Time to let go

 

           {Member’s of the Cambridge rowing team. James Cracknell second from the right}

I text my friend Dan the other day with a link to a new comedy writing and performance course now available at the University we both attended.

‘Totes would have loved this!’ I wistfully exclaimed

‘Got another three years at Salford in you?’ He replied.

‘Reckon I could do it…’

‘Rollups in the Student Union. It was fun first time…’

It was so much fun the first time round. The best fun of my life actually. Trouble is, if I did dare to venture back in 2019, twenty three years after I first went, I know that I would forever be comparing and contrasting. I would be nostalgic about things my fellow students couldn’t give two hoots about. Patronising about issues that don’t even matter and no doubt be scared shitless the majority of the time. There’s no way could I do it now.

With that in mind I sat, almost gobsmacked, watching The University boat race this Sunday which included James Cracknell rowing for Cambridge.

 

For those of you unfamiliar with Cracknell he is a double Olympian and six time world champion rower. He’s also managed to cross the Atlantic, with Ben Fogle, in a two man rowing boat. He’s run two London marathons {in three hours and under}, been to the South Pole and was the highest placing Brit in the gruelling Marathon des Sables. He has three children, suffered a traumatic brain injury when hit by a truck whilst cycling across America in 2010 and is forty six years old.

What the hell is a forty six year old world champion doing in the Oxford/Cambridge boat race?!?

Oh put it away, love! The yearly boat race is meant to be for University Students! It’s for those youngsters in the world who have hope on their sides along with ignorance, arrogance and naivety. It’s not for professional athletes who can’t let go of their glory days. But…Cracknell is in fact enrolled at University. In September 2018 he took his notepad and pen {everyone else turned up with laptops. HA! Schoolboy error} and started back at Cambridge studying for a masters in Human Evolution.

I am fully aware that a competitive Olympian’s drive is perhaps slightly different to my own {currently struggling to go to three consecutive yoga classes over here} but with everything on his plate ~ brain trauma, family commitments, age related arse problems ~ why on earth would Cracknell want to put himself through the gruelling commitment of boat race training as well as a full time masters degree?

 

It’s not being able to let go of your youth, isn’t it? It’s him desperately clinging onto those days when we all bounced back from…well, from everything. From hangovers, lack of sleep, intense physical workouts, sitting down for longer than an hour. I understand that, I really do. An invitation to a house party, last week, came with a preface that no one wear stilettos due to their new wooden floorboards. Ha! Loved it. I replied saying I hadn’t worn stilettos to a party since the mid noughties but the thought of it did make me a little sad. My stiletto wearing house party days were AMAZING!

Occasionally I do get wistful at not being twenty and able to put my underwear on without a groan. And here I am bitterly telling Cracknell to put it away but does he really need to? Cambridge won after all. He became the oldest person to partake in The University Boat race and the adrenaline high, he so obviously seeks, was there in abundance.

If you’ve got it flaunt it, right? He obviously still has it so why shouldn’t he keep flaunting it?

 

Well, because he’s had his time. He needs to move over and make way for those coming up behind him. As Richard Williams wrote, for The Guardian, The University Boat race’s main focus should be the achievements of young people. The media coverage surrounding the race was dominated by Cracknell’s superhuman like qualities. {According to Clare Balding with his fellow teammates permission} However, when BBC presenter Jason Mohammed predicted that the shoreside crowd would give ‘one big cheer for one certain member of Cambridge University boat club’ he couldn’t have been more wrong. There was a smattering of handclaps but no one gave a shit. Course they didn’t. They were thinking about themselves. At the age of twenty two, what they had achieved, was probably the greatest moment in their lives and that was their main concern.

The biggest reason to let go and move aside, however, isn’t about delayed muscle recovery time or having little in common with someone who was born the year you first went to University. It’s about the commitments you make as an adult and your desire to stick to them. Cracknell has a wife and three children who he is now separated from. TV presenter Beverley Turner wrote an insightful and moving piece for The Times about the sacrifices she and her family have made for Cracknell to pursue his youthful dreams. On deciding to watch the race with her children she wrote

“This endeavour had taken their daddy away from home for eight solid months (with the preceding five spent in a distracted haze with his eyes on the prize). The kids needed to see that this enormous family sacrifice wasn’t entirely in vain.”’

                                                                                                                           {James Cracknell & Beverley Turner}

When you make the, often painful, decision to let go of your youth, hindsight gives you a wonderful perspective on the benefits of moving forward. Back at my youthful stiletto wearing house parties I would often feel sick at some point. I’d hang around too long, hoping the nausea would disappear and then puke somewhere. Classic old me.

At the non stiletto house party last Saturday I felt sick, went upstairs and had a kip in the hosts bed for an hour before getting an Uber home at 12.30am. Classic new me.

Time to let go of the old and make way for the new.

 

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