I wrote this piece to shed a little light on what it is really like for an athlete to be on the road.
It is not what most people think and maybe one day I will have the courage to share more.
Traveling to Europe to train and play volleyball for three weeks does not mean shopping at the Grand Bazaar in the heart of Istanbul. It does not mean taking a train around Italy admiring the architecture.
It does mean high-level training and strong competition. it does mean opportunity to grow personally and as a team. It is a business trip.
We may or may not get to experience a bit of the culture and what the country has to offer. But, expectations are usually pretty low. Our sights are set on working hard and accomplishing goals.
Some time during the last three weeks on the road together, my team and I still found the little moments to enjoy each other and this life we are blessed with.
The last twenty days on the road were eye-opening for myself and maybe others on my team can relate. It was very exciting, then it became routine. It was new, then it got old. It was inspiring, and then it was dreary.
It was full of highs and lows.
I often wish a camera crew would follow us around to document the day-to-day life. The pictures we share on Instagram/Facebook shed light on about 6% of our time on the road. The other 94% is spent playing, practicing, strength training, scouting, watching video, meetings, eating together as a team, sleeping and just keeping it together mentally, emotionally and physically.
It is a grind.
Somewhere around day 10-13 of our trip to Turkey and Italy, some of us lost it a bit. Whether it was feelings of homesickness (I swear this never goes away for me), missing significant others, anxiety, or dwelling on performance — many of us felt in need of a break. Just a minute of alone time. Just one day to not be on a schedule.
This lifestyle is unlike anything else I will experience in my life. I stepped away from the sport a couple times before and it is nearly impossible to replicate this environment.
Living in a hotel with your teammates and coaches for three weeks straight. Eating every meal on schedule with one another. Wearing the same matching attire every day. Sweating together in the gym. Sleeping five centimetres away from each other in the euro-style hotel beds. Being on call for the next impromptu meeting. Laughing together, until we cry. Crying together, until we are laughing at all the tears. The time together is A LOT.
It is easy to feel that it is too much, but one day I know I will miss these times.
One day I will miss the little moments we have with each other between practices. Whether it is a coffee run or nap — we do it TOGETHER. I will miss the adrenaline rush of a surprise free day and the chance to explore a foreign country. I will miss the late night gelato runs to soften our emotions, TOGETHER. I will miss the bus rides to and from the gym. I will miss accomplishing goals with a group of like-minded women. I will miss seeing fifteen different and very beautiful faces every morning, whether I want to or not.
One day I am not going to have this.
I have a teammate to turn to for a cry. I have a teammate who I can go to when I am in need of a laugh. I have a teammate who is guaranteed to bring the pump-up tunes. I have a teammate who inspires. I have a teammate who offers logical/practical advice. I have a teammate who is young and reminds me why I play. I have a teammate who is compassionate. I have a teammate who will tickle my arm or hold my hand. I have a teammate who is not scared to give a compliment. I have a teammate who is corky. I have a teammate who is selfless. I have a teammate who I look up to (literally and figuratively).
I have a teammate for each and every situation this life has to offer.
I never had a sister growing up, but I imagine that this was God’s plan for my life. To give me a team of sisters. To allow me to share my life with beautiful women who motivate, empower and challenge each other in ways I never knew possible. To give me a family that I do not HAVE TO love because of blood, but I GET TO love because we go to battle for and with each other every single day.
It is a really neat experience that sometimes gets lost in the hours of video/scouting, the seemingly endless running, the practices with no end in sight, or the monotonous routine.
When I went through my camera roll today I was reminded of the little glimpses of our life outside the gym. I was reminded of why I sweat A LOT and sometimes cry. I was reminded of what this experience is all about. I was reminded how much I love these women, the memories and of course, the pizza.
I love you all.
You are more than a competitive sport to me.
You are more than a game I play for a living.
You are much more than I ever imagined you to be.
You mean more to me now than my twelve-year-old self could ever comprehend.
Let me tell you why.
I struggled with self-worth from a young age.
This world tries to shame us to believe we are not good enough.
I fell into that trap at an early age.
I let my physical appearance define me and make me fell less than.
My smile was crooked. My bottom jaw protruded much farther than my upper jaw.
I had an underbite.
Not a big deal in the grand scheme of life. I know that now.
When I could not find my place in this world, I found it in you.
When I experienced major anxiety every picture day, I found a confident version of myself at practice.
When I dreaded public speaking, speeches and meeting new people, I craved to be in the spotlight on the court.
When I felt fear in every day life, I found courage in you.
When I felt lost, you gave me purpose.
You kept me above the water throughout my life.
I found my identity through you.
If you were not there, I am not sure where I would be.
I am not sure I would be here.
I have to apologize for how I treated you as I got older.
As time went on I began to resent you for the same reason I now love you.
You were my scapegoat.
I blamed you for feeling like I did not have a purpose outside of the sport.
I blamed you for taking me away from life's big events.
I blamed you for the distance in my relationships.
I blamed you for the void I often felt.
I am sorry I forgot how much you did for me.
I wanted to prove to myself that I was more than just a volleyball player.
I took things into my own hands and left you.
Not once, but multiple times.
You did your job as best you could.
I stepped away from you more times than I would like to admit.
But, you came back to me in the most miraculous of ways.
I thank God for that one.
He knew I needed you.
You always provided me a space to be myself with out limits.
You showed me the world.
You introduced me to my greatest friends.
You gave me all life’s most memorable experiences.
I am entering my sixth season on the Canadian Women's National team.
I have sixteen years of playing you under my belt.
It makes me weep.
Like really sob.
I thank you.
I thank God for placing you in my life.
Time and time again.
I have to tell you something though.
I do not feel like I need you any more.
But, I want you.
I want to play for all those years you gave me.
I want to show you what you mean to me.
Now that I have found my worth in God's love, I can give you the love you deserve.
It is not about what you can do for me any more.
It is about what I can do for you.
And when I am running my 14th suicide in practice this summer, I hope to always remember that.
You were there.
You saved my life. Truly.
My worth used to be based on people’s opinions of me. The love I had for myself was a direct reflection of the love I received from others.
Previous life goal: make everyone love you.
It is a neat thing, being saved. I am able to see a direct comparison of what my life used to be to what it is now.
Every. Single. Day.
The most recent and drastic comparison was made on my way home from a three-week trip. I traveled to four different states to visit my best friends from college.
First, a glimpse of what a vacation used to feel like.
My mind was filled with selfish thoughts, my ego was often boosted, and my trips lacked purpose.
I used to be on a high when I visited a friend or vacationed. I felt entitled to a good time. I deserved a great life and awesome experience.
Ridiculous thoughts would fill my head.
“I must be a pretty cool person.”
“I guess I am doing something right to go here or there and be with this person or that one.”
“Wow, look at me. Living my best life!”
Now, imagine when a trip did not go as planned.
Some trips were just not as magnificent as I dreamed up in my head weeks before.
Leading to more thoughts from the silly little guy in my head.
“What did I do to deserve this?”
“I feel so sorry for myself.”
“This is not how I wanted the trip to go.”
Me, me, me. Exhausting.
However, this trip was different. Totally different. The entire trip from start to finish.
I realized nothing about a good time is about me.
It is about Him.
I am on an airplane home from my trip and I am completely humbled by the blessings in my life.
I am worthy solely because I am His.
I swear six months ago this would be a totally different experience.
I would be on the plane home, feeling on top of the world. Feeling like I must have done something right.
I always made the trip, experience, and opportunities about me.
Today, I am on the way home in a state of peace.
No highs, no lows. Just contentment in my heart.
I have joy.
I was humbled by my friends who gave me gifts or wrote me cards after our time together. I was surprised by their gestures, as I was the one who should be thanking them.
Their kind words filled my heart. My soul felt lighter.
But, their words no longer defined me.
I used to base my worth on what my friends wrote or said about me. I lived for peer affirmation. Reading cards over and over again to confirm all the good things I wanted to believe about myself.
Now, I can read those cards with a sense of gratitude for my friends and for God’s love.
It is and never was about me.
I wanted this trip to be different than the rest.
I did not want to go on a vacation and just bask in all of it’s glory.
I wanted to bask in His glory.
And that I did.
One message I recieved from a sermon during my time in California was this:
“The world tells us to chase happiness, but happiness is fleeting.”
That one hit me deep.
One of those moments that takes your breath away and sends chills through your bones.
A realization that I no longer chase happiness.
What a relief.
I began my trip with a content heart and joy for this world.
I came home the same.
Oh and if you are wondering my new life goal:
love everyone, even the birds.
I always struggled with the idea of self-love.
It often felt like an endless journey towards an unknown finish line.
When will I get there? At what point do I consider myself loved? What will it feel like? All questions I asked myself.
For a good chunk of my life I battled insecurities and felt like I was different (more about that in an upcoming post). I did not love what I saw when I looked in the mirror.
In 27 years, more often than not I loathed myself, instead of loved.
Good news is that I have the rest of my life to make up for it. Hallelujah!
I always loved what was on the inside and felt like my heart was pure and my soul was genuine. However, I did not feel like the outside was an accurate reflection of my inner beauty. (Again, in a future post.)
The last two years I went on a little quest to find myself. I wanted to feel that true love that every self-help book, Instagram influencer, and motivational speaker talk about.
They make it sound so easily attainable and I desperately wanted to change that negative inner chatter to uplifting affirmations.
"You cannot truly love another, until you learn to love yourself."
"If you're searching for the one person that will change your life, look in the mirror."
I purchased countless books, meditated, researched, relaxed and took great care of myself.
Frankly, I spoiled the crap out of myself. All in hopes of reaching the end goal of loving myself 110%.
I took "treat yo self" to a whole new level.
However, something was still missing.
I still did not feel all the way there. This newfound "self-love" would still waver. It did not feel stable.
I would be on a self-loving high for one to two weeks. Then a few days later, I felt quite average. Eventually, I would fall completely off my horse and sit in a puddle of self-pity for an undetermined amount of time.
It still very much felt like an endless and exhausting pursuit. A roller coaster that never quite ended. Barf.
It was not until this past November when I learned what true, everlasting, and unconditional love for myself really meant. What it is supposed to feel like and what put a stop to my draining journey.
To love myself fully is to love God. In all his glory.
His grace and forgiveness are everything I need. The moment I made the choice to surrender my heart to Him is the exact moment the walls came crashing down.
The tireless search to feel complete and whole ended. The battle to feel like I was happy, satisfied and worthy stopped. The worry and anxiety turned to passing thoughts that I would give to Him .
All I could feel in my heart was overwhelming joy.
Suddenly, nothing on the outside mattered. I no longer saw my imperfections as negatives, but as the beautiful way in which God created me.
"I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well" (Pslams 139:14).
I feel confident. I feel worthy. I feel FULLY loved. It is hard to explain, but these feelings are not even for me or about me. They are for the Man who created me and gave His life for all of us.
I finally accepted that I was worthy of His love and that is all I need.
"For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sounded mind" (2 Timothy 1:7).
No self-care tactic or motivational quote can do for me what He has.
I am ten days away from double jaw surgery and I cannot help, but feel completely thankful for finding this peace before going into it. I put a ton of weight on this surgery throughout my life, thinking it was going to fix everything. It would change what was on the outside and calm my anxious heart.
What I began to understand in witnessing God's grace is that I am fully loved. Right now. In this exact moment. Sins and all. Imperfections and beauty. I am His.
His love is unwavering and unfailing. What could be more satisfying than that?
The search is over.
Has someone ever pursued you tirelessly for fifteen years?
Have you known about this pursuit the entire time and just ignored it?
You think after a couple years, one or two things might happen. I would give in and say yes OR they would give up. Either they are crazy about me OR just plain crazy.
What if I told you someone pursued me my entire life?
Whether you know it or not — the greatest love story begins from the day you are born.
Sounds wild. I know.
I first realized I was being pursued at twelve years old and he did not give up, until I finally said yes.
Fifteen years later.
He watched me turn a shoulder to his love not once, but time and time again. His gestures were big and small. At times he would try very hard and other times his presence was barely visible.
Not because of his love, but because of my openness to it. Most of the time, I was totally closed off to the idea of him.
He watched me dance, laugh and entertain his greatest enemy. He watched me fall in lust with his competitor. He watched me worship his rival.
He still wanted me.
He heard me speak awful things about him. He heard me question his validity. His loyalty and his truth. He heard me question if he even existed.
Yet, he still wanted me.
He somehow felt my desire to know him, even when my actions said otherwise. He showed up every single day, knowing that I was not willing to hear him out.
He really is remarkable.
I convinced myself that he could not be there for me. He could not fill the small holes in my heart. I did not want to fill the void with his endless, pure and forgiving love. I wanted something different.
I chose temporary satisfaction, instead of his everlasting greatness.
Maybe I am the crazy one.
Did I not feel worthy enough of his love? Did I not love myself enough to accept this type of relationship? Why did it take so long to come around?
All questions I ask myself.
However, it does not matter now.
He won the race for my love. Finally.
What a guy.
At twenty-seven years old I can finally say that,
“I found the love of my life.”
I knew who he was this entire time, but I did not know his story. I knew he was generous, but I did not know the extent of his forgiveness. I knew he was a good guy, but I did not understand what he did for every single one of us.
I did not know that this entire time all he wanted was a relationship.
He wants nothing more than love and acceptance into my heart. No expectations, no pressure and no judgement.
You think after a lifetime of trying that he would have expected a little more from me?
Nope, he is a simple guy.
Maybe you are wondering who the heck I am talking about. Maybe you know. Maybe you have no clue. Maybe you do not care. All good.
I know Him now and it is the greatest feeling in the world. All I had to do was say YES to His love.
Live Loved, my friends.
Author: Megan Cyr
Born and raised in Canada. College educated in America. Currently residing wherever volleyball takes me.