Don't Let Your Dreams Define You
“Don’t run from your monsters because I hear they can heal you.” Jayson Haws
The last 3 months have been the most challenging few months of my life. Without rehashing the details, but still informing new readers, I’ll catch you up. On January 10th I sustained a severe knee injury, a season ending and career threatening injury, and that same day, my friend, greatest idol and rival sustained a life ending injury. The following weeks and months were relentless. I endured surgery on my knee as numerous friends and teammates also sustained season ending knee injuries. Another friend was caught in an avalanche that took 3 lives, hers being spared because of a life saving airbag backpack. My father has continued to battle the aftermaths of a non-optional stem-cell transplant needed to cure him of leukemia. And my mother continues to bear the stress of our entire family, while being my father’s primary caretaker. I should be broken down, unable to get out of bed, certainly not able to crack a smile. I was for a while, but I am no longer.
When life gets this hard, we often collapse. But sometimes it is within that collapse that we experience our greatest growth. I hit rock bottom around the beginning of February. I began questioning my path, what my goals and intentions were for this life, if the risks were worth taking. At first I was extremely overwhelmed, too many thoughts of the past and fears for the future were bogging me down. But then I had a realization about the importance of staying present. (I wrote about that here.) After living with the intention of staying present, I have begun to see some serious improvements in my well-being. My life hasn’t dramatically turned around but I feel more emotionally stable and happier overall.
By focusing on this, I was able to resign myself to the present moment, to let it be. I stopped keeping track of time, I stopped placing a timeline on my healing process, I stopped having expectations of where I should be. I began to accept my circumstances any given day. Living by the motto: where I am, is where I am supposed to be. I started making the best choices in every moment to encourage healing; I work as hard as I can when things feel great, and I back off when things don’t feel good. And now, I am flowing with the tides; I am no longer fighting the current.
But there was still a part of me, deep inside, that wasn’t ready to completely let go. The part of me that brought me great success in skiing, the competitor, my ego, it wasn’t ready to surrender- until yesterday. Friday morning, mid-workout, I had another epiphany. One that led me to this thought: Don’t let your dreams define you. Believe in your dreams, chase your dreams, but remember that YOU ARE NOT your dreams. My competitive spirit was afraid to let go, because of the fear of not reaching my biggest goal: Olympic GOLD. This is something that I have aspired toward for my entire life. I always saw myself as an Olympic gold medalist, before my sport was even an Olympic event. For a while, namely before my sport got added to the Olympic schedule, I wasn’t afraid to shoot for that dream. There was a buffer there, something that I could always blame my “failure” on. Hey, if my sport isn’t in the Olympics then it’s not my fault if I don’t go… My mindset changed, or at least, my emotions changed when my sport got into the Games, and after this injury I began to feel even more doubt. This “Fear of Failure” demon has been haunting my dreams, day and night.
It seems that people with big dreams all suffer through this in some way or another. We attach ourselves so thoroughly to our dreams that the idea of not reaching them makes us sick to our stomachs. Our sense-of-self feels threatened, our self-worth devalued, because we are unsure what we have to offer if we don’t reach that ultimate goal. What we are missing, and what I just realized, is that it’s the way we choose to live in each moment that defines us, not the goals or dreams we are working toward. It is the work that we are doing, not the work that is to be done, that makes us who we are. So, for the first time, I feel at peace with what I am doing. I will live with the intention of going to the Olympics. I will continue to make good choices, to try for that gold, but whoever said, “there is no such thing as try, there is either will or will not,” they lied. Trying is worth a whole lot. Trying is everything. And trying may get you to your final destination, it may land you elsewhere, but if you are doing your best every day, then I believe you will finish where you were meant to. Your value is in how you work, not simply in the work that you do. So, try to be with yourself in every moment, and feel proud to be where you are. You are on the right track.