April’s Fool

The recuperation will be a long one – especially considering that I never broke anything before and I have no recollection of what it really means to heal my own body. This is one of the first conclusions I made; that although I tried to be physically fit, playing football, squash, do exercise, swimming, cycling, or sailing when the opportunity arose: I did not really respect my body enough.

I hate losing. I could not take losing. I blamed myself for it. Though I am generally known as a well behaved, courteous person: in sports, all the hidden or suppressed frustrations were released and surfaced. I shouted, I cursed, I vented anger whenever I made a mistake, lost a ball, a point, a goal, whatever. Those who ever played with me on a football field or a squash court know how passionate I am about winning. Some broken squash rackets would confirm the same. The expectations were set high for me by my parents from early childhood – and don’t get me wrong here: I am not blaming them. Everyone reacts differently to the challenges set by their parents. I never wanted to let them down, I wanted to make them proud. I wanted to succeed so that they are happy and that I also feel good about myself. This drive to succeed keeps me going.

Eventually, it was me, who decided if something was not good enough and redo things, try as hard as possible, go the extra mile, until that something is perfect. Be it a handwritten exercise book, or a love-letter to a primary school classmate – which I felt I must rewrite from the start, because of a single letter, where I made a mistake and I did not like the look of it. There could be no place for corrections, not even a sign of imperfection. This was later true for professional presentations, as well. My end products were fine tuned for perfection, with every single letter in its place, no typo mistake, every animation, with the same timing. Whatever I did, must have met the rigorous, strict rules of perfection, which I set for myself. And of course, it’s a vicious circle: one can always find “mistakes” if one wants to. Was it worth the effort? Maybe yes, maybe no. Looking back of course, one is always wiser.

The discipline for perfection also comes from music. Music is one of the most beautiful languages in the world, which everyone understands, yet can be the most stringent one as well. I learned to „play” the violin at an early age, since I was 8, so I think it made me self-disciplined very early, rather than just „play and take it easy”. You have the five lines in the sheet music, the key, the time signature, with the little notes, the rhythm, and you should not make mistakes: because then, the slightest sound out of tune will result in disharmony. Most of my teachers were good, although it was difficult for me to get used to a new teacher almost every year. I was told I was good and talented – although I never quite felt like it – and grew more affectionate trying out other instruments, especially the guitar. My marks were confirming I was good, albeit I was not the best, as I also lacked absolute hearing, which a classmate of mine possessed and which is a significant advantage, especially in classical music.

In my last, sixth year playing the violin at the age of 13, I was forced to change teacher mid-term, which taught me early, how a bad leader can ruin a promising talent. I remember I was already quite skilled at the time: I was already playing „prima vista” meaning that if you put an unknown sheet music in front of me, I could play it first time, more or less without a mistake – depending on complexity. So I got a new, very experienced violin player as teacher from the local orchestra, a very impatient teacher, who only taught because he had to, without the skills to motivate, show empathy, or encourage. The first time I made a slight mistake, he was shouting. I knew I made a mistake, I stopped suddenly, then course corrected and continued. Still, he was very impatient. It did not take more than three or four “lessons” I think, that I gave up and quit. My mother still recalls that I went home frustrated, threw the violin on the bed, and said I will never go back to playing. Perhaps it was one perfectionist meeting another? Two people striving for perfection, and they both failed at their own mission.

Eventually I learned to play the guitar alone, which I still do, and enjoy.

Back to the pursuit of perfection: by now I realized how needlessly I went into some challenges. I always said I love challenges, I was seeking them. Be it professional, personal, sports, whatever. As a matter of fact, until I found my wife, I was proclaiming to be looking for a challenge in a relationship too. Just days before my injury, I was asked at work what my biggest challenge ever was, and I could not answer… Only to eventually reply: “I love challenges, none of them is too big…” Well, I have a serious challenge now.

I realized I fear failure. Over the years, I grew quite accustomed to it, but I am still not embracing failure. I remember how much I cried over my first bad grades in Latin at the Benedictine grammar school I went to, following my father and my father’s cousin’s footsteps. I felt I am letting down not only myself, but my parents, and siblings as well. The first year was one massive, long hit in the face that I am not considered as good as I thought I was, in primary school. That school taught me above all, that I had to learn how to learn. It taught me diligence. After 4 years, I concluded the grammar school after a year on year improvement that would have convinced any CEO, with excellent grades.

Before this injury which brought me down on the ground, I think I might have hurt myself in one of the last football games I played indoors, totally needlessly. After conceding a goal, I kicked a closed metal door hard out of frustration and felt some pain in my left leg, which I did not take seriously. I can only suspect I might have slightly fractured my bone, maybe a hairline fracture looking back, as I felt some discomfort in movement afterwards. But, I ignored the signs. No doctor visit, no X-ray. We’re tough, we recover, right? After all, “we are men” and “we should endure pain”, right? How silly…

Major lesson learned: never ever ignore the signs of your body. It’s yours. There is only one you get, and you get it for life. It’s invaluable. Take good care of it. Never hurt it, or risk hurting it needlessly. It’s disrespecting yourself and God’s gifts.

apm

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