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Looking at you through the glass

On average, it takes about a good 2-3 hours for me to tap into the flow of my creative juices and come up with what is, hopefully, a comprehensible piece of work for your reading pleasure - a piece of work governed by some very rigid do's and do not's, but in spite thereof, written, at the very the least, with a great deal of pith. Since we just departed from Sydney for our 3 hour bus trip to Canberra, I should expect to be done by the time we get there.

I believe my circumstances while writing to be similar to those on the field - an attempt to perform a task that, hopefully, induces rapture in all those who bear witness, performed within a given period of time, within a very clear system, but in spite thereof, executed, at the very least, with a great deal of heart.

There are two definite similarities to my mind. The first: once I press send, I cannot unsend. I can't unpass the ball either. I've been reading about a lot of people who wish that we could unkick the ball, but I'm staying clear of that nuclear-bomb topic. Honestly, I just wanted to use "unkick" first to stop it from appearing all over the comment section.

If only one could unsend in life. Then I probably would not have sent that picture of my rugby balls, intended for my girlfriend, to my mother. Perhaps a little off the topic, but it remains true nonetheless.

Getting back to the point... perhaps the most striking similarity - for as long as you do those two things, don't kid yourself into thinking that yours will be a life earmarked as free. Well, not completely in any case. The freedom thief isn't the time constraint, or even the structure or the system or the governing body, but rather the fact that, by doing those things, you invite judgement into your life.

The collision is inevitable, what with the introduction of the phenomenon known as the blog and the meteoric rise of social media, and the amount of freedom you live with can only be determined by your ability to handle said collision. Judgement, especially in the world of rugby, is a seesaw ride of note, and if you don't know exactly who you are or the reason why you do what you do, it can consume you, and the essence of your life can become a never-ending quest for approval.

I lived such a life during high school - a very self-sacrificial one, where I never did anything for myself, but rather for appraisal or approval or the benefit of others. After all, at the time I was benefitting from it too. Sadly, you quickly learn about the fickleness of people, and also, if a life's essence is the never-ending quest for approval, you will never be happy - or even worse - free. This has always been my greatest fear, contrary to what that youtube video will have you believe. I love singing. What I fear is being trapped, in both senses of the word.

Back when I was a younger rugby player, I admittedly struggled with the concept of sacrificing my freedom. The higher I moved up on the ladder, the more I started to grasp that facing judgement will become a bigger and bigger part of my life, and I didn't like the idea of caring what other people think of me, or living a life to please people whose allegiances were as brittle as dried leaves. I fought against it, and ended up doing things solely for the reason that they would be disapproved of - and almost lost myself in the war.

I soon realised that I wasn't really free either; in fact I might have been even less free than the person whose essence of his life was a never-ending quest for approval. I was caring even more than he was.

Where does that leave you then? Well, my friends, you have to learn to live alongside the judgement, and neither fight for its good graces nor fight against it. Remaining apathetic is easier said than done - it's standard procedure to ignore it when it's really bad, but then you have to ignore it when it's good too. You're never as bad as people say you are, but you're never as good as people say you are either - it usually comes from the same people, so when are they right and when are they wrong?

I'm not an idiot. I do realise that it's part of what we do - maybe even a necessary part. After all, someone needs to decide who becomes a Springbok and who doesn't. Someone has to be able to give it to you straight. As you get on with you career, you figure out who to listen to and who to ignore. Note, choosing "who" to ignore isn't the same as choosing "what" to ignore - everybody needs to be able to handle criticism. I appreciate honest criticism just as much as I appreciate an honest pat on the back. In the end we're all just looking for truth.

I still have my moments when my ability to discern fails me. Just the other day I posted a photo on twitter of my bloody sock after a tough running session in the pre-season, commenting on the intensity of it, and some insignificant little smart-ass proceeded to tell me that the idea is to get fit, not hurt.

I don't know why, but it got to me a little bit… I guess because you brace yourself for judgement after you do something big, like play a game or wear a wife-beater, but that was innocent. I wanted to choke him with that bloody sock! I didn't.

I'm enjoying the ride at the moment, and except for the old ball and chain, I'm as free as I can be right now… just kidding pumpkin. You can say anything to me - you're always right.

Speaking of the ride, I sincerely hope we're still on our way to Canberra. I thought it was a three-hour trip, but it's been four hours now, and I still see only trees. Just as well though, since the column took a bit a longer to write this week, but after all, once you press send you can not unsend.

The real thing to stand out from this column is the unbelievable battery life of my laptop. It's an Apple. Don't judge me.

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