I recently read something that went sort of like this;
At the beginning of the pandemic it was this weird exciting adventure and it was kind of hard. Now…it’s just hard.
I think back to February when I was training at home in Calgary. We had just qualified for the Olympics and I was getting ready to head to France with the National Team for a tournament before heading into preseason in North Carolina. I was feeling fit, strong, motivated, excited, fired up, all the natural feelings of being just over a month out from season, and just four months away from the Olympics. I set off to France with no idea what was around the corner. We stayed in a secluded hotel, and the news slowly started trickling in. It was the first week of March and cases were on the rise, but still I didn’t feel much. I knew it was serious, but brushed it off. I kept getting messages saying “do you think the Olympics will be cancelled?” and I would laugh it off thinking, “yea right, they’ve only ever been cancelled because of a War. No chance.” I couldn’t even fathom the idea…
March 11 I was flying home, I was a little nervous but only because Italy was having a major outbreak and had closed their borders. Italy is close to France, so yeah, I was a little nervous because of that. I landed home and within 24 hours things changed. The French borders closed, Canada imposed a quarantine for international travel (which still wasn’t clear to me what this actually meant as it was so new and I hadn’t been watching the news), and the world cases started to grow. The talks about the Olympics being postponed ramped up, businesses started closing, sports were getting cancelled. I was still training hard and motivated because I thought this was going to blow over. A couple weeks and we will all be back to normal, working, hanging out with loved ones and playing sports again.
We all know the story of the next couple months, the Olympics postponed a year, global pandemic, struggling economies, social distancing and self-isolation. On top of that Black Lives Matter and social justice movements sparked much needed conversations and deep reflections in many of us. Slowly sports started coming back, in interesting and unique ways. As a soccer player it was great, we got back training (slowly) and had our tournament. But it was over before it even felt like it started. Maybe thats from going out early or maybe thats from being so excited to finally play games that the time flew by. I don’t know the answer. But I know it’s over.
And now what are we left with? We had a tournament, with no clear vision for after. One year to go until the Olympics and no games in sight. We had a break in which I took some time away to be with loved ones. I thought the break would be nice, to get away and have a change of scenery, refresh my mind. I literally spent 3 weeks living on an island up in Canada living simply and stress-free.
And then it hit. The anxiety, the stress, the emotional toll of uncertainty and fear. As my focus of soccer went down, the toll everything else had on me was becoming more clear. I have been pushing myself to be optimistic, to stay positive, to keep believing that everything will be ok. To tell myself, this is giving you an opportunity to work on your weaknesses, to strengthen your strengths, to reconnect with old friends in new ways, to be creative in how we connect with people outside of our bubble. I’ve covered up all the fears and concerns of what is actually happening. I feel like I have been hovering on the threshold of a panic attack, not knowing what is going to set me off. Everyday I am just trying to do my part in keeping myself and others safe, while still putting one foot in front of the other, and while still trying to be a high performance athlete. I see other athletes saying how great they are doing, I see people thriving. I once thought I was thriving. I’m constantly fighting the battle of being angry because all I want to do is train and play the sport I love, but yet struggling to find what I am motivated for. The internal heaviness of knowing a lot of my competitors are out there playing games and gaining more experience and having league titles and championships to fight for is weighing on me. I am here training on my own, and with my team with no competitive games in sight.
The glooming question in the back of my mind that I keep wanting to ignore but just can’t anymore is, “are the Olympics even going to happen?” I don’t train for an end result, but training to be your absolute best on the worlds biggest stage is a massive motivator. With the uncertainty of that happening… It makes things difficult and brings me back to my real why. Why am I doing this? What is the real struggle that I am facing? Amid the uncertainty of the future, how can I be certain of what is right now? Where can I gain my control back, where can I find the confidence that where I am is ok and when will I believe the words that I try to tell myself every day, “it is OK to NOT be ok”.
My journey is my journey, and I know that others will resonate with different pieces of my story, or words that I say. Underneath all the uncertainty, there is one thing I know for certain, this point in time will NOT take away from anything that I have done, it will not DEFINE who I am, and it will not STOP me from becoming who I want to become. That is the control I am taking. That is the strength I find at my core.
This is hard. This is stressful. This causes anxiety and fear. This creates loneliness and depression. BUT, this is also a time for self reflection and re-evaluation. It is a time for acceptance and acknowledgment. It is a time for taking back control of ourselves when we realize we don’t have control of anything around us.
If you are still reading this, my message to you is clear: Don’t give up. Be courageous in your path, and be fearless in your journey. It is ok not to be ok, and its also ok to be ok. Be your own biggest supporter.
You got this.