Facebook reminders of what happened on this day x number of years ago can be a blessing and a curse. Sometimes those reminders can bring up some unwanted revisited memories, sometimes it can remind you of your awkward teenage years and lead you to a laugh, and other times like what happened to me last week, those reminders can bring you a smile because it reminds you of your growth.
Facebook reminded me that 4 years ago I had my last track meet. I can hardly believe it has been 4 years since I laced up my spikes and ran my last 400 around the track. I can hardly believe that 4 years ago was the day my world came crumbling down. It was 4 years ago when I was forced to turn a page that I wasn’t ready or prepared to turn. It was 4 years ago when I lost who I was. I lost the only thing that gave me some sense of identity and some sense of worth. I lost the cheering and the external validation, I lost my meaning.
As athletes, we tend to place our whole worth into our sport. As athletes, we tend to not have any other identity other than being an athlete, because our entire lives are consumed with being athletes. We are not exposed to other pieces of ourselves because we feel if we dedicate less time to our sport and more time to ourselves, we won’t accomplish our athletic goals. And if we do not accomplish our goals, we feel worthless. We also aren’t very well prepared as athletes for life after athletics. Sure, we ultimately go to school to get a good job and to be a good person, but no one really tells us or prepares us for life after athletics. One day it just comes crashing down, and the fans, the recognition, the free perks, the athletic trainers, the privileges, all fly out the window. And unfortunately for me and so many others, your worth goes out the window too.
I think it is time we see the athlete as more than just an athlete and that as athletes we know we add so much more to the world than just winning championships and collecting trophies and accolades.
For the former student-athlete who is struggling with this transition, know that you are far from alone but also know that you are more than an athlete, you always have been. And although the journey is difficult, you have the opportunity to rebuild and to find other peices of you and to recognize your worth does not come from the fans cheering on the sidelines or the accomplishments of your sport, but that you were born worthy exactly as you are.
It took me far too long to recognize that I was worthy simply by being me, I didn’t need validation from others and I didn’t need accomplishments to tell me I was worthy. After losing who I was, I had to make a concentrated effort to find myself and find out who I was beyond a track athlete. And to say I am proud of myself is an understatement. I use my struggle to heal others and I have recognized my beauty. Even though I will likely never lace up my spikes again without pulling a hamstring (LOL), and the years will keep passing me by, I can continue to look back at my memories of being a track athlete with gratitude. Because had I never struggled with my lack of self-worth, and had I never hit rock bottom after losing who I was and everything that mattered to me as an athlete, I wouldn’t be as strong as I am right now. I wouldn’t have my story to tell and I wouldn’t have been able to find other pieces of me that had been waiting to come out all those years. Most importantly, my struggle allowed me to find me. But my goal is for athletes to not have to wait as long as I waited, for the light to come sooner before the darkness even hits.
Whether you are an athlete or not, know you are worthy just because you are you. You don’t need something to define you to make you worthy. There are so many beautiful things about you. That one thing you love or that one thing you are good at that everyone celebrates, is just one small piece.
Be Beautifully Simply You
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