Have you ever really thought about your ‘why’? What drives you in life? What is the motivation behind your dreams? What keeps you striving through thick and thin? I’ve always generally known my why, but I hadn’t thoroughly thought through it until writing this blog post and it kind of surprised me how extensive and powerful it is. I recommend everyone reading this take a few minutes to really think about it because that’s what you’ll need to refer to when things get hard and you wonder, why am I doing this?
As soon as I started brainstorming about my ‘why’ I immediately realized my life mentality was conceived when my mom passed away my sophomore year at USC. That period of my life was when it really hit home how short life can be and that if you want to make the most of it you better get started.
I had a rough time dealing with the loss of my mom, I continued to play volleyball through the grief, I partied hard, and my grades suffered. The next couple of months were capped off with a severely sprained ankle and an early exit in the NCAA playoffs, extreme exhaustion, and sitting in front of the computer in study hall receiving my semester grades that almost disqualified me from competing in volleyball the following semester. As I sat there I reflected on the previous few months and thought two things- one, how disappointed my mom would be in me, and two, what the heck was I doing with my life? I was blowing it.
The next moment is still so clear in my mind, I resolved right then, in the middle of study hall, to make the most of my life and live up to my potential, in a way that my mom would be proud of and that would maximize my time here on Earth. Mostly those things were compatible, sometimes not so much, but as long as I was living in accordance of one of those two rules, I could live with myself. I started to bring my grades up by committing to attend class regularly (duh.) and sit in the front. I set a schedule for myself where I was going to bed between 10 and 11pm and getting up at 7am everyday. I started making my own food, and staying in more often than not on weekends. I finished my career at USC with two National Championships and a 4.0 gpa my senior year.
The mindset I developed at USC after losing my mom has persisted throughout my life and, I like to think, has continued to grow steadily. I have had multitudinous amazing life experiences because of my commitment to live fully. Most of the time it’s a decision and often times it’s in the face of risk or embarrassment or possible failure, and occasionally it involves the rejection of societal norms, but I have found the stories you get to live out are so much more worthwhile than if you take the safe route. I’ve definitely gone off path here and there, but my guiding principles bring me back sooner or later, and sometimes they are painful to follow through on, but in the end I feel I am better for it.
So here I am, in my fourteenth season playing professional beach volleyball and my seventeenth if you include professional indoor volleyball, so it’s a good thing my ‘why’ has been solidified. There are many reasons why I continue to play, but number one will always have to do with my mom and the impact her loss had on me.
My other whys:
My premier goal in life growing up was to travel. I just wanted to see the world, and I really really didn’t think I was ever going to be able to. It is a BIG reason I enjoy how much beach volleyball requires us to travel, even in it’s hardest moments I am grateful for it because there was a time when I thought I’d never get to see anything. I’ve gotten to see places around the globe from the likes of Thailand, to Russia, Spain, Brazil, Dubai, Argentina and many many others in between. That in itself makes me feel so fulfilled. The only places left on my travel bucket list are Africa and Antarctica, maybe Patagonia on my way to Antarctica ;).
Another huge reason I do what I do is the lifestyle. Most everything is up to you: your schedule, your teammate, how hard you work, how often you work, etc. Your office is the beach; something I will never take for granted. The people are generally awesome and the community really supports it’s own. It is an honor to be apart of this great sport and I’m always working to earn my right to stay here.
Working hard towards a purpose makes me joyful. Nothing worthwhile in this life comes easy and I love putting in work to get results. I want to find out how much my mind, body, and spirit can do, I want to see how much I can accomplish with what I’ve been given. I’m obsessed with growth and improvement and this sport requires me to push myself in this regard hourly, monthly, and yearly. You have to seek out new ways to grow, new ways to gain a competitive advantage, new tools to use on the court. It requires creativity. I know I’m working for my best life, and beach volleyball allows me to continue in that pursuit.
Being a professional female athlete allows me to reach young people, and hopefully add to the good influence in this world. I love attempting to inspire the next generation of women to be strong and independent, it is a huge mission of mine and it would be ideal if I could continue in that area even after I’m done playing.
It is such an honor to represent our country through this sport. One of the raddest experiences EVER is being at the Olympics with USA on your chest. Easily, one of the most emotional moments of my life was getting announced for our first match at the London Games, I had never felt pride like that before. I want more.
And most importantly, I want to be free. Volleyball has allowed me to be independent, probably the thing I value most in this life. I will continue to pursue excellence and work my ass off to preserve my freedom. Freedom to do what I want, when I want, freedom to choose if I want to be in a relationship or not, freedom to stay or to go, say yes or say no, and all the other ways you can think of to apply the feeling of freedom in this life. I never want to feel trapped or controlled by someone else, I want my life to always be my own, and I will claw tooth and nail to maintain my freedom. THIS is why I work so hard.
What is your why?
You really inspired my 14 year old daughter, Jamie, at Vollis Beach last summer in Tennessee. She is a hard worker, but she struggles in school (dyslexia). Volleyball is her life. She lives for it. She wants to be an Olympian like you. She’s had a rough week, a teacher yelled at her and told her she’d never be an athlete and basically that she would also never be successful in school/life. Jamie was devastated. I assured her some people are just mean and that she shouldn’t listen to the haters. I can’t wait to share this post with her. She’s been pretty heartbroken lately, but I told her to use it as fuel to be the best volleyball player she can be. I’m going to print some of your sayings off to hang in her locker to help her stay strong! Thanks for being an inspiration to young girls!
This means so much to me and I hope it helps her realize she can do anything she sets her mind to regardless of external factors!
Thank you for the reply. I’m going to print that off and hang it in her locker! Also, I just got a text message from her – she had a metal around her neck…just won first place in the silver bracket. Her teacher was wrong, she already IS an athlete – she needed that win – it came at the perfect time!