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  • Sandra Zaniewska

Who Are You, Really? Pandemic Edition



When I was still in school, I used to dread history class. I still remember memorising the events of World War II — “It was only like 60 years ago! Seriously, is that even h i s t o r y yet?” One thought that kept me going all the way till I graduated, was that I only got this much history to learn. Imagine all the kids that will be born 100 years later. They will have quite some more to catch up on. Including the events that are happening today.

COVID-19 pandemic has put the whole world on hold — flights suspended, borders closed, store shelves empty…


Tennis wise — Wimbledon canceled, tour suspended until at least July 13th. Who would have thought this would happen? The only time I was this close to world changing events was when I had my nose in that history textbook.


Rewind to Indian Wells 2020. I mean… the one that was supposed to happen in March. When we got the news of tournament being canceled, I honestly didn’t believe it. I thought that they surely will find some way to play, I mean everybody wants the tournament to happen, right? Kinda right, but wrong at the same time. Certain precautions need to be taken and even if Indian Wells would have taken place in March, it would only be a matter of time until the tour was put on hold anyway.


And here we are — jobless (for the time being), advised to self-isolate and not leave the house unless it’s absolutely necessary. Quite the opposite of what tennis players are used to. No tournaments, no income stream, no socializing and no physical work. It surely came as quite a shock to many and it’s probably one of the most cruel ways of poking the identity bubble. All of those dangers coming at tennis players, all at once.

Now, you know that tennis players are resilient human beings. The ones that managed to climb all the way to the top are equipped with qualities like self discipline and strong mindset. I bet that the majority of them, even if they can’t hit, still keep fit and do their mobility, stability and strengthening exercises on daily basis. I bet they are doing all they can and I really applaud that. But, what about the way they feel?


Most of them, just like most of people from any walks of life right now, are simply waiting for all of this to be over. People are using that surplus of time in more or less productive ways, but one thing that they all have in common is the wait. Looking forward to be able to go outside, to hit, work, travel, etc. In a way, I understand that completely, I am in the same boat. But…


When we work, we complain that we don’t spend enough time with our families. When we travel, we complain that we never spend any time at home. When we are in the middle of preparation, we complain that we are tired. And now, we get all of that we so often yearn for and we can’t wait for it to be over.


What’s the rush?


The moment Indian Wells was canceled and we knew that the near future will most probably look the same, I decided to stay in the States and take a trip to places I wanted to go for a long time — Mojave Desert and Sedona. I can’t tell you how excited I was to get there and explore every square foot (well, not quite, but you get my point). I took the trip and I was always looking forward to something. When I left Palm Springs, I was looking forward to get to the Desert. When I got there, I was focused on checking places off my list. Next, Sedona. Same thing. I gotta see this, I gotta see that. The moment I was getting to one place, I was already thinking about the next one.


I meditated. I meditated in energy vortexes. Loads. And? Nada, null, nothing. I felt the same.

And then I left. I left those places and tennis was (and is) still on hold and I kept wondering — What. The. Hell.


And then it hit me.


“The only zen you can find on the tops of mountains is the zen you bring up there.” — Robert M. Pirsig

We go for holidays, because we think we will be able to relax there. Sure, if you spend 11 months of the year coming back to the same apartment every evening, then the change of scenery will definitely make some sort of a difference. How long is it gonna last though? The point here is, we make ourselves believe that this thing that will fulfil us, that will make us content, that will make us feel this or that — is somewhere out there. Whether it’s in Sedona or in TOP100 or in a million dollars, it’s just semantics.


Don’t be surprised when this is all over and we get to go back to normality (whatever that will look like) and you don’t feel as joyful as you thought you would. Don’t be surprised when that feeling of energy and happiness (that merely resulted from change in activities) wears off after a couple of days or weeks.


This is a perfect time. A perfect reminder not only of how fragile life is and how there are so much more important things than what we sometimes worry about, but also a perfect reminder of the importance of seizing every moment.


Take those moments and do all the things you always complained you had no time for and don’t look too far ahead. The future will come at its own pace, your thoughts and desires won’t make it come any faster. Use this time to become a better version of you, one that isn’t tied to any title, but one that resonates with you and fulfils you from within. That, my friend, is the only way not to get lost once you reach the top of the mountain, the only way not to fall for the illusion of success, that so many of us chase. Because once you reach that top, after the initial amazement wears off, you will quickly figure that you feel exactly the same as you did before. This will turn into feeling worse, because those expectations you had for how amazing you’d feel once you got that promotion, reached that ranking, earned that money, were not met. Instead, you popped the bubble.


Get rid of that bubble now and start today. Become who you want to. And then take that zen with you, everywhere you go.

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