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i've asked this question many times before, but it seems to be all i can think about at the moment - at what point do you try harder and at what point do you give in? when do you need to accept the reality that some things just aren't meant to be? when is resistance a sign and when is it an obstacle to overcome?


i've been here many times in my career. i was here in 2014 when i tore my second acl. again in 2018 when i got cut from adelaide united. a year later when i did my acl for the third time. then again in 2022 when things didn't work out with an agent i'd signed with. and instead of getting there at the end of last year, when w league didn't work out for me (again), i decided to pack up my life and move across the world to pursue my childhood dream of playing professionally.


i was hopeful. eager. finally things will work out for me. they have to. i'm in a different country, where no one knows my name or has any preconceived ideas about who i am and what i can/can't do. this is my chance. but within weeks of me arriving in the UK, i quickly learnt that that dream would not be achieved in this country either. but i refused to let this experience be wasted. i still signed with a really good tier 3 side. outside of football, i've been pottering along, volunteering and coaching at as many different organisations as i can, even ones i don't enjoy. all with the hopes that one day this will pay off. one day i might be given an opportunity. one day, it might just work out for me.


but at what point do i need to just accept the reality that it's not going to work out for me? at what point do i just need to let go of my childhood dream and move on with my life. i'm 30 years old, soon to be 31 and what do i actually have to show for myself? i work casual jobs in coffee shops, i coach on the side, and i'm trying, perhaps even forcing, trying to make something of my football career. i have no stability with a career. and none of that is going to miraculous change until i can let go of playing. even transitioning into coaching - that's not a full time career. that doesn't pay you maternity leave when you decide to have kids. unless you move to any other country other than australia. but i'm done moving across the world. i'm done feeling alone. i'm done feeling like i'm swimming upstream with anything that i seem passionate about. but perhaps that's my own doing - perhaps my problem is in that being interested in so much, i've been committed to nothing. perhaps that's why my business of equipping individuals with skills to support others when they're struggling never went anywhere. perhaps that's why my playing is at a standstill. why nothing much has progressed with coaching.


meanwhile, all i can see around me are people settling down. settling into their careers. having babies. starting families. and the only people doing that? are the people that let football go a long time ago. and to be honest, i feel like that's what i need to do if i'm ever going to do anything with my life. because the reality is, i can't keep having this child-like attitude towards my life and my future - keeping all my options open, whilst simultaneously wasting away. i feel bad for my parents - two incredibly intelligent, nurturing, and accomplished individuals, watching their child do nothing with their life. wasting their intellect on futile, unrealistic dreams.


they say it's good to have options, but i disagree. sometimes you can feel burdened by choice. paralysed by an inability to commit to any one thing. and that's where i feel i am right now. i don't just have one interest; i have many. i don't just have one hobby; i have many. but perhaps it's time i start closing some doors and focusing on what will actually provide me with a stable future and direction. perhaps it's time i grow the fuck up.

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in my last post i wrote about people's need for a network, but what i was really referencing was people's need for a friend. humans are social creatures - we literally need other human beings to survive. but in a world that is becoming increasingly dominated by individualism, finding a friend seems ever more challenging.


i moved to the UK in november. i've been with this football team since january. yet i still don't feel any closer to anyone in this country. i still don't feel like i have any friends.


i know that sounds dramatic, so let me break it down - what exactly do i mean when i say 'i don't have any friends'? i mean, i don't feel i have anyone i can call to talk to, to vent to, to cry to when i'm having a shit day. i don't feel i have people i can just message to grab a coffee with. loneliness isn't about being alone, it's about feeling alone. feeling emotionally alone. feeling like you have no one in your 'circle'. and yes - i have people back home. i have my partner, i have my family. i have other friends. but none of those relationships can substitute the need for friends in the country you're residing in. friends that are accessible, within a similar social circle, and within the same time zone. a partner can't fulfill all of your needs. nor can your family. and especially not when they're on the other side of the world, sleeping, when you're going through something.


these feelings aren't foreign to me. i remember feeling like this when i was in the US too. it wasn't until my final year that i finally found a teammate who i still consider my friend today. what was different about her compared to everyone else? well she was Norwegian, so she was an international too. but the main thing she did? she took an interest in my life as i did in hers. she made an effort.


so what does it mean to be a friend? it means being interested in their life. it means asking questions. it means making effort. i've just started working at a coffee shop and there's been one individual in particular who's taken a genuine interest in my life outside of the generic football / sport small talk. and it started because she mentioned drawing is what she wants to do for a career. and i asked what sort of drawings, she said she designs album covers for musicians, that sort of thing. i then asked if she could design my book cover for when i eventually write my book. she didn't leave the conversation there - she prodded. she explored. and she did so with a genuine curiosity and excitement.


despite having been here for nearly six months, i have yet to have anyone really ask me anything about my life outside of football. without that interest, without those questions being asked, no connection can be formed. no friendship established. because curiosity has to be mutual. conversations have to be mutual. vulnerabilities have to be mutual. one person can't be the only person learning about the other, which is something i've experienced here - the insulated nature of people's lives.


not only does friendship take effort and interest, but it also takes empathy and understanding. it's acknowledging that 'wow, this must be difficult for you'. it's realising what you have and potentially take for granted, is something that someone else does not have. is there any way for you to share what you have? e.g. if you still live at home, or go to visit your family, can you invite your teammate? can you offer them a home cooked meal? i don't know about others, but i don't think you ever get too old for home cooked meals.


the other point about being a friend is not ignoring someone. i completely understand that everyone has their own lives and not everyone is accessible 24/7 - i know that i'm not. and i also know that even though i don't always (or ever!) reply straight away, i will reply. especially if it's someone i care about and even more so if i know that they're going through something. one of the worst things i think people can do is ghost someone. and it's even more painful when the last message you sent them was about something you were struggling with - something you've been vulnerable about.


this happened to me recently with someone i considered a friend - someone who said they were here to listen to me vent about my struggles in the UK because they'd been there and they understood. i sent a voice note to them, basically holding back tears of how alone i feel in the UK. of how i'm struggling with the passing of a soccer coach from back home and have no one to talk to about it. i never got a reply to that message - which again, is okay - i get that people have shit going on in their own lives and sometimes don't have the emotional capacity to support someone else when they're struggling. so i sent a message asking if they were okay, if a phone call would work better to catch up and chat. and despite all of this happening nearly a month ago, i still haven't had a reply. yet i see them posting daily on social media.


so what is the effect of this? and how damaging can it really be? i think the worst part is this person is very well aware of how i've had significant people in my life literally go MIA when i've needed them the most. and still to this day without an explanation despite multiple attempts by me to get in contact. yet, this seems to be the pattern unfolding again. although this undoubtedly says more about them and potentially what they're going through, it still fucking hurts. it hurts to feel abandoned by those you're supposed to trust the most. by those whom you have been vulnerable with. with those who are supposed to be your friend.


people might dismiss this and say 'they're clearly not you're type of person' - but let's be real, many of us aren't inundated with a surplus of friends. it takes time to develop friendships. it takes courage to be vulnerable; to open yourself up to another. so to lose one, on the back of already losing many in your life in a similar fashion, it fucking hurts.


another aspect about being a friend is the exchange of information, especially if that information could benefit someone else. what i will never understand is when people hoard information. hoard contacts. hoard assistance. i'm unsure if others have experienced this, or perhaps it's a product of the football/soccer community, but i've found people to be particularly unhelpful. if i have a teammate interested in playing in australia, i'm giving them every contact i know. i'm explaining everything i know about the leagues, structure, payment, restrictions etc. and if they were interested in coming to adelaide, i'd help them find a place to stay. or at the very least, put them in contact with someone who could. a player from back home also travelled to the UK to trial over here and i shared with her all the email addresses i had found online to save her the hassle and time of doing that herself. in contrary, a former teammate who i've known for a long time was very well aware of my intentions to move to the UK. she was also aware of the GBE points required to play professionally. yet did she share this with me? absolutely not. part of being a friend, or simply a decent person, is adding value to others' lives with no expectation of that being reciprocated. it's doing for others perhaps what you had wished someone had done for you.


so what do i recommend? i think all of us need to be better at being better friends. and i'm not saying you're going to befriend everyone you come in contact with; that's not realistic. but i think the least we can do is take an interest in their lives. to ask questions. to be curious. there is no greater feeling than the feeling of being understood and seen. but i think so many of us are living in the worlds inside our heads because no one seems to be taking an interest to learn about them. so how can you take an interest in someone else's life? how can you make an effort? and if someone has the courage to be vulnerable with you, please, for the love of god, don't fucking ignore them. even if you have your own shit going on - just say that. "hey i really want to be there for you right now, but i've got quite a bit going on emotionally and i don't want to do a disservice in giving you half-assed replies. i'll touch base when i'm in a better place." the more communication, the better. "a lack of communication leaves too much room for imagination." don't be shit. be a better friend.

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building a network can be hard. but it's something that anyone who moves - interstate, overseas, or even just to a different house, experiences.


moving to the UK has been the second time i've been without a network, the first being when i moved to the US in 2011. but, as i mentioned in an earlier post, my experience in the US was extremely different. although i was moving countries, i still had a safety net of sorts with regards to having roommates, teammates, and coaching staff who actively recruited me. in the UK though, this has not been my experience.


when i first arrived, i had my partner's family. but i was a stranger to them as they were to me. i was on my own to organise everything i needed. a car, a soccer team, transport - to grocery stores, to car dealerships, to soccer trials. they did provide me with a roof over my head though, and i am extremely grateful for that.


come mid-January and i had finally secured a team. i really thought things would start feeling easier at this point - i had a team, a purpose, and a car. many of my basic needs were met. except they weren't. i didn't have accommodation - i never knew where i would be staying each night so i could never set up a base anywhere. but the biggest thing i was missing? a network.


despite signing with a team, i don't feel any more connected to the people here than i did 6 months ago when i was living in Australia. and i think a large part of that has to do with the life of a semi-professional athlete. most players have a second job. and most of them travel over 1 hour to training. what does this mean for the team? it means that there's no opportunity for those incidental interactions. it means you're not going out to eat with each other after training - you're going home to your family. it means that everyone is an individual - with their own lives, their own friends, their own families, and playing soccer is just one of the things they do rather than the only thing they do.


in a professional environment, this is different. you're around your teammates as much as you are your coworkers - full time. that's why so many players in these environments establish strong friendships; because they have the opportunity to do so. so what happens when you don't have these opportunities?


failing to establish a network puts you at risk. Robert Waldinger and Mark Schulz discuss at length in their book The Good Life how important connections are for long-term health and happiness. when you don't have these connections, when you don't have a network, you experience pain more significantly, you take longer to heal, and you feel more alone and isolated. you also become at risk for mental illnesses. this was me in the US - after i tore my second acl, i realised my network was flimsy. i no longer had soccer. i only had three friends who weren't my teammates. study wasn't challenging me. my family lived in another country. and the only network i had, my relationship, was unstable.


the other week i found out about the passing of a soccer coach from back home - someone who i had only just worked with prior to coming to the UK and whom i had every intention of learning from upon my return. i struggle with death at the best of times, let alone in another country. and the worst part about all of this? is i had no one here to talk about this with. i remember sitting at my rental place crying, thinking, i don't even have anyone i can call right now.


i totally get connections and friendships take time to build - it takes time to trust someone and become vulnerable with them. it takes time for people to see value in you and your abilities. but it's almost impossible to do this when there isn't the opportunity to do so. you could argue that it's on the individual who's moved to establish these connections, to put themselves out there, but having been someone who's moved countries twice, it's fucking hard to get by let alone put yourself out there. although, i have tried. i'm trying to put myself out there with coaching. i'm asking for opportunities to shadow coaches. i've asked to run private coaching sessions. and i've tried using soccer as a common ground to establish deeper connections with my teammates - but i get left on read. not even a 'no sorry, i can't', just ignored. most nights i sit at home, by myself, waiting for my partner and family to wake up in australia. meanwhile i have teammates who live less than 10 minutes away, yet teammates who have not once invited me to hang out. and i'm not sure about anyone else, but i've never really been someone who just invites myself to places.


some people get excited about the prospect of a clean slate - of starting 'fresh' somewhere. but starting fresh means starting from scratch. sure, it means no one has pre-conceived ideas about you, but it also means you have no reputation. no credibility. you have to fight for EVERYTHING. your character is unknown. your potential unrecognised. people are less likely to advocate for someone they know nothing about. you're on your own, in not just a physical sense. so what am i suggesting?


i'm suggesting that if you're around anyone who has just joined your workplace, just joined your team, moved countries or cities, can you be an olive branch? can you extend invitations for them to join you, away from the convenience of a workplace or team, into your home, to an event, or even just out for coffee? because this olive branch might just be the one thing that keeps them grounded, keeps them hanging on. i think this is one thing that the club back home does really well - especially with internationals. they welcome them into the team - they get invitations to things like the Fringe festival, to dinners at christmas, to social events at the beach. they get picked up and dropped off at trainings. invited into people's homes. and team dinners occur weekly, providing regular opportunities to connect off the pitch.


a friend i finally got to meet in the UK was talking about someone who had moved from Australia to the UK and how she was so lucky to find him. because if she didn't, she probably wouldn't still be in this country. and i've thought about that a lot - about how one person can be the difference between someone feeling welcome, feeling like they belong, feeling like they can make it work and someone who just says fuck it and gives up. so how can you be this olive branch? how can you be intentional with making someone feel welcome? how can you be a part of someone else's network?

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