20 Years of a Dream

Twenty years ago this holiday season, I sat on a couch in New Jersey as my grandfather asked me questions about my favorite subjects in school and other random topics. I wasn’t completely engaged in what even to my young self seemed a silly interview, and so I was slow to answer. I watched the video again and again this past Thanksgiving, the first time I had seen it since it was made, replaying the part when my grandfather asks, “If it were 20 years from now, what do you think you’d be doing? What would be your work or your life like?” I answered: “Playing soccer.”

Besides a sense of pride that I could so accurately predict my future, the resurgence of this video from the past talking about the reality of the present has brought to light many things for which I am immensely grateful. I wonder, “What allowed me to dare to have that dream as a nine-year-old?” Then again, my cousin sitting next to me in the video answered the same question by saying she wanted to be a princess, so maybe my dream wasn’t so lofty after all, and decidedly more realistic.

The older I get, the more I appreciate how I was raised. I was empowered to believe that I was capable of doing anything to which I set my mind and heart, but also that if I stretched a bit too far, I had a support system on which to fall back.

I grew up in the home of two long-distance runners, where daily training was not something dreaded, or even spoken about much for that matter—it was just something you did. My parents often trained before my sister and I even woke up to get ready for school. There were never excuses. On snowy days, I would wake up to the thump of one of them jumping rope in the living room, or the swishing of Nordic Trac ski machine  in their bedroom. We didn’t have to be told that sports and discipline were a way of life. We just knew. One’s passion, whether it is a job or not (which long-distance running was not for my parents), is to be attended to with joy, and practiced and perfected daily. For that unarticulated but powerful message, I am immensely grateful.

My parents certainly ushered me towards my dream, but never pushed me to it. From the collection of VHS instructional videos I can see still perched on my childhood bookshelf as I type this, to setting up extra training sessions with coaches and mentors in the area, to the hours spent driving to various playing opportunities, my parents provided much of the fuel to stoke my fire. And my dream facilitated life lessons. I still remember many of the philosophical tidbits my dad would share with me before bed every night. Once he compared life to an hour glass when the sand has run down. Each day that passes is time we can never get back, so we must make the absolute most of that time to better ourselves in any way possible. For those lessons I am immensely grateful.

After the W.U.S.A. (the first attempt at a women’s professional soccer league in the U.S.) folded, my parents told me that they would support me if I wanted to keep pursuing my dream but couldn’t make it a sustainable career. I am grateful that I have never had to accept that offer. However, the knowledge that I could get help to make a soccer career work has allowed me to make decisions that I feel are the best for me as a player, and freed me of the worry that those decisions would render me unable to support myself. For that freedom I am immensely grateful.

When I look at the little girl in the video from 20 years ago, I barely recognize, but I recognize in her words the resolution that has been true to me all these years. In that nine-year-old’s words was such self-determination despite an endearing naiveté. The quest to become the grown-up she spoke of has shaped me, hardened me in ways, and allowed me to feel untouchable despite moments of extreme vulnerability. These 20 years have been both beautiful and challenging in ways I never could have imagined as a kid. They have taken me all over the world, won championships and learned to overcome adversity, introduced me to phenomenal people and a life of passion and relentless pursuit of improvement. For my childhood dream, and the ability to make it come true, I am immensely grateful.