GOTHENBURG, Sweden — Sometimes your life conspires on your behalf to bring to your attention something that is welling deep in your subconscious. A Blog My teammate, Christen Press, recently wrote an article on fear. She talked about the different fears we, as athletes, have learned to conquer daily, and those that still plague us simply because of the nature of what we do. As much as I would like to think we can eradicate all of our fears, the more I think about it, the more I realize none of us is without fear. Christen’s blog led me to think of fear as a healthy tension within ourselves, rather than the crippling emotion that it is most commonly associated.
For a long time, I’ve been proud of myself for conquering a certain aspect of my fear as an athlete — my fear of failure. I put myself out there, give 100 percent to my training and am resigned to accept the results and learn to grow from them, whether positive or negative. But I am not without fear. There is a force that pulls at me, sometimes keeping me awake at night thinking about the decisions I’ve made in my career. It’s the same force that inspires many of my blogs; motivates me to train smarter, better, more; and makes me take extreme pride in my performance, whether it’s pickup or the Swedish Cup final. It is the fear of unrealized dreams.
A Birthday At 26, I am no longer a young player. I still wholeheartedly believe that I have years of improvement left, but gone are the days when I can bank on some largely undeveloped potential. My recent birthday reinforced this, but also strengthened my resolve to keep chipping away and refining myself as a player because there is much work to be done.
A Film My enlightening observations on this fear that drives me coincided with watching a documentary called “Searching for Sugar Man,” about a musician from Detroit named Rodriguez. By all accounts, Rodriguez was extremely talented, and produced music in the 1960s on par with legends like the Rolling Stones. But he never made it in the U.S. For more than 40 years, he has lived a simple life as a construction worker in Detroit. Meanwhile, unbeknown to him, all those years ago his album had made its way to South Africa, where he gained acclaim and stardom equivalent to that of Elvis.
The movie spoke to something incredibly relevant in my life about the subjectivity of success. How do I actually define my success? How much acknowledgement and acclaim do I personally need to feel successful? How much does achieving my goals of playing in a World Cup and Olympics actually matter to me, as opposed to having a fulfilling playing career and mastering aspects of my sport without ever realizing those dreams?
These questions — to which I still do not have answers — have replayed over and over in my mind. My respect and reverence for Rodriguez and his inner peace play themselves against the sharp discrepancy between his talent and the outcome of his musical career. Rodriguez’s album serenades me from my iTunes like an anthem, reminding me to search for serenity within myself as an athlete.
A Changing of the Guard I am a laid-back person for the most part, but awaiting U.S. Soccer’s announcement of the next women’s national team coachgave me anxiety. Just when I thought I had embraced the cliché to control the controllables, I was completely stressed by the thought that the future of the team was being decided, and there was nothing I could do about it. Just another sign that my fear is alive and kicking.
Now that Tom Sermanni has been announced as coach, several people have asked me: What do you think? Is this a good thing for you personally? From everything I’ve heard and read, I think it is going to be a wonderful and exciting new era for the team. Obviously, I hope to be part of it and will do everything within my power to make that happen.
A few years ago, I thought I was on the verge of being able to say I’m happy playing just for the sake of playing. Recently, my life has reached out to me from all directions, letting me know that there’s unfinished business. The fear of my unrealized dreams is a flame ignited in me. I do love this game as something removed from my career and have found a level of peace in that. But on behalf of the 9-year-old me who set out on a mission as yet unfinished, I will not quell this fear, but let it combust and propel me toward my dreams.