Our Greatest Challenge

“Yuh playin’ Carnival this year?” 

“Nah I doh think I can”

“How ya mean?”

“It’s just a bad time of year for me if I want to have a good summer.” 

“Well this Friday we limin”

I can’t—hard practice early Saturday and I need to be on top of my game”

“oh”

In T&T it feels as if our society is degenerating into one of pure hedonism. Immediate pleasure is of the utmost priority to us. The dark side to this affinity for leisure is the aversion to the uncomfortable that goes with it. 

Of all the challenges facing our aspiring local athletes and youth in general; the funding issues, our facilities, coaching, this insidious cultural attitude is perhaps is the most serious limiting factor to realising our potential.

It seems only natural that given the circumstances of our history that we have this attitude towards life. As a people we have never really suffered for anything. Our national identity was not forged in battle at the cost of millions of lives. We asked for our independence and then we got it. 

We don’t have winter, and if we want food it grows all year round. Life is easy. Aside from corruption and crime it’s not a bad place to live. The irony with this is that we expect only the best from our athletes out there on the worlds stage where they must compete with people from cultures that historically exalt the heroic values of discipline and sacrifice. While our society is telling us to “free up ourselves and take a wine,” theirs is reminding them that “only hard work will set them free.”

We have the natural talent. We are a melting pot of humanity with a population from all the continents that has thrived, with genes strong enough to survive the middle passage and slavery. 

I have seen it time and time again in local sport with young athletes who have had the potential to be world class, but were just not willing to endure the discomfort, put in the work and make the sacrifices necessary to take things to the next level. I greatly desire to leave sport in this country better than I found it, and this is something that continually frustrates and disappoints me. I feel compelled to address it here.

It’s not easy to explain to people who just don’t get it, that you can’t join them for a good time, that maybe on a weekend or a holiday you still need to wake up early and train, and that sometimes when you actually have the time, you don’t have the energy left. For someone unfamiliar with this spartan lifestyle, to them it must seem as though we have gotten caught up in some kind of a weird religious cult. 

I am addicted to progress. Goals give my life so much meaning that times it has felt as if time was being dictated backwards by the potential result from a future event. When there is a purpose behind everything you do it is truly a beautiful thing. The price that one pays for having the privilege of working as a professional athlete at something you must obviously enjoy is that it becomes not just a job, but a lifestyle.

Experience blunts sensitivity. It seems that our overindulgence ends up seriously limiting our capacity for enjoyment. Compared to other places in the world Trinidadian nightlife feels hollow. 

Imagine everyone dressed up standing around in a big circle looking tough to loud music, preoccupied with who is looking at them wearing, who is spending what, who is talking to who, who is wearing what. Stush! As we like to say here. Same people, same place, same old. 

People are partying all the time, but they don’t seem to be having as much fun as would be expected. It’s an expensive habit too! There are other places in the world where people just seem to revel in the enjoyment of a night out. I guess the old adage of work hard, play hard is in effect. A party will be infinitely better when you actually have something to celebrate. Believe me!

It is a common notion that true happiness is seeing meaning in one's life. Our culture’s hedonistic approach to life fails us in this respect, because there isn’t much meaning in pure enjoyment and the avoidance of discomfort. 

Are we truly a happy people? A destination provides a journey of satisfaction that comes from the appreciation of the things that have been worked hard for.