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?
Many of my friends are working towards their dream career, getting married and starting families. They often ask when I am going to plant my roots and start a "real" career.
"Megan, why are you still playing volleyball and when will you join the working world?" On the first of May I made a last-minute, go with my gut decision to stop playing with the Canadian Women’s Volleyball team. Whoa. How could I? So many girls would do anything to be in my shoes. Here I was throwing the opportunity away.
Many people disagreed with my decision and thought it was selfish and ungrateful. Shortly after quitting, I did too.
The first month after I made the decision was painful. It felt like a terrible break-up. A lot of regret and jealousy. Many tears. The strongest feeling of them all was worthlessness. I went through the whole athlete identity crisis that tends to happen after retirement. It happened earlier than I expected, and it was my fault.
I thought after I quit I was going to breathe a sigh of relief. The so-called "freedom" I always longed for would be blissful. I would find myself. Figure out my identity outside of being a volleyball player. Possibly start a new career. Participate in everything I was missing out on. The list of reasons was long. I whole-heartedly thought the grass was greener on the other side. I believed that having my summer free from the National team commitment would liberate me.
Boy, was I wrong. I missed my teammates and volleyball family. For the first time in my life I realized how special the sport is and how lucky I am to compete at a high-level. Looking back, I saw how often I took the sport and experiences for granted. I constantly wondered what it would be like to have a life without volleyball. I often said I was blessed and fortunate, but I never genuinely felt it.
Quickly I began to miss all the work-outs, practices, games and competitions. I missed being part of something greater than myself. I missed the airports, hotel rooms and bus rides. All of the things I used to dread now became something I craved.
The decision to quit the Canadian Women's Volleyball Team may be something I regret. However, I am beginning to move on and understand that I made the decision for a reason. I believe it provided me with clarity. I view my life and career as an athlete in a different light.
I figured out why I play. I figured out what is important to me. Above all, I figured out who I am. I am an athlete. and a volleyball player. However, I am also much more. The most important gift I posses is to inspire and connect with people through my sport. My time to do that is finite. I finished my first practice of my third professional season in Switzerland, and I am thankful. Thankful I am here. Thankful I am able. Thankful for the opportunity to play once again.
In hindsight, I took the sport and my abilities for granted. I did not fully appreciate the coaches, family, friends and strangers who supported me. I was too busy complaining about the little things that I failed to see the big picture. I am so thankful for sacrifices people made and time they put in to get me where I am today.
What I get to do every day is a blessing. In a second, it can be taken away. The fact that I was willing to take it away myself, baffles me.
I may never know if the decision I made this summer was the right one, but I do know that it humbled me. It allowed me to look at my life from a different perspective and realize that I am one in a million.
I am a volleyball player and nothing is wrong with that. I am confident there is more to me and I will excel in other avenues one day.. But right now, in this moment, I play volleyball. I will continue to ride this wave as long as I can. It only comes around once in a lifetime. That is why I play.