I’ve been wanting to do a post on identity, but the way it has come about is entirely different than I originally planned. Sometimes the Fun Bus needs to go over some rocky terrain to reach its awesome destination.
Personal identity is always evolving, constantly changing. So, what do you do when you start losing a part of your identity that you are really invested in? Change, adapt, progress.
I do have some experience in navigating huge identity shifts. I mean, for many years I identified as straight.
But that’s not what I’m talking about in this post.
The other night I was thinking about the huge burst of creative energy I’ve been experiencing lately. Writing, drawing, sewing. The most innocuous things have been inspiring me to create. But why? I always need to ask why when I’m feeling a huge shift in my life. My scientific mind needs answers!
I think it’s because I’m losing my identity as a competitive athlete.
I started playing softball in grade two at seven years old. I continued to play until I was seventeen. Through my school years I also played volleyball, practiced karate and competed in track and field. After high school, I had an odd year out where I didn’t do any organized sports before picking up karate again. I trained in karate from 2001 until 2015 eventually earning my third degree black belt and a spot on the national team before having to quit because of knee pain. On top of this, while I was practicing karate, I started playing dodgeball in 2007 and haven’t really stopped aside from injury.
CAN’T STOP WON’T STOP! It’s my life motto.
Until my body starts yelling, “You have to stop!”
If I had a dollar for every time someone older than me said, “You’re going to feel that when you’re my age,” I’d probably have enough money to cover a couple of extra physio visits.
Future health implications are starting to weigh on my mind more and more. The injury, rehab, comeback cycle is getting tired especially as I start spending more time in the first two stages. I’m injured too often and it starts to become problematic when those injuries start affecting my day to day life. If I can’t hold a beer without pain, what am I doing with my life?
The chase after the championship is addicting though and there is nothing quite like the head to head intensity of athletic competition. When you are in the zone and make an incredible play or a comeback against all odds – it’s hard to beat that feeling.
I’ve often characterized my relationship with dodgeball like a relationship with a person. I had that rush of new relationship energy when I started playing and it was all I could think about and all I wanted to do. I make time for it in my life, give my energy back into the community to help it thrive. But like interpersonal relationships, becoming entangled with an activity and an aspect of your identity can become destructive and unhealthy.
But, damn it’s hard to let go.
I know I don’t have to let go completely. I just need to change my relationship with sports so that it is more healthy and less chronic injury inducing. The competitive athlete part of my identity will change to just athlete, or very active person. I’ll still play a night of dodgeball and compete in the odd tournament. It’s hard to let go of something that’s been a part of my life for over 20 years, but it is time to start just playing for fun. It is time to say goodbye to the dogged pursuit of athletic greatness.
I recently read a sobering article about the death of two young, up and coming mountain climbers and the culture surrounding achievement and greatness in the climbing community. The following quote could not have rung more true to me at this point.
“Heroic greatness escapes most, but you don’t have to be “great” to matter or to register positively in the lives of others. Peace can be found in knowing that who you are is plenty good enough.”
Change is uncomfortable and inevitable and for some reason seems to come in huge waves. I know the extra energy, time and drive will be funneled into another aspect of my identity. For now it seems to be something creative, so we’ll see where that takes me. More drawing, more rambling to the internet perhaps?
Change, adapt, progress.
Chemist by day, dodgeballer and photographer by night. Relationship anarchist and passionate Earper.