PR Sreejesh: In 2020, I read over 50 books, became less hyperactive and realised what life post-retirement would look like
PR Sreejesh writes about how he used 2020 to become a less hyperactive person. The goalkeeper read over 50 books in a year that showed him a glimpse of what post-retirement office life would look like.
Before this year started, I made a new year resolution to read four books each month. I don’t have any pattern to my reading, given how hectic and cramped my schedule as part of the Indian national hockey team can be. But I tried to read at least 50 pages a day in 2019. Each day before sleeping I would try to grab a book and read at least five to 10 pages.
2020 was a year which started really well. We were ranked 4th in the world leading up to the Olympics. Then suddenly everything changed into nothing as the coronavirus pandemic stopped competition, forced the Olympics to be postponed, and lockdowns were imposed all over the world.
One thing which put me in a comfort zone in 2020 was reading. I spent a lot of time reading books. I read over 50 books this year. In some months I ended up reading over six books. I am a hyperactive person. It used to be very hard for me to sit in a room for such long stretches. But reading helped me get used to that as well: sitting in a room and finding some semblance of comfort. I now think twice before talking, so that’s a good thing. All these books made me a calmer person.
I like to think of all of this reading as a rehearsal of sorts. After retiring from the sport, I will have an office job where I will need to go to work every day. I think it may involve reading a lot of files which will need me to get into the habit of reading. This year was like a homework for that. In this year, I realised what would happen once I am done with my hockey career. One of the books that had the most impact on me was The 5 AM Club. It’s not like I did not wake up early before. But if I was supposed to have breakfast at 7 am, I used to wake up at 6.30 am. But after reading that book, I realised that I needed to wake up even earlier so that I have time for myself. When you wake up at 5 am, there is no crowd. No disturbance. No distractions. That’s why I started to wake up early and do yoga and meditation in the morning. That puts me in my comfort zone. Besides yoga, I also started maintaining a notebook to jot down things from books that I read. One of the phrases from The 5 AM Club that stuck with me was, “I have conquered my nightmares because of my dreams.”
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I like to mix fiction and non-fiction books. I read motivational books in the morning, cause that’s the time you’re fresh. Such books helped me change my views and approach towards issues. This is usually before training begins. I read fiction at night because by then I am tired and need some sort of entertainment. I also read a lot of financial self-help books. You don’t learn too much about investing and finance during your school or college education. We’re not as rich as cricketers, but we need to have financial management knowledge to understand where we can save or invest money. After I learn something new from these books, I always call up junior hockey players and try to share tips with them. I try and urge them not to go for fancy cars or bikes and instead invest in things like property. I also have been reading the Bhagavad Gita in the mornings because I feel that it has the answer for every question. I also read a lot of autobiographies to see how others dealt with their issues.
When I started to do all of these things — be it taking notes or reading books or waking up early and doing yoga — I wanted to change myself as a person. Being a senior member of the Indian national hockey team, this was the year to approach things differently. I consider this homework for the future. Having been to the Olympics before, I knew what sort of pressure there is on athletes during the Games.
I used 2020 to understand where I am lacking as a person. As an athlete there was nothing happening. All of the Indian hockey team players were focussing on ourselves to improve. Since there was no competition happening, we had no other teams to compare ourselves to. We tried to use this time to do a post-mortem of our past performances and see where we can improve.
This year, and the enforced break, was helpful in many ways.
Sometimes in life you’re forced into situations. Most of the times when you have a busy schedule — like we athletes always do — you tend to avoid facing those situations. But 2020 forced us to face those situations, and find solutions. 2020 was more about looking after yourself than bothering about anything else.
2021 will be all about the Tokyo Olympics. Nothing else. For the past eight months or so we were just training relentlessly without competing. Now in 2021 we are expecting a lot of tournaments. When it comes to the Olympics, we want to improve from where we left last time… in 2020, when the pandemic put an end to competitions, we were still No 4 in the world. If we can finish on the top before the Olympics, that will be one of the best things that can happen to us.
Personally, I want to be the best version of myself by the time the Olympics come around. The Indian hockey team also wants to be the best version of itself at Tokyo. We are hungry to win a medal. As that phrase from The 5 Am Club went, we have conquered the nightmare that was 2020, because of our dreams for Tokyo 2021.
(Goalkeeper PR Sreejesh has been to two Olympics as part of the Indian men's hockey team. At the Tokyo Olympics, he will be among the senior-most members of the team. He spoke to Amit Kamath.)
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