Sorry for the delay with Part Two everyone. The period after I walked away from rowing I was pretty depressed and couldn’t figure out how to approach my experiences and my feelings. To avoid doing so, I would do anything to not be alone thinking. Which in all honesty, often meant going out and in general not being my true self. I consider this part of my life as lost, so this post was a hard for me to breakdown internally and structure. I hope to represent the shift in my world that occurred and speak to the trouble I had understanding it all …
As you do when your life takes a detour, I called a friend of mine that had some experience in the athlete to civilian transition on my way home from my trainer’s office. I wanted, and needed, him to tell me it was going to be alright and that I was freaking out for absolutely no reason. He had been a football player his entire life, until two knee surgeries led him away from the field. At that moment I had no idea how true his words were when he said, “You are not going to know who you are for the next year. You are going to make choices you never thought you would make. It is going to be confusing and frustrating.”
People set big goals that they feel passionately about. No goal is set with the intention to quit or to walk away, they are set with the purpose of succeeding. Once you fail you need to begin a new journey and it can take some time to figure out what that journey will be. During that halt in forward movement, you take a step back in order to understand the person you have become. For some its easy to evaluate and move forward, for me it was not. I felt like I was falling and at that time I was totally incapable of figuring out how identify myself. The way I had related myself within the world had changed and that had a huge impact on my relationships with myself and basically anyone that had contact with me during the fallout.
The strong reaction of your family and friends that is caused by your own failure can be surprising and sometimes painful. Some will come out of the woodwork to support you, some to celebrate your failure, some will attempt to keep you in that state of nothingness and some will abandon you all together. The vulnerability and frustration of failing to reach a goal is hard for those around you to understand and makes their words and actions more powerful than ever before.
As I said, there were those that helped me and those that said some pretty hurtful things to me during this time. But people have no idea how powerful their words are, how they stick with you and how they have an impact on your relationships with others and yourself. Your goals may not have been as important to them and it is usually only yourself that had limited your identity to that one facet of your life. So when you come to the end of a journey many may not understand why you can’t ‘just get over it.’ Your friends may be stoked that you have more time to spend with them and your family might be happy to see you ‘settle down.’ They will likely not understand the feeling of loss that you feel.
When you fail, you wonder how many people had expected it, or worse how many people are happy. In my mind, I was no longer the friend, daughter, cousin, etc. that was training for the Olympics and that meant I was not as important as I once had been. Fuel for self-doubt came from casual questions of what I ‘did’ or when someone I love once said “We always wondered when you were going to get over that dream. We knew you would. It’s time for you to move on and settle down.” Not only did I not completely trust my own judgement at this time but I felt as though I couldn’t even trust the well intended but sometimes misguided support of those around me.
Through the fall I stumbled and fell as I tried to piece together my life, my values and what I wanted. The fog finally cleared when I realized two things. First, that goals are amazing, exciting and of course motivating. However, it does you no good to pin your entire identity to one facet of who your are as a person. My pinpoint focus on my goal had prevented me from pursuing development in any other aspect of my life. I needed to re-explore myself and diversify. Secondly, I realized that I needed to rely on myself, not only for support, but also to define my self-worth and what success meant for me.
This failure would not define me and I needed to write the blueprint for a multifaceted, fun and love filled life.