Turning a New Page in Life
Saying farewell to sports was a turning point in my life. Before that, I spent all my time with teammates, coaches, spectators, baskets, balls, jerseys, whistles, and hard training as well as the sound sleep that followed. Mingled amongst those were my love, my career, my joys and sorrows, my hopes, and my dreams. I was selected by the coach as a “promising center” to the municipal basketball team.
The scene from October 4, 1961 is still etched in my mind like a frozen picture. The coach said to me seriously, “Your sternum injury is not suitable for heavy and long- time training.” I learned from the doctor that sports was no longer a career path for me to follow.
It is said that most athletes will experience bittersweet emotions when they leave their teams. While I was disappointed and distressed, my mood did not plummet, and I soon calmed down.
One light went out, and I lit another.
Apart from basketball, I have also developed a passion for painting and literature. During junior high school, I learned painting from a Chinese painter, and I even won the Outstanding Works Award of the Municipal Youth Art Exhibition in my first year of senior high school. Even when I was in the middle of sports training, I would run home on Sundays and, still wearing my sneakers and jersey, bend my huge body over a desk to practice my ink work. At that time, I was good enough to perfectly replicate ancient paintings for the Chinese Painting Society.
Taking off my jersey for good, I have been growing my painting career for nearly 20 years. Since my start, I have drawn hundreds of paintings and exported them to Southeast Asia, Europe, and America. That said, I have not given up my hobby of playing basketball. During the Cultural
Revolution, I also joined a “miscellaneous army” and went everywhere playing “street ball.”
My addiction to literature was then still echoing in mind. Because of the changes in my life and other reasons, I took on this more powerful way to express my strong sense of social responsibility. In just a few years, I have written nearly two million words of literary works. I am grateful that the strength and physical fitness I gained as a teenager have blessed me with the health needed to pursue writing now in my golden years.
As my old teammates left the basketball world, they were clueless about what to do for the rest of their life. Some of them have no plan for their future as of yet. One of my teammates came to talk to me, and there was a certain self- effacement in his words. I hated to hear him say that. I know how difficult it is for an athlete to start a new career. I almost felt like criticizing him for being so narrow- minded as to ignore developing other hobbies and areas of expertise, and for neglecting cultural accomplishments while he was still young, but I managed to keep it all to myself.
When a man engages himself in any sport, he is destined to change his profession again in the foreseeable future. A career in sports is short, so athletics and competition can only be done when you are young. Those who do sports, of course, must strain every nerve to create achievements and merits during this golden and fleeting time. At the same time, it is also necessary to pay attention to the development of one’s own various interests and read more books. When athleticism fails due to aging or is cut in half due to injuries, hobbies often become the careers one pursues for the rest of his life. A person who has one more hobby, like one who has one more language, will always have another possibility for the future. If it’s not something that drives you, work will inevitably be turned into a burden. You do it reluctantly and feel it an unshakable and inescapable distress.
Sports is the unity of strength and intelligence. But literature, music, and other arts will influence the ethics, temperament, power, and grace in the way you speak. They will increase your abilities, deepen your thinking, and offer you access to the richness and breadth of the world. A wise athlete, whether in the golden age of sports or in the years that follow, will never wander down the road of life.
( From My Cultural Life Is Only Improved , Times Literature and Art Publishing House. Translation: Qing Run)