Another Times article this morning. I mention it because I wanted to respond to some of the comments readers have left. This isn’t something I usually do – generally speaking, I just laugh and move on, but these made me think. This, in particular, from a “Jeff London”.
“So instead of making use of her Cambridge degree and doctorate by getting a productive, beneficial to society job, she does this and studies for YET ANOTHER degree? Sounds like a leecher to me.”
Well, Mr London, leaving aside the fact that you don’t (I assume) know anything about me aside from what’s in the article, and you certainly have no knowledge of my financial arrangements, this seems a bit of a stretch. Using the same lack of logic, I could just as easily say about your good self : “So, instead of doing something worthwhile with his time, like spending time with his family or doing the job he’s being paid to do while he’s surfing the internet, he goes out of his way to pass summary judgement about a woman he doesn’t know based solely on his prejudices about her preferred sporting activity. Sounds like another ignorant self-satisfied moron to me”. But I realize that this would be making an arbitrary ad-hominem accusation based on a series of unwarranted assumptions. :-)
With that out of the way, let’s look at the real question here. Who gets to define what’s “beneficial to society”? Is it solely measured in tax paid over the course of a lifetime? If that’s the case, then it’s true that right now I’m somewhat behind schedule, but it’s early days yet. I’m confident I can catch up.
Although, I can’t help feeling there should be more to it than that. I could have got a job straight out of university, no doubt. Would ten years working in investment banking have been more beneficial to society – in this wider sense – than what I’ve done with my time? How about working for a credit card company, figuring out better ways to make money out of people who are already in debt? Or a fast food company, contributing to the growing epidemic of obesity and heart disease?
This isn’t a criticism of people who do any of those things. I realize that I’m very lucky to have had the opportunity to do what I’ve done, to have finally found what I really want to do – and the way I feel I can best make a difference.
Whenever I wonder about the value of what I do, I have a folder I keep with messages I’ve received from people. I’ve always been uncomfortable with the idea of being a role model. I’m far too much of a flawed human being to be putting myself on any kind of pedestal. But when there are people, from fourteen year old girls, to mothers, martial artists, former couch potatoes or stressed out professionals who take the time to write to me and mention that they’ve seen a story or a documentary or one of my fights and been inspired to take up something new, or persevere with something, or simply to believe that they can do something they didn’t before – that makes it feel worthwhile. And a big responsibility. One day, I’ll get into coaching and have the chance to work with some of these people directly. Until then – sometimes, in a world where we’re supposed to believe that happiness is about having more money, a nicer house, better car, and more stuff than the people around you, I guess inspiration can be a worthwhile currency too.
So, if all goes to plan, I should qualify as an osteopath this summer. I do sometimes wonder what posessed me to sign up for another five year degree course. Especially this one. Every monday, I get up at 4 am, leave the house before 5 and drive 150 miles to spend 8 hours in clinic treating patients, and then drive back. If I’m lucky, I get home before 10. That’s aside from giving up every other weekend for five years. Why? Because I enjoy it. It feels meaningful. When someone who’s been in pain, maybe for months, leaves feeling better, there’s nothing in the world like it. Having the ability to do that – now, that’s got to be worth making some sacrifices for.
So, yes, I’m passionate about what I want to do with my life, and I’m not prepared to settle for a mediocre existence sat behind a computer screen or pointlessly pushing paper around. Just paying my taxes and contributing to the economy by buying more stuff I don’t need isn’t enough to convince me that I’m doing my bit for society. Does this make me selfish?
I can see how I might seem a little contradictory on the surface. I’m always happy to talk to anyone who’s interested to know more or is open to debate. Better still, come and join me for a training session. :-)
If you’d prefer to keep things simple, though, feel free to consider me a mindless thug(ette?) who’s at least partly responsible for the downfall of civilization…. Meanwhile I’ll get back to doing what I consider important.