What one does is what counts. Not what one has the intention to do. -Pablo Picasso
I spent my first 3 years in England between 2008 and 2011 studying physiotherapy.
This was after 2 years of study in Ireland as an access course to get into England.
My plan on qualifying was to move back home, find a job and enjoy what I missed most; family, friends and football.
In terms of work I decided either sport or private clinics were for me.
All my initial efforts were placed in trying to get a foot in the door through unpaid work in Ireland.
I had always imagined after studying in college for 5 years that I would be able to find something in Ireland, an unpaid internship was hardly asking a lot.
A driven and determined 22 year old ready to work hard for free in exchange for a bit of an education.
Little did I know my real education was just starting, nothing college could teach you.
The big bad real world so they say.
When all the options seemed exhausted, I was given an opportunity but back in the place I had just returned from, England.
Back To England:
An offer of an unpaid internship with a professional rugby league team with a couple of days part time work in a clinic to get by financially.
I said yes before I knew what that meant and 2 weeks later in January 2012 flew back to England.
The decision to do this was because I felt it would lead to something down the line, that it would put me in the best position to find work I wanted back home.
I threw myself into the work, spending most of my waking hours either with the rugby team, in the clinic or with my head in a book or listening to an audiobook related to physiotherapy or strength and conditioning.
Diagrams and anatomical charts taped to the wall with physio tape of course, as you do.
Over 60 hours a week of learning and I was loving it.
While I enjoyed the work and study tremendously, my work/life balance was off.
Socially I was unhealthy.
I was in a new place where I largely knew no one and with my financial and work situation I was limited in what I could do to address that.
When I got a phone call from home from friends or family I would divert the conversation to the work situation as it was what I enjoyed most.
I didn’t entertain the conversation about life outside of work.
The reason being is that I wouldn’t allow that conversation to happen with myself.
Anytime the feeling came up of being lonely and isolated I would simply tell myself that this was a commitment I made so get on with it.
You’ve made your bed, now lie in it.
I got reminded about that in no uncertain terms down the line.
I buried any negative feelings or emotions linked to being in that situation.
I learned a lot that year and it was an important year but I made it tougher than it needed to be by repressing/suppressing of the feelings and emotions that came up in that situation.
There was a lesson for me then but I wasn’t ready for it.
Luckily For Me:
There were three men in particular who helped me that year who I can’t thank enough.
They did not need to help me.
From the outside it was pretty easy to see I was isolated and socially unhealthy.
What was hard was in seeing the opportunity to help and following through with action.
‘There is always a gap between intention and action..’- Paulo Coelho
They closed that gap with their actions.
The 3 Wise Men:
Every day I was with the rugby team I had my alarm set for 6:45 so that I could get a lift to the team training ground with one of the coaches.
A former professional player he agreed to pick me up every morning and make sure I got home during my internship.
A testament of his character no doubt, his mother being Irish must have stood in my favour.
Every morning I would walk for 20 mins and wait outside a garage for a silver Seat Leon driven by a man with a big heart to pull up.
Roughly an hour of a journey mixed with conversation, music and a lot of laughter was always good.
Committed to his work he was first man at the training ground each morning and often the last man to leave.
He went out of his way everyday to collect me in the morning and to make sure I got home in the evening.
He did not need to do this and made sure I was looked after in the club for my 9 months there and we stayed in touch after during the next 2 years I spent there.
When I agreed to move back to England, a message was sent to the players on the local GAA team on whether anyone would be able to offer a room to a lad for a few days until he sorted accommodation out.
That lad was me and one of the players kindly agreed.
After a few days and surely before he realised how strange I was (I’m stranger now) he agreed to let me rent a room in the house for the year.
He worked a lot, but when he was around he made sure I was looked after, he invited me to his home house for dinner, brought me training and generally included me in his social life.
Again it was easier for him to continue with his life as it was before I appeared on the scene but he didn’t.
He noticed something and then out of good character took action to make sure I was comfortable in the situation I was in.
The head physio at the rugby club during my internship.
We worked together to make sure players got back on the field and stayed there and out of the treatment and rehab rooms.
Not an easy task managing a full squad with a small medical team but we managed and it was enjoyable.
From day 1 he made sure to make me welcome and provide the best learning environment for me.
He gave me freedom to be creative with treating and rehabbing players from things I had learned and researched in my immersion in all things physio/strength and conditioning.
Then there would be days where he started bringing in lunches for me.
He had a wife and young family at the time.
Coming up to easter that year he invited me to spend the day and night over at his house with his family for Easter Sunday as he knew I had no plans.
This again came from a place of noticing an opportunity and then taking action.
That gesture was incredibly kind and didn’t go unnoticed.
There is something I learned here with each of these gestures.
People noticed from the outside what I wouldn’t allow myself to notice.
What I needed.
In noticing that, they were presented with an opportunity.
Many people would pass this up and choose the easier path of doing nothing.
In each of the above situations they didn’t.
They chose something which was required effort so that they could help me.
It’s been over 5 years since then and my appreciation of what they done is still as great as ever.
All these years later I am realising the power of having awareness of things happening around us, both in our lives and the people around us.
In each moment we have awareness of something we are presented with a choice to take action.
This may be got to do with personal change, with doing a good deed, in connecting with someone new or having a difficult conversation.
No matter the specific situation, taking action when we feel it’s the right thing to do will more often than not bring positive changes in our lives and the people around us.
While it’s easy to talk about doing things, observing people’s behaviour is often a better indicator of character.
In acknowledging who has helped me along the way and what they done is to increase the chances I can pay it forward.