It has been a LONG time coming. So here it goes...
I was told my blog posts are too fluffy. Powder puffy. Maybe they are, but I'm a softie. I’m about to keep it real with you.
I failed and it sucks.
One month ago, I was bright-eyed and eager as I boarded a plane from Toronto to Milan, Italy. I was offered a three-month long contract to train and play with the infamous and extremely talented volleyball team - VBC Pomì Casalmaggiore.
One month ago, I stepped onto the court at Nelson Mandela Forum in Florence, Italy. I had to pinch myself for I was playing in the first division of Italy. That's huge. I was playing beside athletes I admired and watched from afar for years. I was across the net from many I deemed "out of my league."
One month ago, I received the opportunity to do something big in my career. I got the chance to play with the best and make a mark in the professional world. I was excited to prove to myself that I could play in the league of my dreams.
One month ago, I also had this little voice in my head telling me I was not good enough. I was fearful and anxious. As badly as I tried to drown those thoughts, visions of failing played WAY too often in my mind. I constantly questioned whether I belonged on this team or if I just got lucky.
What is that?
Where does that come from?
That feeling like you do not belong somewhere. The feeling of being inferior to your teammates, coworkers, or friends. It does not foster an environment to be successful. I felt like my mistakes were magnified and nothing was ever good enough. I was in a constant state of trying to prove myself.
Totally in my head. Totally a victim to self-doubt.
I wish I could tell you that I made a miraculous recovery and came out on top. I want to sit here and write about how I made a name for myself in this league. How I came to this club and led this team to victory.
But, that is not the case.
Today, I am watching my team play a match from behind the court. Sitting next to our statistician and camera man. Only 13 players are allowed to dress for the match and I turned out to be lucky number 14.
It sucks. It hurts. Failure brings out the most insecure parts of me.
Failing causes me to dwell in self-pity. I am actually really good at that. It makes me want to throw the towel in and confirm all the disgusting beliefs I had about myself and my abilities before this started.
"You were right, Megan. This league is too good for you and you should stick to being comfortable and play at a level that is better suited to you."
I cannot help but feel like all those thoughts and visions of being inadequate are true. This experience confirmed that.
Also, I am not surprised. How could I be successful when I am in constant turmoil?
When my mind battles with whether I am capable or not. When my confidence is so easily shaken. When I do not have unwavering belief in myself.
The best players I played with never seem to be the most skilled. They are usually the ones with this delusional, almost irrational sense of confidence. Jealous.
I feel stuck in this sick and viscous cycle that I know all too well. Failing makes me want to become a recluse and play into the role of not being good enough. It makes me want to stay comfortable and throw the towel in.
"Do not challenge yourself again, Megan. Maybe it is to move on."
But, I know that’s the easy way out. It’s simple to agree with the negative thoughts. It's comfortable to fail.
I fear success more than failure.
So here I am. Uncertain of where or when my next contract will be. Not sure of my next move. Not quite confident in my abilities. Doubting if I could ever play at this level again. Wondering if this will be the story of my career. Uncertain if this was my one shot and I missed it.
In the same breath, I am certain about a few things. I am certain that I will keep trying. I am sure this will not be the last time I fail. I am positive I will be successful. I do not want to give up. I do not want to stand in my own way my entire career. I know it is within me.
I will end this post with a quote from my favourite author, Rupi Kaur. I felt the need for some fluff:
"I learned all things come in twos. Life and death. Pain and joy. Salt and sugar. Me and you. It's the balance of the universe."
I will add something in there -- failure and success.
If I choose, it is only a matter of time before I feel the latter. The beauty in all of this is that I have a choice.
I choose to accept this "failure" as a step in the direction of my goals. Whether it feels like it or not.
And I choose to keep going.
That's all. Peace, my loves.
I am beginning to understand that 75% or more of the things I own hold no value to me.
Candles, jewellery, clothes, shoes, bags and miscellaneous products.
I own an absurd amount of the above.
I could clothe an entire all-girls school with my wardrobe at home. Not to mention all my stuff scattered throughout the globe. All the things I left in Boulder, CO and Raleigh, NC. The two suitcases and three duffle bags I have waiting for me in Switzerland.
No matter where I am, I always end up with more things than I know what to do with. That realization sparked some serious reflection.
Why are things called valuables and what does that mean to me?
By definition: a thing that is of great worth, especially a small item of personal property.
How many valuables do I actually own?
I am surrounded by things that hold no value to me. Stuff that is just there. Cluttering my life and getting in the way. The month of January hit me with three important moments:
1. My best friend was jetting off to Florida and Mexico for two weeks. She packed her belongings in a backpack. A small, personal, carry-on backpack. In all my travels whether short, long, near or far, I have never, EVER, traveled with one suitcase. Let alone a carry-on backpack.
Huge moment of admiration for that girl.
2. I watched the documentary Minimalism: A Documentary About The Important Things. Whoa. Watch it as soon as you can. If you are anything like me, it could prompt a clean sweep of your life. These two dudes, among many others, are on a mission to live a more meaningful life through the art of letting go.
What would life be like with less stuff and more meaning?
3. I misplaced things over the break. Nothing new. I tend to lose things. Everything from five different lip balms to the one house key I was responsible for. I usually chalk it up to my personality and feel doomed in that sense.
But, maybe I have too much stuff that means nothing to me. Keeping tabs on 100 different hair ties or four pairs of mitts is hard. I also know that if I lose one lip balm, another one is hiding somewhere.
What if I only owned one? Maybe it would hold more meaning to me.
I started with my shower. Weird place to start, I know. I woke up with this revelation and went in the shower to find four different kinds of shampoo, two conditioners, body wash and scrub, soap, a loofa and a cloth. I knew something was wrong. I looked around and thought:
I need one shampoo and conditioner. In fact, I could become more of a minimalist and purchase a two-in-one shampoo. After throwing away all the unnecessary products, my shower looks bare and it is refreshing.
I am in the process of my room and it is overwhelming. Getting rid of stuff is not hard. It is draining and exhausting to see just how much stuff I have to give away.
Naturally, thoughts creep into my mind...
"Maybe I will need this super tacky jewellery and outfit for Halloween or a costume party."
"I think these headbands and three-pronged curling iron might come back in style one day and I want to be prepared!"
"I hope I find the missing partner to these 26 single socks."
No, Megan. Just no.
After one month into the new year, I feel like I finally set my first lifestyle change. I am going to stop holding onto things that hold no value to me. This includes everything from a cheesy coffee mug to relationships.
I am going to stop assigning meaning to certain valuables unless they intrinsically hold it. My alarm clock and toothbrush will always hold value. But again, I do not need four different toothbrushes in rotation.
One will suffice. Things are just things.
I whole-heartedly believe that not only will my life become less cluttered and my brain a little less scattered, but maybe I will begin to let go of things much bigger than my personal valuables.
I vow to stop holding on.
God, that feels good.
** The photos at the top are of my meaningless things. I will be donating it all to those in need.
I love when things come full circle. I love when life gives you one of those moments that makes you warm on the inside and smile like a kid on Christmas morning. That genuine feeling that people and our world are intrinsically good.
I experienced that tonight.
A few weeks ago, I was asked to speak at a volleyball banquet. I wanted to share something with the athletes that resonated with them. I wanted to share a story or lesson that might impact their volleyball career and motivate the socks off them.
I thought about all the cliché stories and speeches I heard throughout my athletic career. The more I reminisced, the more I realized that none of the stories about hard work or perseverance really stuck with me. I decided to give those Junior Varsity boys some advice from the heart.
I shared with them the three things I wish I knew and did at their age.
One of those things: I wish I thanked my coaches.
Do not get me wrong. I am sure I thanked my coaches at some point. Probably at the end of season. My team bought a gift, signed a card and maybe sent a message of thanks.
However, I wish I understood at the time what my many coaches were doing for me. I am not sure I fully appreciated the time and energy that my coaches took away from their own lives, families and hobbies to invest in my future. I did not understand how selfless coaching is. I felt as an athlete, I was entitled to a coach. I took them for granted.
I become overwhelmed with gratitude when I think about all the people who helped mold me into the person, player and coach I am today. It was a privilege to have each and every one of them.
The saddest reality I see as a coach today is kids without one. How unfair is that? I wish I could give every kid the opportunity to try. I wish I could create endless possibilities for kids to excel in sports like I was given.
I always had a coach and the majority of them were above average.
I did not realize at the time how lucky I was.
To all the athletes out there who have a coach. Whether he or she is a former National team coach or somebody's parent. Appreciate them and thank them. You're fortunate.
From my absolute favorite coaches that I had tremendous success with, to my least favorite coaches that tore me down as a player. I should have thanked them all.
So here it is...
To my favorite coaches, thank you. Thank you for believing in me when I did not even believe in myself. Thank you for insuring that I had all the tools I needed to be successful on and off the court. Thank you for giving me the confidence to push my mind and body to places I never thought possible. Thank you for all my greatest memories and most cherished experiences. Without you, my life would be drastically different.
To my not-so-favorite coaches, thank you. Thank you for teaching me how to NOT take things personal. Thank you for teaching me how to get myself back up time after time. Thank you for teaching me how to have mental strength. Thank you for the challenge. Thank you for exposing my weaknesses. A huge thanks go to you, because without you I would not be the person I am today.
For all the coaches in between, thank you. Thank you for giving me confidence as a female athlete. Thank you for sharing your knowledge and passion for sport with me. Thank you for providing me a place to compete. Thank you for being a teacher of the game, mentor and my guiding light. Thank you for the impact you had on my athletic career, however big or small.
Today, I received my first personal thank you message from a player I coached this season. I appreciate it more than she knows. She said things to me that I wish I said to my coaches. For that I am thankful, grateful and inspired.
As a person, player and coach - thank you.
I like the idea of being extraordinary. I think most of us want it. But, we cannot all achieve it.
I started reading Mark Manson's book titled, "The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life." Within the first few chapters, I immediately related my life and athletic career with his notion of feeling extraordinary.
I believe this is part of the reason why retired athletes struggle with life post-sport. Sure, we miss the competition, the team atmosphere and the busy schedule. But, we can somewhat mimic those things by joining adult leagues, bonding with colleagues and filling our schedules with meetings, events and chores.
What we have a hard time replicating in "real life" is the feeling of being extraordinary. We miss the feeling of being important. The feeling that we are doing something only a small percentage of the population gets to do,
I think today's culture heightens the emotions we feel related to this absence. As Manson puts it,
"It's the extremes that get all the publicity... All day, every day, we are flooded with the truly extraordinary. The best of the best. The worst of the worst. The greatest physical feats. The funniest jokes. The most upsetting news. The scariest threats. Nonstop."
As athletes, especially at highly competitive levels, we are constantly bombarded with the extremes. Our lives are far from normal. They are based on a lot of highs which come from immense success and deep lows that come with agonizing defeat.
Our happiness and joy are based on wins, recognition, praise, awards, publicity and triumph. In contrast, our sadness and anxiety comes from losses, ridicule, punishment and defeat.
We consistently bounce from one extreme to the other. All we know is extremes and that our lives are unlike many others.
Now, take the athlete away from that environment and place he or she into everyday "normal" life without sport.
Suddenly, an athletes' world is flipped upside down. We are forced to find the same source of adrenaline and fun in completely mundane things. I am not saying that extremes do not exist any more.
The extremes have just changed.
The struggle now lies in feeling important without praise and recognition through physical feats. It lies in feeling successful without attaining a measurable goal. There is a struggle to assign the same meaning of our athletic extremes to ordinary life.
Athletes go from feeling like one in a million to just another one of the millions.
I love being ordinary, but it took some time to get here. I realize and understand that life's greatest pleasures do not come from the cool places I traveled, the medals I won or the publicity I received.
It comes from the people I love. Life's little moments. It comes from giving back and being present. Another quote from the book that resonated with me,
"You will have a growing appreciation for life's basic experiences: the pleasures of simple friendship, creating something, helping a person in need, reading a good book, laughing with someone you care about.
Sounds boring, doesn't it? That's because these things are ordinary. But maybe they're ordinary for a reason: because they are what actually matters."
I believe the constant need for approval and feeling of doing something cool and important has made the transition for athletes a little tougher. But, we need to start recognizing this while still playing. Athletes must find joy and appreciation in the mundane things in life. We must find as much normalcy as possible, in order for the transition post-athletic career to be somewhat smoother.
Understanding that sport is what we do, it is not who we are.
Sidenote: I am taking a little break from volleyball as Team Canada makes the transition from Winnipeg to Richmond, B.C. I decided against playing overseas and wanted to see what life is like at home. At first, it was a shock to the system. I was constantly thinking about what I could do to replicate that feeling of being important and "extraordinary." Should I start a business? Create an app? Write a book? I had this feeling that I needed to do something big and meaningful. How can I experience the feelings, thoughts and emotions I had when I played professional volleyball? The truth is, I probably won't. That's okay. The last couple of months have been refreshing, as I am learning to love and appreciate the simple and "boring" things in life. Accepting that not everyone is meant to be or do extraordinary things.
One last quote from the great and inspring, Mark Manson:
"After all, if everyone were extraordinary, then by definition no one would be extraordinary."
Oh my gosh. Life is changing in front of my eyes and I love it. This girl, in this photo above, is EPIC. She challenged myself and many others to do something, ANYTHING. But, do it 100 times before the end of the year because why wouldn't you?
At first, I was skeptical. In the past, challenges seemed like a waste of time to me.
"Why would I challenge myself to something? I can do these things daily without having to make it a competition."
I was lying to myself. The truth is, challenges are not a waste of time. I am just really good at wasting my time. Not anymore.
I have accepted the challenge and want anybody who reads this to do the same. It is so simple. You can do 100 of whatever you want. Say hello to a stranger 100 times. Wash the dishes 100 times. Everything and anything you do is relevant.
For all the important information and a more detailed explanation go visit Cory's blog.
It is WORTH it.
I am completing two #100Somethings. The first one is going on a run 100 times before the end of 2016. Whether it is for 10 or 120 minutes. I am going to do it. I am going to tie up my shoes and make myself run. Not for dietary or physical reasons. Not to lose weight. Not to run a marathon. Just to run.
I hate running. Despise it. I always correlated running with punishment, as it was many times throughout my volleyball career. I never experienced this so-called "runners high," nor do I feel any sort of mental release from running. That is the point.
I am running because if I can run 100 times before the end of the year, I can do anything. Every now and then I go on a run. These runs rarely last longer than 20 minutes. I never stop running because I am out of breath or my legs are tired. I stop running because my mind quits.
I tell myself I had enough and throw the towel in way too early. It is so easy to stop running. It is tough to get myself out of the house and go. For the next four months, it is happening. No matter how I feel or what I think, I will run.
My second #100Somethings I am going to complete is a list I created. This is not just any list. It is a list of literally every thought, idea or dream in my head. I wrote out a list of 100 things I want to do.
This is not a bucket list. I do not want to have an undetermined amount of time to complete it. I need a time limit. I need to check these things off daily. If not, they will remain as thoughts in my head.
These things range from baking a loaf of bread to smiling at everyone I see for an entire day. All are events, projects, hobbies, actions, tasks or goals that I thought about doing at some point in my life. However, I always stop myself because I get lazy, uncomfortable, content and fearful. I had enough.
It is time to put meaning to these "things" and take action.
I get caught in the trap of thinking I have more time when the time is NOW. I want to check off every single one of those "things" on my list by the end of 2016.
I will share my complete list at the end of the year. Throughout the next few months I will document the ones I completed which are worth writing about. I checked off a big one today and cannot wait to share my excitement about it.
I got braces (I could not wait). That was #1 on my list and I am thrilled to finally start that process. More to come.
I hope you are inspired to do the #100Somethings challenge. If it scares you, intimidates you, makes you uncomfortable then do it. You will NOT regret it.
Author: Megan Cyr
Born and raised in Canada. College educated in America. Currently residing wherever volleyball takes me.