Updated: Nov 6
I strongly believe that spending our money on travelling and on doing sports are possibly the two best ways to put to great use what little we have earned with so much sacrifice.
It is not merely exploring the unknown and feeding our curiosity, though that’s a great part of the reason why; there is so much more to be had from these two marvellous human activities. I will here focus on the latter.
I have recently decided to start doing sports again—after a long break. Considering I am thirty-one years old, starting a new sport from scratch—especially a team one—sounded too much like I was going to make a fool of myself. So I had to choose from a few select individual activities that might fall safely under the category of "sports for grown-ups."
Also, I have tried and practiced so many different sports in my life (I suppose this says a lot about me) that I didn’t have a specific one to go back to. In that case, as an experienced athlete, I might have looked less of a fool.
I considered climbing, and still would love to try it out seriously to this day, and I will, no doubt. I went very close to joining the local tennis club—I have been playing it with a friend—but of course I would have had to start from the basics so, once again, this idea was a deterrent. In the end, I chose something else.
I have started fencing again. I had taken up this beautiful sport as a twenty-six year old man living in London—I now live in Bologna—and had practiced it for almost two years. I couldn’t really say that I had reached a professional level, nor have I been practicing it at all for the past five years.
So why did I choose it?
Well… fencing had something that the other sports did not have, for me: I loved it passionately.
Don’t get me wrong, there are so many sports that I enjoy and wouldn’t hesitate a second to get into, and even though I am deeply charmed by the cultured atmosphere that fencing throws you into, by its difficulty, its subtlety and its elegance, this is not why I really love it.
This sport rests deep in my heart because it helped me through difficult times.
I was very lonely, having just lost a woman I was dating and was madly in love with, and a newly-found friend whose company enriched me more than any other. I worked nights and studied during the day, and I had little to no time for social life.
So I decided to do something about it, to shake myself out of that misery, that state of constant sadness. I grabbed the chance that university clubs presented to me, and I chose a sport I had always admired and would have loved to try.
It was immediate love. Lessons were not at all expensive—which is usually the case with such a sport—and the club was pervaded with enthusiasm, youth and that multicultural burst of energy that only London can interlace. Everyone was cool and eager to learn as well as to teach, and I was one of many new starters—which made the transition quite comfortable.
I proved to be good at it, and enjoyed learning from and challenging everyone else, from those I was leaving behind by gaining new skills, to those I felt I could have never reached or defeated. I took part in competitions and outings with the club (I remember one particular Sunday afternoon when we visited a historical collection of armoury and weapons, guided by our coach), and I simply thrived within the relieving atmosphere of those surroundings.
So, you see, a sport gave me back my life.
Not only was I socially active again, benefitting from everything that that might mean, I was also passionate again, I was interested and, above all, distracted.
It was just the kind of distraction—a beautiful and a physical one—that I needed to clear away my already polluted inner thoughts, and to escape the trap of the conversations I was constantly having with my ego, to simply get back into reality and enjoy the presence of life.
Sports can give us so much, and they mean so much more than keeping fit and being physically active. They teach us how to deal with competition, how to deal with winning and losing. They confront us with the characters of others, making us learn from them in a contaminating exchange. They help us to get in contact with the most immediate human form of communication: the body. And, above all, they silently and slowly help us to find ourselves, revealing to us, during our desperate search, who we really are.