“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Oddly enough, I find the phrase, “everything happens for a reason,” to be sort of confusing.
This comforting line is used to find reason in some of the most disappointing events that occur in our lives.
At a high-point in my gymnastics career, I had a case of the “twisties,” something that Simone Biles similarly struggled with through the most recent Olympic Games. This fall resulted in suffering a severe concussion and strained neck. What was the “reason”?
I was a nationally ranked gymnast who planned to create a career out of the sport. So, the injuries I endured that tremendously set me back were for a reason? I quit the sport a few months following my recovery after breaking my ankle. I suffered in silence through middle school and high school questioning my decision and “what could have been”.
I grew up moving between three different states and switching schools so often that high school was the first I attended all the way through, what was the reason for that? I always felt that I had no choice but to always mold to my surroundings and identify with them the best I could.
Alcoholism and drug abuse are not far from home, they are as close to home as they can get. My brother and I have found ourselves in the midst of direct consequences of direct family member’s decisions. What justified that trauma?
It took me a long time to come to terms with the fact that I have been diagnosed with anxiety, depression, PTSD, have been prescribed heavy medication and attend weekly therapy. At the time I felt weak. I was used to coping in silence and only channeling emotions through succeeding in my sport. What collegiate student-athlete has this many problems? I isolated myself. I thought I had no one to turn to.
I remember driving home from the psychiatrist’s office the day I was properly diagnosed, hysterically questioning my purpose in life. What if my purpose really is to go through the uncertain motions of daily life and give up anything I can to meet the expectations of others?
For the past twenty-two years, change has always been expected within any ounce of uncertainty. To me, the reason was that a negative consequence comes after every positive intention.
I am always waiting for something to happen.
The reason for that being to live my life through a world of “what ifs”? What if I never got hurt, would I be a world-class decorated gymnast? What if I always had one place to say I “am from,” would I feel that I have a true identity? What if addiction was not passed down through generations, would I still be afraid of becoming an addict? Would I be living a better life if I chose the other options I had in life? Would I be happier if I did not feel like I had to be strong 24/7? Would I finally be satisfied with where I am now in this journey of life?
For as long as I can remember, I have functioned constantly worrying about making the right decisions for myself, and questioning what I have in the past. This has caused me to live my life cataloging my shortcomings to explain why I never chose the other option(s) when I had the decision.
At thirteen when I quit the sport I had been most passionate about, never did I see myself playing lacrosse in college. So, I for sure never thought about making a decision to transfer schools for that matter. A year ago, I would have said the same about entering the portal.
VCU became the second school I ever attended all the way through. When disappointment after disappointment revealed themselves four months ago, I ended up seriously considering making a change. At first, I saw this situation as just another consequence of a decision I made to use my fifth year of (COVID-year) eligibility.
Fast forwarding to transferring to High Point University as a graduate player on the women’s lacrosse team, I have realized that this was an opportunity to see it all differently.
I now have a new opportunity to grow through new relationships, a new environment, a new set of standards, a new group of amazing people to surround myself with, and a new outlook on the circumstances that brought me here.
I chose to take another risk. This opportunity I now see as one that I have the ownership of what I do with it. This leap has more meaning to those I did before.
Recently reflecting on those past risks, what if I never chose them? Well, this time I see them for the positives that were hiding within what I thought were negatives.
I would most likely never play college lacrosse. I would never know the sixty-plus teammates I do today. I would never know how to help guide my brother towards being more mentally-tough than he ever thought he could. I would have never forgiven the things I had no control over from the far and near past. I would never have met the coaches, mentors, friends and others that have helped me realize that life isn’t supposed to be comfortable.
Living up to our fullest potential cannot be met without taking risks, being uncomfortable and moving on from what is already done. Looking backwards causes us to miss out on the new blessings that lie ahead, whether in near-view or not.
Yes, you are more than an athlete. But, you are also more than what you have been through, what you have made peace with in the past and what your thoughts may tell you are worrisome or strengthening. I am sure you have heard the phrase, “If winning were easy, everyone would do it.” Of course. But, if reaching your full potential mentally, physically, and emotionally were easy, I am sure we would all feel a lot more like winners.
Positive consequences are not the end-all, be-all to accepting the decisions we make. Negative things happen for reasons we sometimes cannot understand, or even accept. But that does not, for a second, mean that we are incapable of incredible achievements and defining purpose in our busy lives. We are the ones who give understanding to what has happened, whether we choose to have an acceptable reason or not. It also can mean we didn’t understand the reason at the time, but we now accept there is a lesson in every experience no matter how bad it may have been.
Create something that holds personal value out of what has happened and how impactful it was on you. Take pride in knowing that instead of trying to follow a life script, you have the ability to write it on your own with no outsider reviews. Move from being a victim of your circumstances to an author of your future by shaping those setbacks to comebacks and those fears into beliefs.
To me, the meaning of, “everything happens for a reason,” is not that the negative circumstances I have been through are validated only by some kind of positive reinforcement. Rather, it led me to a lifelong affirmation behind the phrase.
It is not about, “what if,” it is about being grateful for, “what is,” and “all that was” … to get to where I am going.
You have a purpose. I promise. Believe in yourself and make decisions with the biggest heart and open mind. Give yourself grace.
Virginia Commonwealth University Women’s Lacrosse Alum #36
High Point University Women’s Lacrosse #24