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  • Joy SpearChief-Morris

I am more than just an athlete...but what does that mean?

For the last few months I have been pondering just that question...

I started this blog to share my journey to the 2020 Olympics and had said that I would be transparent and honest with how I was feeling through this journey. Well, in all honesty, I do not think I have truly kept that commitment because I have begun to feel restraints in my blog along the way. I have felt that I should only write about my athletic journey. I have also only ever wanted to post when I feel moments of reflection on my journey and moments I felt worth sharing because I did not want to post for the sake of posting. I also felt that my blogs should show progress but could not show how stagnate it really is when you do not feel or see that progress. Well, from my lack of blog posts over the last few months you may have gathered that in regards to my athletic journey of the really has not been going all that well. I have mentioned many times before how I have been struggling to adjust to my new post-collegiate athlete life and I have not been feeling all that happy or very much like myself. I have been struggling to find myself on the track and as a result, I have not been competing well at all this season. My coach asked me to take some time and dig deep into what I thought I needed or what I felt has been going on and I came to a few realizations. First:

I have no idea who I am outside of being an athlete.

For as long as I can remember I have associated myself with being an athlete. I grew up playing so many different sports and chasing around my older brother, the basketball player, and all I wanted was to be just like him. As I moved through middle school and high school I decided to give up various other activities, like music and drama, because I wanted to focus on being an athlete. I remember being in grade twelve and telling one of my teachers that I needed to be a college athlete because I would not know what to do with my life otherwise. She assured me I would find other things, but I still did not believe her. I wanted to be a college athlete.

My last race as a high school athlete at Provincials in 2012

I made my choices, became very successful with my decisions, and I do not regret them for a second. My time as a college track athlete is one of the most rewarding experiences of my life thus far. Then, with the prospects of graduating university I was again faced with the similar dilemma I saw myself in during my grade twelve year of high school. I felt the need to be an athlete still, but this time I knew that I had goals and dreams to accomplish alongside that identity. What concerns me now is that I may have lost what makes me, me outside of that athlete label.

This past year I have really been struggling to adjust to my life as an independent adult, moving (for reals) out on my own, living paycheck to paycheck, and trying to figure out who I am and what it is I truly want with my life. I feel like a hamster on wheel; just going through the motions, moving in the same direction with the same goal, wondering if I am ever going to reach it doing the same thing day after day. I feel stuck. Stuck in my daily routine. But more importantly, I feel stuck over what it is I want and where I want my life to take me.

In university, I truly loved being a student and came to love what I studied. I honestly enjoyed wandering through the library finding the super old history books no one cared about and immersing myself in research papers, learning about all the other things that inspired me and ignited passion for cause. As a student-athlete I did not have much time to really consider myself much outside of those two worlds of school and track; they were my identity. Now, I am no longer a student and I do not have that constant immersion in other worlds. I spend my days with long hours at the track and then straight to work where my constant companion is my own thoughts. And those thoughts are always the same: how did I end up here? Who do I really see myself becoming?

The second realization I had is, and this may come as a hard truth to some of you:

I do not want to talk about track all the time.

Yes, I am a track athlete and yes, I have chosen to dedicate my life over the next few years to making the Olympics, and yes, I do share a passion for this sport. But I cannot and do not want to talk about track and field all the time. Nor do I want to talk about my "specific track diet," or exactly what I do for workouts all the time. For me, it is tiring. It is hard for me to have all my conversations with people revolve one topic, especially when I am struggling to find happiness in that topic right now. This is not to say that I do not enjoy sharing about my track journey with the people in my life at all, but it is not the only thing I want to discuss. So, what are the other things I want to talk about?

This past week I travelled with my family to Boston to watch my brother graduate from Harvard Law School. I spent the week being the proudest little sister there ever could be (I am officially claiming that title), and felt the much-needed break away from my current life, relaxing and spending some quality time with my family. I was inspired listening to these accomplished graduates talk about their journeys and their plans for the future. I had the opportunity to meet some people who are doing some pretty incredible things. The experience, while inspiring also left me feeling a little discouraged. To borrow from one of the commencement day class speakers, I feel that I have been stuck in complacent indecision. But the time for feeling complacent is over. What have I done so far in my life? Where am I going? The question of graduate school keeps creeping up in the back of my mind. I put those dreams on hold because I am focusing on being the athlete. I feel as though someone drilled in my head that I could not do it all at once. That the way to be a successful post-collegiate athlete was to focus on being an athlete full time and that I could not pursue the other avenues of interest to me. Well, let us all be honest, that current path has not been making me all that happy, and clearly it has not been proving very kindly on the track right now either.

Reflecting back on my university career, I think a lot of my success came from the fact that track was not my only focus. I felt passionate about what I chose to study. I had friends and a life outside of track who all had different interests and dreams of their own. Track was my escape and my place to be me and have fun. But now, track is my workplace and it has not been my escape. I do not have any other passions beyond it and I have not been having all that much fun. Cue the hamster wheel.

So what is it that I want? Right now, I feel like being selfish; I want to have it all. I want to be inspired, and challenged and feel those passions outside and alongside being a track athlete. I think it is time I allowed myself to feel those other avenues of passion again. I have so many other things I like to discuss with people other than track and field: food, travelling, history, politics, exploring the outdoors, fashion, photography! I need to be immersed in different passions again. I need to feel excited about things again. And most importantly, I need to start having more fun in my life again. I need to find myself, who I am, and who I want to be.

There is more to me than just being a track athlete. I may not know what exactly that means yet, but I am starting to find out. You may have noticed but I gave my blog a little face lift, adding a new lifestyle section. Here is where I plan to share my new journey with you. A journey towards all the other things that make me, me. Unscripted and open-hearted.

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