Bucket List Living
“As long as I consider them a success, that’s all that matters.” Cricket legend Ebony Rainford-Brent on ploughing through her personal goals
By Eleanor Lee
Illustration by Esme Harvey-Otway
You’d have thought that after making Women’s Twenty20 International history, winning the Cricket Women’s World Cup, and becoming the first Director of Women’s Cricket at Surrey, Ebony Rainford-Brent would’ve ticked off the majority of her ‘life goals.’ But the reality is, she’s only just scratched the surface.
Ebony-Jewel Rainford-Brent became the first Black woman to play for the England cricket team back in 2007, and went on to win the ICC World Cup, World T20 and Women’s Ashes with her country. Since retiring from the game, she’s worked with various media organisations as a pundit and was named the first ever Director of Women’s Cricket at Surrey County in 2015. Ebony continues to help develop the participation of women in cricket alongside her work advocating against racism in sport, whilst striving to complete as many of the 84 goals on her bucket list as possible.
Despite her countless triumphs within cricket and broadcasting, the 37-year-old’s view of success has evolved over the years, and she now believes that there’s still a lot more work to be done in order for her to experience true personal success. “I used to think [success] was outward, in other words what people think you’ve achieved. It could be a certain job, car, house or status in society. But then by speaking to so many people, I realised that [success] was more about connecting with creativity, doing what you love and being inspired, which is much more of an internal thing,” she explained. “I wanted to achieve things that others would congratulate me on rather than really thinking about what’s right and what I wanted. These achievements may not impress anyone else but as long as I consider them a success, that’s all that matters.”
As such, learning to salsa dance, riding in a helicopter and campervanning across New Zealand are some examples of Ebony’s new goals. Working on ticking off this ever growing bucket list has forced her to regain focus. Although bucket lists are often a personal commodity scribbled into the back of a private diary, the former England star felt that it was always something she wanted to put back into the world. “It’s all about living for me,” said Ebony. “I was nearing the end of my career and I thought ‘I’m retiring, I’ve got to get on it!”
“I was talking to people about bucket lists and found two reasons to put mine on my website. Firstly, I wanted to be able to inspire [others] and get conversations going. Secondly, the more I spoke to people, the more people were helping me out and making some of it come true,” she explained. “I believe in accountability. If you put it out there and people ask about it, this triggers you to keep doing more. It creates conversation and then you talk to people about things they’ve done or what they want to do – it’s a nice way of engaging.” Her bucket list reflects her love to travel, an interest that was sparked by the opportunities presented by cricket. “It was always a dovetail,” the 37-year-old said. “I’ve been all over the world. Knowing that cricket could get me to those countries was something that kept me interested in the sport and it made me want to see more.”
And it was her first cricket tour to Chinai in India that opened her eyes to a world beyond south London, where she grew up. “It was so different to anything I’d seen. I stood on the roof [of our hotel] and I couldn’t work out the order of the roads. A cow would just walk across! I remember realising there’s a much bigger world out there beyond my hometown. I was mesmerised for the whole six weeks.”
A quick flick through her Instagram feed shows just how bad Ebony has the travel bug. If she’s not partying in her go-to destination of Dubai, she’s kicking back on a beach in Fiji or sailing around the coast of Croatia, but her favourite trip of all time was one that truly encapsulates how she loves to travel. “My best mate and I did a month-long Europe trip. We wanted to ingrain ourselves into the culture. When I‘m travelling, I look to find out how the locals live and what they enjoy about life. I’m always asking ‘what do you do? When are your festivals? What’s your number one dish?’ I want to know their culture and how they live because I take inspiration from that,” she said.
Sitting at the top spot on Ebony’s bucket list is photographing Stonehenge – a goal that she managed to tick off back in 2014. She’s since developed an interest in shooting photo and video during her travels – an avocation that has helped influence her way of exploring the world. “I found that you just engage with things by being more present. When I’ve got a camera I’ll stop and look at the smallest thing and ponder it. It allows me to slow down when I travel,” she explained. When it comes to shooting, her favourite focus is nature. “I love the mountains, waterfalls, lakes. I went to Krka Waterfalls [in Croatia] and it just looked magical! Nature is always my number one go-to – it’s the peace, relaxation, reconnection and beauty of it.”
Aside from her own photography, Ebony was a regular subject for sport photographers during her playing days and has one particular photo that sticks out as a favourite. “There’s a picture of me batting, it’s a cut shot that was my favourite shot in the game. When this particular photographer was around we all knew we had to hold our shots. He was great, and that shot is one that I like the most. My family have it up everywhere.”
Also sitting high on her bucket list is a Jill Scott concert. “She’s an American Jazz, R’n’B and Soul singer,” Ebony explained. “I was 16 when I heard her first song ‘Getting In The Way’ and I’ve obsessed over her music for years. I dream about being able to play with her because it’s completely unachievable, it’s a fantasy!” Although performing live with a professional musician may seem out there, Ebony comes closer than most, having spent the majority of her life playing the drums. When she was around fourteen she received a block of free drumming lessons, but it wasn’t until she neared the end of her cricket career that she started playing again. “I could just pick up beats quickly. I bought another electric kit when I retired. I would say I’m a bit of a bandit, I’ll just go for it and let loose for some stress relief,” she continued. “You can have a stressful day, just jump on for half an hour and it’s a game changer. Life is about having as much fun as possible and feeling uninhibited. Whether it’s travel or drums or being with friends, I always crave activities where I’m not thinking – I’m just being and going with the flow.”
And it’s that positive mindset that she felt inspired to adopt after a piece of advice from fellow British athlete, Kriss Akabusi. “He told me about something called the ‘Cycle of Renewal’ and it changed my whole perspective on the world,” she explained.
“It’s a psychological cycle that we all go through. Inevitably in life we will experience loss – a job, partner, income, freedom, and so on. Following this, you go into a cocooning phase where you reflect on what’s just happened, then you go through a phase of coming back; becoming better as a person and reflecting. It’s important to ask yourself questions through the process to understand how you can turn it into something powerful,’ she gives an example: “When I started as the Director of Women’s Cricket, I had anxiety about being the only woman, but I thought ‘okay, this is just part of the cycle’ and I started recognising my achievements in a different way.”
Aside from working on her own career and personal triumphs, Ebony is dedicated to inspiring the next generation of female cricketers. When it comes to passing down her advice, she wants to see sportswomen rid themselves of self-doubt. “As women, it doesn’t come naturally to push ourselves and voice our ambitions. It’s about trusting your inner self and recognising your own wants and needs, which is hard because we often look outside for validation.”
“I’ve seen so many guys just crack on with it – they don’t question themselves as much as we do. Women have too much self-doubt. It’s hard breaking that cycle – I’ve had to – and it’s something I want to inspire more women to do,” she said.
Ebony’s love for life is infectious. “I like the idea of living life at the edge of your ability,” she explained. “Going outside your comfort zone can be too much. That’s why I like the idea of ‘the edge,’ because you push yourself just enough to keep propelling forward but you’re not completely overwhelmed. Moments or people who have enabled me to reach that edge have stuck in my mind and that’s how I want to live life.”
With a chunk of her bucket list yet to complete, Ebony is in no danger of running out of ways to have fun. Whether it’s diving in The Red Sea, partying in Vegas or tomato fighting at La Tomatina, this World Cup winner will always be found living on the edge, unearthing all that life has to offer.