May 10, 2018
"This is more than just watching football, it's a way of life. It's caring about the beautiful game, about the values we cherish, and as well, that something that goes for all our bodies in every cell of our bodies. We care, we worry, we are desperate, but when you come here, the theatre of dreams, we realise what it means.”
– Arsène Wenger
And so, to the cheers of some 60,000 fans, Arsène Wenger stepped for the last time off the immaculate green pitch at the Emirates Stadium as manager of Arsenal Football Club.
For 22 years, Le Professeur has been the face, heart, and soul of Arsenal, presiding over some of the most breathtaking football ever seen in England – perhaps even the world. Thierry Henry. Patrick Vieira. Dennis Bergkamp. The Invincibles. The Emirates itself. Wenger’s legacy. Incredible, though I must admit the end has fallen from the peak after several tumultuous seasons that have seen the club slide down the English Premier League table.
But this isn’t about Arsenal.
Most of my readers don’t even know what I’m talking about, and it doesn’t matter. What matters is that last Sunday I watched an emotional and profound event unfold across the pond. Yes indeed, Arsène Wenger is leaving my beloved Arsenal after 22 years, but as I watched him circle the home pitch for the last time, I realized he had something I’ve been searching for. No, not the manager’s job at Arsenal (though that day is coming on Football Manager Mobile), but the experience of truly finding and aligning to purpose.
I’m one of “those” people. I want my work and my life to be one and the same. I want what I do to be who I am. That’s been Arsène Wenger’s life – good and bad – for a long time. I envy him that, even if I don’t envy a lot of the abuse he’s had to take over the years. It comes with the territory. It’s part of the job. He’s always handled it with dignity and class and charm, though I’m sure it must have hurt him enormously. Either way, he’s given it all, passionately and willingly and with great success. He leaves the club a legend.
A few entries ago I wrote about that special kind of tired that comes from giving everything to something you love. When the dust settles, I hope Arsène will feel it. I've had a taste of it as a writer and musician, and I want more. Maybe you do too. Maybe you’ve never even considered that feeling until now and you’ll start searching. Maybe you just realized that’s what you’ve been feeling all along. If so, lucky you.
For the rest of us, the challenge is to figure out where that feeling will come from. To be honest, I don’t really know the answer. You might start by paying attention to what you think about all day when you’re pretending to work, or what you want to talk about all night. What gets your energy up? What gets you excited when it comes up in conversation? What do you do when you have free time? What do you long to do when you don’t? For Arsène Wenger, the answer to all of that is football, and the outlet became Arsenal. There’s more to it, of course. There are the players he’s developed. The lives he’s changed. The fingerprint he’s left on the game. All of that ties to his purpose. All of it speaks to him.
So what speaks to you? Is it iPhone apps? Is it dogs? Is it the First World War? Is it knitting cool hats? Is it helping people with special needs? Is it talking to seniors? If you don’t know, start noticing your thoughts and conversations. Make a note of the things you listen to on the radio or stop and check out on television. These are clues. Follow them, and then begin to think about how you can bring those things into your life, maybe as a job, maybe not. I really feel like purpose is emotional. If that’s true, it has to be found via your heart, not your head. You can’t think your way to love. You have to feel your way to it.
So listen to your experience. Notice what fires you. Move closer to it. Give yourself to it and see how much your life might change for the better.
Merci Arsène. For the football, for the sacrifices, for the lessons, on and off the pitch.