Choices

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“When people make a choice of a path to walk along, they should do so with satisfaction. I’m not a fan of melodrama or of characterising your choice as a struggle or as a tragedy.”
[Aung San Suu Kyi describing her house arrest and the heroine status bestowed on her]

When Kelly Holmes won her two Olympic gold medals back in the day I seemed to be a lone voice. I was crying ‘foul’ at Kelly’s constant reference to ‘her struggle’ and what ‘a battle’ she had endured against niggling injury and how ‘tough and at times traumatic’ the journey to the top of the podium was.

My three observations were:

  1. This is a choice Kelly. No-one abducted your husband and children and said ‘if you do not compete and win at the Olympics you will never see them again.’
  2.  The choice was to seek personal glory and triumph. Not even in a team sport but in a solo pursuit where the only winner is yourself and success means fame, wealth and honour.
  3.  The words ‘Struggle#’, ‘battle’ and ‘trauma’ are used to characterise the worst aspects of armed conflict, dispossession of home and country, torture, the denial of human rights and death. They have no place in the description of an annoying setback in the pursuit of personal glory, fame and praise.

It is only recently, with the final release of Aung from 21 years of imprisonment – house arrest, solitary, removed from any contact with her husband or children, that we have had the chance to see her and hear her speak of the past, of the present and of the future.

At no point have we seen even a glimpse of self-pity. No words of struggle or personal pain. This is someone who understands that to live a life looking outwards not inwards is the way to happiness. She understands that suffering gives life meaning. She understands that it is not the nature or the extent of the suffering that defines us, it is rather how we deal with it.

And finally she understands what I understand, which is that when you make a choice you should be happy with the outcome, whatever it is.