You’ve got to crack a few eggs to make an omelette. Sometimes you’re the eggs; a baker’s dozen. But dang it, I’ll be a fine omelette one day.
It’s brutal to fail.
I remember when I moved schools in Grade 9 there were all these skater kids out front and, to me, they were the coolest. They were so confident on a board, flying off of every ledge and lip they could find. Even if they didn’t land it they were laughing. I became fast friends with one of the skater kids (que Avril Lavigne) and I wanted to learn because that was the only thing they had that I didn’t. I was cocky to think I could just hop on and be decent at it, but I thought it’d be easy enough. Of course, my friend, being a good friend, agreed to help me out. After school one day they were explaining how to get on and transfer weight, breaking it down into baby steps. I, being the impatient creature I am thought I knew better and basically said, “yeah, yeah. I get it” grabbed the board and tried to ride it down the hall. About 2 milliseconds later the board was launched down the hall and my tailbone met the cold floor of the grade nine hallway with authority. A pack of kids and a few teachers happened to walk around the corner to see my valiant attempt at being cool which made me feel so uncool I decided right then and there that skateboarding was dumb.
I didn’t try again. I didn’t practice. I didn’t admit that I wanted to be able to do it more than anyone knew. I couldn’t because everyone would know that I failed. Failure wasn’t an option so I pretended to be indifferent.
I failed again and this time I am not letting myself pretend to be indifferent. It’s heartbreaking. It’s humiliating. It’s brutal to fail.
It’s even more brutal to face the music and own whatever you did or didn’t do. Failure is a fact. I could sugar coat it and dress it up as something out of my control but that won’t tell the whole story. I failed. I’m embarrassed about it and the thought of coming back empty handed makes me nauseous. But at the end of the day when my friends and family and coaches and past teammates ask me what happened, I have to say that I did not rise to the occasion. Did I put in the work to succeed here? No. Did I train hard enough? No. Did I have a realistic goal for myself? No. Did I hope that it would all work out and that I could just hop into this like it was second nature? Yes. Did I take a stab? Sure. But that’s not enough and that’s not what it takes to be the best as an athlete. As anything really.
Failure Loves Company
I’ve had several failures this year in regards to my sport. Despite my impulse to make light of each situation, it hasn’t been easy.
The first failure came last fall when I failed to secure a pro contract to play volleyball over the winter. I had early offers that I said no to in order to keep my job for future opportunities with the employer. I thought that taking the risk to wait for later offers was worth it. It was a gamble and I didn’t win out.
Then the first hairpin turn. It was an unexpected second tryout in Korea and the failure, though painful, wasn’t after some lengthy trial that required much sacrifice from me. I got a call out of the blue. I flew across the world thinking I would be relocating there. I tried out. I didn’t perform and so I was sent back to where I came from.
I wasn’t training and if I’m honest I wasn’t willing to drive far enough to get to a place where I could be playing. Had I been, the foolproof second chance I was handed in Korea may have ended differently.
Fast forward to the spring where I made my way to the full-time training center to prepare for the team Canada tryouts in May. I was fully committed to getting back into playing and giving this my full attention. A month later the selections were made and although I felt as though I had a solid tryout I didn’t make it to the roster side of the bubble. Final selections happened to be on my 25th birthday, a detail I won’t soon forget. I still didn’t feel like I had exhausted my options and so I decided that if a contract were to come up I would pursue it, which leads me to the latest.
This time I had invested more into the mission. I had committed to the contract early. I quit my job early. I said my goodbyes and left behind people and relationships that I thought I wouldn’t have to face for the better part of a year, and then I flew to the other side of the world. I settled in. Bought furniture, hung pictures, and opened a bank account. I bought a longboard to get around town. I mailed postcards thinking they would be the first of many from my new foreign nest.
But hairpin turns happen. And so, a month into my contract I was told it was time for me to go. My purpose was not being served. My expectations were not living up to my reality.
September 13, 2017:
And what I feel right now is that I am not good enough. I feel that I am about to be let go. I feel dread and the acid is creeping up my throat, threatening to choke out any of the words that might save me. And words won’t do it either. That makes this doubly dreadful. My (in)actions have brought me to this point and we all know that talk is cheap.
I wasn’t what they expected. I wasn’t the tool they ordered. “What’s the return policy on this shipment? Can we get a better model if we send this one back? It’s malfunctioning.“
This is the conversation I had with myself and penned down minutes before the president of the club made a visit to my apartment to terminate my contract. I was pacing my apartment with all the possible conversations rolling through my mind while my body was trying to warn me, “this can’t be good”.
“But,” reason/my roommate says, “you don’t know for sure what they will want to talk about.” But I did. It was me, the faulty product. My gut was reckoning with what reason was trying to weasel me out of, which was facing disappointment.
So here I am, facing it. Exposed, disappointed, and embarrassed that I let myself, my team and my fellow dreamers/supporters down. I would much rather crawl into a hole than come home without some lofty plan B, but c’est la vie, non? And so I’ll lick my wounds and reevaluate.
Volleyball and I have had a beloved and begrudged long-distance long-term committed relationship. I never let myself get too obsessed with my sport because I never wanted it to break my heart. I juggled extracurricular clubs and activities with volleyball and school so that if one disappointed I would have a handful of others to go to. It wasn’t until after we won nationals that I faced the fact that I wasn’t done with volleyball because I felt I had not reached my potential. I decided I would keep at it until the door shut.
Reflecting now I see few doors have shut. There are a combination of factors that play into the fallout. Some were in my control and others were not. I could tell any number of stories to defend my current position but I don’t think that’s the point.
I think for now I just have to mourn the loss of something that has broken my heart. Sports will break your heart if you put yourself into them for long enough and are honest with how committed you really are. That’s ok. That’s a beautiful part of life. If we didn’t pursue our passions fully then we wouldn’t be living fully.
I don’t think that I would ever be able to let myself rest if I didn’t try to play this season in Finland. If I knew it was a live option and declined it would have sat in the back of my mind forever. But I went. I tried and unfortunately, it was too little too late. This is the reality of professional sport. Eventually, you will be cut from every team you are on to make room for the new improved models coming in.
It isn’t something to take personally. It wasn’t an assault on my character and if it had been I would have bigger things to worry about. It was about athletic performance which I wasn’t demonstrating. It’s a shame, but it’s a reality.
Sports will always be part of my life and I doubt this will be the last heartbreak. You can’t get hurt if you don’t step back into the arena. It seems that for now me and volleyball are taking a break from our ongoing relationship and although I plan on stepping back into a number of arenas in the future, I don’t know which lines will be painted on the floor. That’s ok. I have been endowed with more opportunities and interests than I can count and for that, I am so thankful.
Volleyball has taken me all over the world and forged relationships I couldn’t get anywhere else. It has made me appreciate hard work and routine and attention to detail. It has humbled me a ten thousand times over and it has given me the opportunity to put just about as many hours into it.
Despite the soft landing, the buffer zone (both physically and metaphorically) between my failing place and home, I feel like I am already bracing for the wall of “what nexts” and “where nows”. Whether self-inflicted or unintentionally vaulted by our performance driven culture, the wall is there and it has hard edges.
I’m in the middle of the story, so I can’t answer the questions just yet. I can tell you that this is a hairpin turn and that there will be more plot twists to come. I’m sure it will make for a good story/omelette later.