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  • Joy SpearChief-Morris

How did I get here?

So this is a blog post hu? How does one blog??

I decided to start a blog for a couple reasons. First being that I have had a lot of people ask me about my new life as a post collegiate athlete living in California and I thought this would be a great place to share my journey with all those who are interested. Second, because I decided I needed a space to share my thoughts, my feelings, and my life as a 20 something as well as a track athlete. My intentions with this blog is for it to be a place where I can share myself, raw and uncut, as I navigate this journey with you.

For my first blog I thought I would answer the main question I have received over the last few months: how did I end up all the way in Santa Barbara, California from London, Ontario Canada training with multi-event athletes? Why did I decide to leave London? Why California? Why am I training with heptathletes and decathletes if I am a 100m hurdle specialist? Well, the main answer behind all this is very simple: I needed a change. The rest of that answer is a little more complicated.

First, I want to say that I absolutely loved my time at Western University. When I transferred to Western in 2014 I was looking for a place to belong and I found it among the Western Mustangs Track and Field Team. I have made some incredible friends I know I will have for a lifetime and I experienced some great success on the track as a Mustang. I had amazing coaches who supported me in everything I did and helped me see my potential on and off the track. So why did I leave?

As I entered my last year at Western I was beginning to think about my life after university; where I wanted to be and what I wanted to do with my life. Career-wise I am still unsure exactly what it is I want to do, but I did know I wanted to continue with track. I know there is so much more I have to accomplish in this sport and I know I have a shot at competing on the biggest stages. I wanted the chance to give it everything I have got so I can look back one day and know I did everything with no regrets. However, there were various aspects of my life during my last year of university that made me know London was not the place I wanted to be to achieve that. I found I was struggling to be happy in all aspects of my life and I knew that needed to change if I wanted to be successful on and off the track.

To name a few things, I was beginning to feel trapped by the "college town" atmosphere of London. I loved my friends and my team but felt that I was becoming increasingly bored most of the time off the track. I felt that my life consisted of school and track and not much of anything else. I wanted a place where I could enjoy life outside of these arenas. Track-wise, I found that I was not being challenged enough at practice and desired training partners who could push me to my limits. Outside of track, I also missed my family. I pride myself in being a very independent person and having lived away from home since I was 18, I have learned how to generally fend for myself. I am also a very sociable person and typically find that I rarely get homesick. The other side of my extroverted nature is that I struggle with being alone for too long and being so far from family (at least an 8 hour drive from my closest relations, my brother and sister-in-law in Boston), feelings of loneliness were beginning to amplify in my life.

Enter Santa Barbara.

For me, the West Coast is my second home. Having family in Los Angeles, I have been coming to LA since I was a baby and when I was deciding where I wanted to be post-university, I had only one place in mind: California. With the help of my university head coach, Vickie Croley, we found a few options within and outside Los Angeles that had elite training groups with hurdlers that I got in contact with. Santa Barbara, and most specifically the Santa Barbara Track Club, was on the list of places to look into, but not very seriously, at first. As a hurdler, I did not necessarily want to train with all heptathletes out of fear of training too much on my own or being an "odd man out." I thought Santa Barbara would be a good back up plan to check out, just so I could rule it out. However, out of all the groups I visited, it turns out that Santa Barbara was the best fit for me. I found that even after one visit, I just seemed to click with the coach Josh Priester, and the training group was a group of people I could truly see myself fitting in with.

Was I concerned with being the only primary hurdler (well, now one of two thanks to Tom Hopkins. Thanks bro!)? Yes, at first. But so far I have no complaints. Socially, I believe I fit in more with my new multi-event training partners than I would have if I had trained with hurdlers or sprinters. I have always found that I struggled to fit in completely with sprinters. Training with heptathletes has been a great change. They have accepted me and welcomed me with open arms. Training with the Santa Barbara Track Club has proved to be exactly the change I needed. I am now finally being pushed to my limits, physically and mentally, everyday at practice by training with these amazing athletes who I am very happy to call my friends.

And so here I am. Living in California like I always dreamed, training full time six days a week to chase after a dream that was merely a thought and a wish five years ago. I also work two jobs and I am completely broke. I used to joke about being a broke student in university, but no, I take it back, this is what being broke is actually like. I have had to start my life over again in a new city with new friends and a new team for a second time, this time in a new country. Is it hard? Yes, some days a lot more than others. But is it worth it? Absolutely.

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