What No One Tells You About Being A Post Collegiate Athlete
Adulting is hard...
Everyone has told me that I must be having the time of my life; that I am "living the dream" in California. What most people do not realize is, it is the journey to get to the dream that is the true reality of my life, and it is a lot more difficult than it may appear.
Often times, social media has the tendency to lead many of us to believe that our lives might be a little more "glamourous" than we want people to believe. I will admit that although I try, I am often a victim to this as well. I try not to post false realities about my life and how I am feeling, and I do believe I do a good job at that. On the other hand, I seldom share my struggles. This past year, my "transition year" as it has been called, has been one of the toughest years of my life. I have experienced many highs but also several lows. I have felt alone, and scared and questioned many of the decisions that have led me to where I am. These past few months have been the hardest. I have had to transition to a new life as a working adult and full time athlete and to no longer being a student-athlete working part time on the side making my own hours. I moved over 4000km to another country away from my friends and what was familiar and comfortable. I have had to adjust to an entirely new training regime, and (after the nice two month break I had after my surprise trip to Belgium, which I am still paying off) I have had to start almost completely from scratch. But the real challenge of being a post-collegiate athlete is not the training. As high level athletes, we accept the challenge of hard work. We welcome it and we expect that sometimes we need to have change to excel and move forward. The real struggle is balancing life in between.
So how have I been balancing life the last few months?
I did not have a place to live until almost two weeks before I moved to Santa Barbara. After living at home for a month trying to get every detail "settled" (and then promptly giving up and deciding I was going to have to go with the flow), I spent my first month in Santa Barbara surviving off of my savings, financial help from my parents and racking up a sizeable credit debt as I searched for a job. I accepted before I moved that I was not going to be able to find a "career type entrance level job," and probably will not have one for quite some time. I am okay with putting those kind of career goals on hold to be able to pursue my athletic goals. All I wanted was a job that would pay me well enough to survive and that would work around my training schedule. I went to interview after interview only to get rejected by entrance level jobs for not having enough experience. I have a university degree but apparently I was unhireable to several places who found me unqualified for not having their requirements of minimum job experience. It was discouraging. I would fix myself up to look "professional" and pay $25 to Uber to a scheduled interview to just walk out 10 minutes later being told they did not have any positions open for me. I have had to remind myself several times that I am a smart and intelligent person. Currently, I work two jobs part time throughout the week. I nanny part time a few days a week and then I work as a waitress at a restaurant almost every other day, working six hour shifts without a break. It is not glamourous, but it pays the bills. Well, almost.
Until a few weeks ago I did not have a car. For some cities this would not be a big deal, however in Santa Barbara this was a death wise. Unexpected circumstances meant that I could not bring my car with me across the Canada-US border. So much for driving 3000km by myself to get my car across the country. I had to sell my car at home and then with the help of some family, I was able to secure a car down in California after I had already moved down. However, some more unexpected car issues meant that I was not able to gain access to the car until a just the other week. So, for the first month and a half of my life in California I was reliant on rides from roommates and friends, the bus (which does not work properly here), and Uber. Technically, I currently live in Goleta, the city district outside of Santa Barbara. My current daily commute to track and work each day is about 18 miles, or 20 minutes, by freeway without any traffic. By bus this would have been over a two and a half hour commute, and still would not get me the entire way there. The bus also never appears to come when it says it does the farther away from the centre of Santa Barbara you get. (Side Note: I understand that my two years of living in Vancouver have completely spoiled me when it comes to my opinions of public transit. High five Vancouver, you guys have figured it out, every other city transit system just sucks in comparison. Yes, I am talking to you Santa Barbara). I was extremely lucky and am extremely grateful for my roommate who would drive me about 15 miles to a friend and teammate's house, who then would drive me the rest of the way to practice with her. I was also extremely blessed to have teammates who would drive me all the way home, or to work. If I could not catch a ride, I became an active Uber passenger. Some days it would cost me $60 to Uber to and from work, in comparison almost equaling the amount I was making at work that day. If it was not for the kind and generous people I have met here, I do not know if I would be making it right now.
Unexpected expenses are one of the biggest stresses in my life. I currently do not have health insurance. I know, this is terrible (welcome to America right?) I know I should be trying harder to get health insurance but the thought of having to put down more money that I do not have makes me want to cry. I avoided going to the chiropractor for almost a month because I knew I could not afford to pay it every week. I have had chronic back pain while training since my first year of university and became used to receiving regular treatment for it all throughout university. (MHP Therapy if your reading this, I miss you guys!) I reached a point where one week my back was so locked up and painful that I could not train properly and had to go to the chiropractor and pay the full amount without insurance coverage. Unexpected expenses are part of life. But when you are living pay check to pay check, they are not fun. Now I am not saying I am destitute as I know I am still way better off than many other people. Nor am I saying that I was rolling in cash in university; I was very blessed to have financial support during my university career from several sponsors which made it possible for me to attend university without any substantial loans. What I am speaking of in this blog is my struggle with the adjustment into real adulthood, to realizing what it truly means to be independent and to realizing what it really takes to make this dream happen. I am blessed to have family who support me and who are there to help me when I need it. I am incredibly thankful for their support and I could not do this without them.
So. What have the last few months taught me? Well, I have a new found respect for all those who decide to pursue athletics and sport post university. Particularly those who did not and do not have sponsorships or substantial financial aid to pursue their Olympic dream. My emotions run so much closer to the surface than they used to. I do not always feel happy, in fact most of the time I feel stressed and often times I feel overwhelmed. I have to remind myself that this is worth it, that I am worth it. I remind myself that I wanted to do this and that there is nothing else that I would rather be doing but this. I did not truly understand how hard this journey was going to be. I knew it was going to be hard. I knew I was leaving my safety bubble of school, scholarships and what was comfortable. I also know that it has only been a few months and I have a looonng way to go still. What I did not realize was that it was going to be this hard. But this was my choice. I am a firm believer that if you want something, you have to go out there and get it. I know that if you want something bad enough you have to put in the work. Nothing worth having comes easy, but sometimes it would be nice if things fell into place a little bit more easily.