concerns, something that I applaud now when I realise he was thinking about his current self. A concept that seemed lost on me not so long ago.
Paul Murphy recently said on The Clash Act, that he sacrificed great nights and special occasions with friends for his Kilkenny inter-county career, but he doesn’t remember those nights he missed, he remembers lifting the Liam McCarthy. I’m sure there is no greater feeling than what he experienced on the pitch in Croke Park, fueled by desire.
So it seems to be a finely balanced pendulum, how much do you sacrifice in a bid to achieve your goals?
“Dissatisfaction is a symptom of ambition. It’s the coal that fuels the fire.”
This was my favourite one, thinking that my dissatisfaction was somehow justified and helped me achieve my goals. To a degree it did, being unhappy with your fitness or general circumstances can lead to determination & perseverance.
However, in my case, stronger convictions lead to more negative experiences. Anxiousness, losing my natural identity, my expectations of others and alcohol dependency for relaxation were/are the huge negative consequences in my quests to achieve my goals. Only the people close to me ever really got to see that side of me, public Shane and personal Shane.
I’m lucky I’m not in the public eye.
Now, juxtapose my circumstances with that of our sports stars. Dissatisfaction levels must be through the roof nowadays, with nobody able to keep their mouth shut. I cannot imagine the scrutiny of having cameras on your every single performance, with every action analysed in agonizing detail by the sports community ( me included).
Twitter quick-takes, condemnation shattering egos and admiration expanding one’s hubris. It’s madness.
That combined with the expectation heaped on would-be athletes at youth level to commit mad hours to a sport will no doubt lead to unhealthy habits for some.
I can not stress enough that I’m no mental health professional, but people like Jesse Lingard coming out about their struggles is no doubt a good thing. Naomi Osaka, Michael Phelps, Ronda Rousey, Eoin Larkin, even Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson have suffered from “a dose of the good ol’ mental health”.
We should encourage this, we need this. More people being honest and open in general and not just in sports will hopefully lead to a better now, and a healthier future.
As Don Draper once said, “people want to be told what to do so badly that they’ll listen to anyone”.
I should not have listened to Don.