Tuesday 15 February 2011

A year since my heart restarted

Could I have had a heart attack at a better time of year, when everywhere there are great big red hearts due to Valentines day! At least I will never forget when it happened, although I would like to. It has been a time for a lot of reflection which has unfortunately not been water based. A few things that have happened in the last few weeks have also caused me to think about what happened and how I feel now, both about windsurfing and life in general. I have come to the conclusion that they are now inexorably linked for me.

About 10 years ago when I went camping in Cornwall in the winter for the first time I saw plenty of surfers out in freezing conditions. I thought they were either mad, addicted or obsessed, or all three. Part of me was jealous of their commitment as they shivered in the car park on the way out for their session. They all shared the same desperate look in their eyes as they looked out at the clean peeling waves, and all came back looking satisfied, relaxed and mentally in a place only an extreme sportsman/woman can understand.

What is it about windsurfing and other other similar sports that creates such dedication and ultimate satisfaction? When I first started I used to think it was the battle with the elements and the feeling that you won at the end. HA! You never win, and there is no point in trying to battle them. I now think it comes from working in harmony with them. Of course this has taken at least 300 sessions learning how to do this and am still at novice stage in this respect, anyone who thinks they are not is ignorant.

Over the past year I have seen my life goals and wants change completely, I used to be career driven with hobbies on the side to wind down and relax. I wanted success in my job and my own property that I could 'potter' with and grow food in the garden. I wanted children and I suppose what everyone deems to be a normal life. The effect it had on me when my father died at near my current age has meant that these goals have changed after suffering the same health problems he had. We have lived our lives as complete opposites but this made no difference to heart disease and genetics, only that I have survived to become fitter, he only became weaker after his first heart attack and did nothing to change. If I could afford it I would have children tomorrow, knowing that if something happened to me then they would be safe financially, but  a career move has affected this.

Just over three years ago I made a bad career choice which may or may not have led to my health problems but it has ruined what was a good career and very successful past results. Many of my students  have gone on to further and higher education to study maths or the sciences. Several having gone on to Oxford and Cambridge. For a year in the middle I had no drive and no desire any more to climb the greasy pole, I now feel that the education system does not want to generate free thinkers, perhaps society only wants people who will do what they are told in ignorance without argument.  

Without a doubt I do my best for the students I teach and work hard to get them to succeed, dragging some of them kicking and screaming through a stagnant syllabus all too often though. Colleagues, parents and students alike used to appreciate what I did, which does not fit into any box to be ticked in a lesson observation. The school I work at gets less than average results, it has an intake that is far below average so in terms of improving the results we do better than most schools. However in the new culture that is being forced upon us as teachers we are told we are only satisfactory (which means not good enough in OFSTED terms, as opposed to good which means just about satisfactory) because the school can only achieve satisfactory. The bureaucrats have to justify their decisions, and unfortunately I am no longer motivated to please them.  It would be nice to be told that we are doing a good job, instead we got told the bureaucrats and management do a great job and we need to raise our game. What is this? An oxymoron or a paradox?

There is still a lot of satisfaction I get from teaching some students, those who I manage to motivate and get through to,  although there is a hole in my desire to learn more academically for myself now. My vision of my life always had me going back to higher education either part time or full to complete a PHD in the field of 'the psychology of learning'. These goals have changed perhaps due to the bad career move I made or perhaps due to the satisfaction I now get from windsurfing. When I make a new move, or beat a personal best it gives me the same satisfaction that years of study have given me in the past, and there is no stress involved in learning the new move, only minor bruising more often than not.

The mental recovery since it happened is still not over, and my mood will swing up and down quite often. I know how to make it swing up and what to do - Windsurf, forget the troubles of the world and live in harmony with some of the worst conditions nature can throw at us.


  1. I like the story a lot, windsurfing has the same free feeling for me. Just relax and go with the (wind)flow. And a career plus windsurfing can be difficult (my conclusion having only worked/windsurf for less than 1 year)

  2. Thanks Erik, teaching goes well with windsurfing, but you can not drop work for a quick session. You do get to go after work for a decent amount of time, move where you want and have reasonably long holidays. Teaching is a difficult career in itself though, surprisingly this is nothing to do with kids being hard work, they make the job worthwhile (sometimes).

  3. This is very insightful, Lea. (Sorry, I didn't see the article before.)

    Long time ago I moved away from official line of work - I am following my bliss, and I guess I am among luckier to make a living from it.

    I am a firm believer in change! :-) And windsurfing helps, for sure.


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