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When we understand the privilege of what it means to be an athlete, we are in touch with, and rejoice in, our physical, mental, and emotional strengths and our endless possibilities.    — Gloria Averbuch 

We can’t rely on anyone but ourselves to define our existence, to shape the image of ourselves. –Spike Lee    

athlete  [ME, fr L athleta, fr Gk athletes, fr athlein to contend for a prize, fr athlon prize, contests] one who is trained or skilled in exercises, sports or games requiring physical strength, agility or stamina”  —Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary, 1977      

I’ve been mulling the connection between all these quotations for over a week. The first quote first struck me as so uplifting and inspring that I sat a little straighter and smiled because I truly felt all things are in fact possible.  It took less than minute for me to dismiss it as applicable to me. My head quickly corrected me with,  “Wait! I’m not an athlete.”  It was only when that thought became conscious  

I wasn’t an athlete in school.  The opportunities were limited at that time at GPS.   I loved tennis, but never had the courage to go out for the team.  I liked soccer, but we didn’t have a team.  Besides. some coach told me I was “too aggressive” – a remark that today would hopefully never be said to a competitive female athlete.  I had a mean volleyball serve, but really don’t like the game itself.  So I limited myself to running with the dogs on the back hill.  I was a nerd, not a jock.  So I couldn’t possibly blog about the Averbuch quote, even though my gut reaction to it was so positive.  I wasn’t part of that world.  And so this post has been lingering in the “draft” pile for over a week.

Then one day in the shower – where I do my best thinking, it seems – I realized that just for today I am an athlete.  I went to the dictionary just to check, and yep, there it is.  I meet that definition.  So there, I told my head.  And then came the big question.  How many times do I deny myself for who and what I am because of the label I put on myself some time in the past?  If I can become an athlete, what else can I become? 

Those questions were and are far too big for me to answer this morning, but I think they are interesting to ask myself.  Every time I go into a situation where I hear myself say “I can’t” or “I’m not,” I need to remember to ask the question, “Why not?”    I’ve learned through running that all those labels and assumptions are potentially wrong.  I am who I am today, not who I was yesterday.  I can be in touch with, and rejoice in, the endless possibilities of life!

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2 Responses to Labels

  1. Charlotte says:

    Oh, man, Joselin! I so needed to read that…today! Last week. A month ago. I don’t have the problem of living with labels I gave myself a long time ago; I have problems with labels I’m giving myself now! “Foreigner” “One who speaks Italian less well than she’d like (i.e. semi mute) and what a shame b/c I used to be so articulate back home” “One who has become such a Mom that she’s not sure she can be a business woman again, much less one who makes waves and starts trends.” And here you are, telling me Why not? Wow. Why not indeed? I remember when I desperately wanted to go out on my own and freelance for the first time, but hadn’t even dared give the dream words, and a friend of mine back in Atlanta said, “It’s like this: you quit. You take your savings and invest in the computer, scanner and printer you’ll need at home. You pare back your costs. You find a client. You work. And before you know it, things are rolling. You are a freelancer.” It was like reading a recipe on how to make meringue, y’know? There were the ingredients and the instructions. And somehow hearing it so clearly and simply stated made it seem possible! And with those words in my head, I marched in that general direction which lead me to 1. the highest income I’d ever had in one year with the most time off 2. an eventual short-term job in Amsterdam 3. meeting Roberto 4. moving to Italy 5. being able to work here while having a family. Now the family is taking over and I’m needing to figure out next steps — who do I need to be now? — how do I finetune this balance thing so that it’s just a tad bit more satisfying in the personal dreams department. I’ve been getting depressed about, but somehow reading this post of yours has made me realize that I’m making the task more difficult than it needs to be by taking on the weight of meaningless and unnecessary labels. Thank you so much! I will keep you posted…

  2. Katie says:

    Love it. Love the saying it out loud. It’s one thing to tell myself that maybe I really am an athlete. It’s another to blog it.

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