I used to think that I was a winner despite my hardships. Even though I’m a single parent, in the army, going to school- I’m still a champion. But I’ve realized that my success isn’t despite the issues I have faced and continue to face daily; I am a champion because of my hardships.
The reason I’m successful at work is partially because of the mental fortitude football has taught me. The reason I’m good at football is because of the discipline and physical demands the Army has placed on me. When I’m about to jump out of an airplane and my nerves kick in I simply think, “I tackle some strong bitches.” When I am lining up for kick off, staring down my opponent and my jitters are starting to engulf me, I remember that I jump out of planes. It is just a continuous positive feedback loop.
Champions don’t live ordinary lives. We don’t spend our days doing conventional things. Just this week Iyla and I were given some free tickets to Cirque du Solei (over an hour away) on a school night. I knew that there was no way we would make it home before midnight but we went anyways. Iyla was exhausted at school the next day and probably didn’t retain much information. But seeing her eyes light up as the acrobats were swinging under that circus tent reinforced my decision to bring her anyways. You never know what small quick decision will lead to a gold mine. On a Tuesday night in Redmond, Iyla saw the glitter and gold of some amazing performers, which may be something that sticks with her forever. Maybe it showed her a little real-life magic, the stuff we can’t always see. Just enough for her to believe in her dreams, no matter how big they are.
My quick and unsure decision to play football led to 2 national championships, 2 all-fantasy selections, and most importantly, life long friends. My decision to ask my buddies to watch Iyla so that I could try out for a sport I had never played led to moments like this-
Imagine for a minute; you worked a long day and you’re now about to battle that I5 traffic to get to football. Your last practice didn’t go well, and coach yelled at you for an hour. You’re paying a babysitter, committing to 4 hours of football, and you don’t truly think you’ll ever step on that game field. You watch motivational videos on repeat just to convince yourself to do this. It’s raining, cold, and everyone is getting yelled at today. This isn’t a great place to be in mentally or physically.
Practice ends, and everyone is sitting on the grass, changing out of cleats, drained, defeated, and silent. We are all disappointed because we let our coach and each other down. The rain perfectly reflects how each of us feel on the inside.
After minutes of silence, coach finally breaks in with, “What’s your Why?”
Every single person on that field expressed to the group their reasoning for being there on the cold, rainy field that night. As the topic passed from woman to woman, I quickly realized that everyone has their struggle, their story, their issues, and most importantly their why. The “why’s” vary, but the heart of a champion doesn’t. The heart of a champion knows that pain is a prefix to pleasure. Champions aren’t champions despite struggles. They don’t run from them. They win because they lower their shoulder, drive their feet and run through the hardships; it hurts less that way.
I don’t recall any specific Tuesday night at the house, cooking dinner, and watching television- But I do remember that Tuesday night at Milton; Iyla was there too. You can choose to see me as a less than ideal mom by having my child out there in the rain with me, but I can’t let myself see it like that. Iyla has continuously watched strong women fight like gladiators and win like champions (with occasional crying sessions too).
When you are in your last few years of life, reflecting on the things you contributed, you won’t be thinking about the Saturday that you slept in. You will remember the grind it took, the sleepless nights, the feeling of never quite having it all together. You’ll remember that comradery, the feeling of being a part of something much bigger than yourself, because if that isn’t life, what is?
It’s not “against all odds anymore.” Any gambler knows that the higher the odds, the bigger the payout.
This is bigger than me.