It was the beginning of September 2014 and I was competing with the Canadian Women's Volleyball Team in Trieste, Italy for the World Championships. At the time, the only thing on my mind was volleyball. Until the morning of September 18th, 2014.
I woke up to a text from my mother asking me to call her immediately. My heart sank and I knew something was wrong. She shared the news that the father of my best friend, Madison, suddenly passed away on September 17th. Parker was family to me. Our parents grew up together and stayed close friends.
The news shook me to the core. No words can describe how I felt. I wanted to go home. Volleyball became the most unimportant thing in my life. The last place I wanted to be was Europe. Competing with passion and celebrating success was not possible. With the help of teammates I somehow stayed and managed to play. To this day, I do not know how.
I also had Madison. It seems strange, as she was going through the most difficult time in her life. She convinced me to stay. She did not make me feel guilty for being halfway across the world and managed to have the strength to comfort me.
"Megan, we have so much love and support right now. I will need you down the road. I will need you the most a year from now."
At the time those words did not have as much meaning. I could not fathom a year from then. I just wanted to be with her in that moment. However, life had another plan.
After Italy, I began to resent volleyball. In truth, I always resented volleyball for taking me away from important life events. I felt guilty for missing everything. I believe this feeling contributed to my decision to quit the Women's National Team this summer. For once, I wanted to be present. To see my friends and their newborn babies, to cherish my family and spend precious time with my grandparents. This summer I did all of that and more, but I missed volleyball.
After taking nearly four months off, I decided to continue to play and use the gift I have been given. I signed with a professional team in Europe and left on August 15, 2015. When I arrived in Switzerland one month ago I was anxious. I could not believe I was going to be away from home for eight months.
I wondered what I was going to miss and hated that I left Madison and my family.
After a couple weeks in Switzerland I heard rumors that the girls on Team Canada wanted me to come back. The starting setter was injured, which left them with only one setter. Running a volleyball team with one setter is risky and makes practicing very difficult. I was excited about the potential opportunity, but did not think the coach would allow me to come back.
Much to my surprise, I recieved an email from the coach. He read my blog, "Why Do I Play?" and decided to give me a second chance. After the shock diminished, I cried tears of joy.
The craziest part of all of this is timing. I met with my coach and club president in Switzerland to figure out if coming back to Canada was possible. All parties agreed that I could come back to Winnipeg from September 14th to the 24th.
A year ago, Team Canada took me away from one of the most tragic events in my life and now it was bringing me back. I believe in signs. I believe that everything happens for a reason.
I believe that Parker planned this.
Up until this week I missed everything because of volleyball. I missed Parker's funeral, the golf tournament in his honor and the internment. I missed the majority of the hardest year. However, volleyball brought me back to be with Madison and her family on the emotional anniversary of his death.
I do not know why or how life happens the way it does, but I do know there is a reason for everything. Madison's mom often reminds me that "there are no coincidences."
One of my favorite feelings in this world is when everything makes sense. When all the worry and regret subsides, and the greater plan is revealed. In some instances, it happens immediately. In my case, it took months. For others, it could be years.
We may never be able to make sense of what happened a year ago, but I have faith that one day we will find peace.
Thank you, James Parker Sutherland.
The path traveled to get me where I am today is complex. Many bumps, unexpected turns and leaps of faith are part of my journey. I am often reminded how unpredictable life is and believe opportunities which terrify me come around most often.
I have not always been an adventurous, world-traveling gypsy. In fact, at the age of 18 I was the exact opposite. I liked to travel by day, but enjoyed the comforts of home at night. Leaving home for an extended period of time was not something I looked forward to.
However, volleyball had other plans for me. The sport wanted to show me places I have never seen, introduce me to people unlike myself and broaden my life perspective.
I am fortunate to have parents who encouraged me to pursue volleyball at a collegiate level in the United States. Although playing for an NCAA program interested me, I did not have the guts to do it by myself. Without the support of my family and friends I would never taken the initial step to leave home.
The photos from my going away party in 2008 sum up my feelings. When I look back at the album I laugh. I was quite dramatic and completely unaware of what was to come.
I thought the world was ending. In my eyes, life was over and it would never be the same. Although change was on the horizon, I failed to realize the significance. My innocent and naive eyes did not see past the friends I was leaving and the family I would miss.
My first month at the University of Colorado was a struggle. I wrote dramatic entries in a diary and cried myself to sleep a few too many nights. I was convinced I would never last. I believed I was incapable of feeling happy again.
After a few months in Boulder, Colorado my eyes opened to a new world. I made connections with people outside of Selkirk, Manitoba and started to enjoy my life away from home. Eventually, I fully embraced the new life I created for myself.
Upon graduating from college, the opportunity to play professional volleyball arose. I was thrilled, but anxious. Everything and everyone I knew would change yet again. As I prepared to embark on a new adventure, the feelings of uncertainty and terror came rushing back.
Thoughts of failure consumed my mind. I created multiple scenarios in my head of all things that could go wrong. I felt like my worried 18-year-old self that did not want to experience change. In the same breath, I knew that the first leap of faith was all it took to understand what life is about.
It showed me that life often begins when you step outside your comfort zone and the decisions that scare you are the ones worth taking.
The decisions I made have not always worked out as planned. However, I would not be standing where I am today if I turned a cold shoulder to them. Trust me, I wanted to many times. Some of the major bumps along the way ended up providing me the most reward.
My sophomore year at University of Colorado was challenging due to unforeseen coaching changes. I was forced to decide if I wanted to keep playing collegiate volleyball at a different school or return home. Transferring felt risky, but I did it anyway.
My first season playing volleyball abroad in Austria was stressful and gruelling. The team could not provide me with a VISA and going home was my best option. Five hours before my scheduled flight, my agent contacted me. He asked me to get on a train to Germany and try-out with a new team. The thought of staying in Europe and continuing to play professionally was unimaginable. However, I canceled my flight and got on the train anyway.
After a long summer training with the Canadian National team and the loss of a couple special people in my life, I was ready to be home. I found comfort in my family and friends and began to relax. Soon after feeling at ease, I got an offer to play for a team in Switzerland. A six-month season abroad did not sound appealing, nevertheless I hopped on a plane anyway.
Although some people may find these decisions simple, I do not. I enjoy normalcy and ease. I like to be around familiar people and places. Leaving people I love is the hardest part of every decision. It often feels like the moment I start to figure out my current situation, life has another plan.
As I start my second season with Viteos NUC of Switzerland, I feel grateful for the path that guided me here. I am thankful for the opportunity to make decisions that scare me.
I encourage everyone to step outside his or her comfort zone. If a door opens, and trust me it will, walk through. Do not close it because the other side is unfamiliar. Opportunities will come and go, but the ones that make you uncomfortable are the greatest.
My fears are different now. My fears do not lie in the unknown, but rather in the fact that I may miss out if I do not explore this space.
I have played volleyball for 15 years and until two months ago I did not have a clue why. Do I love the sport? Am I playing for myself or other people? What is my motivation to keep playing?