My Normal Greatest Accomplishment
Life is about choices, but sometimes it's about luck.
I grew up lucky, with a little work. Choices - meh, I didn't think much about that. But as I grow older (and... wiser? Let's go with that...), I learned that my results in life largely depend on my choices. Choices on how to think, what to do, what to try, how to feel about trying... all these choices are in my control. So, what I get out of these choices, well, that's also in my control.
My greatest accomplishment is something nearly two million people do every year. It's nothing out of the ordinary, and it's actually something people expect of you. I hold it special, more than many other people. But they never did it my way, or did it at all, despite feeling most days like it would be best to quit.
It isn't winning a club national championship (or two). It isn't being an All-American (or two). It isn't going to the collegiate Elite-8 (twice). It isn't getting my dream job, or traveling to all 50 states, or making a lot of money.
When people ask me what my greatest accomplishment is, it's not super impressive to them. I know it's not because I've been in a job interview where they have asked me that question. After I gave my answer and explained, they moved on looking like, "Can we end this now?"
And I would have liked to say, "Yes. You will not value me based on who I am; only on what I do."
My greatest accomplishment is graduating college.
See? Pretty standard for a person to do this. Like, two-million-people-a-year standard (or, double that if we're counting all levels of graduation). But with graduating college, I am the proudest personal owner of finishing what I started.
Many of you know my story: eating disorder, volleyball, college, leave college and volleyball for treatment, wallow in my sorriness for years, move away, move back home, go to community college, get better, get a great opportunity to finish college and play volleyball at a rockin' university, finally graduate at twenty-....four? five? I don't know that detail. tah-dah!
Could I have made better grades, been a better player in round 2 of college, or maybe have skipped all the BS (not the degree) and graduated within the four years after high school? Sure. But that's not how it happened.
And it's time I stop beating myself up over that.
Because if I hadn't gone through that, I wouldn't have gained the empathy I have. I wouldn't have known struggle. I wouldn't have experienced life and its important parts already. I probably wouldn't have met my husband - and he certainly wouldn't have loved the me I wouldn't have become. And I wouldn't be with someone who valued me and pushed me to write what I feel, with no shame about it.
When I was a ripe youngster, one who knew difficulty as being sore for a week straight, having to miss prom for volleyball, and work on a project for two days, I also tied my worth and my value to my accomplishments. Straight-A student? All-star athlete? Class leader? Angel (*ahem*) daughter? These things made me important and worthy of attention and love and celebration.
But what I know now, is that those things should be celebrated, absolutely. But it made me no better or more worthy of a great life, than the kid on my team who didn't play. Or, the straight-B student. Or, the kid who never talked to anyone in class. Whatever. I know that, as cynical as this sounds, if I had been a doctor instead or made that "World Peace" stuff happen, I'm still not that special. I'm just doing my best to learn and grow this perspective on choice and responsibility.
For the longest time, I put so much pressure on myself to be "just so" at this high standard, that I began drowning in fear and self-doubt when I couldn't reach those elusive dreams. If I wasn't the best, I thought, then I don't matter. I might as well quit.
So, I did quit.
And then I was a quitter because it was too hard then to realize that, maybe I'm just having a setback, or maybe this is a lesson. Quitting, I know, is easier. Don't you think?
When I say that my greatest accomplishment is graduating college and playing volleyball again after five years of not touching a ball (oh, the bruises!), I also mean that it is finishing something I started; having pride in my commitment to something; going through Hell, and emerging, yelling, "No one but myself can stop me!" And believing the heck out of it!
I remember that going back to finish what I began was a huge risk and also a huge opportunity. What if I blew it again? I was slightly embarrassed. 23 years old, playing with 18 year-olds. People are going to think I failed, or was a teen mom, or was cheating, or whatever else I told myself. Maybe I missed my time to do this, I thought.
Limits I placed on myself to make it easy if I failed.
It was hard, of course. My teammates complained about certain things I was thrilled to have the chance to do. Perspective. My senior year, we played in the Division II national championship match. I remember, in the semi-finals, I was setting and I forgot to release to the net to get the second ball. I forgot. I was too worried about what-ifs and what-next to focus on the task at hand. My choice to jump ahead was holding me back from now. Typical. And lesson, learned.
What I'm truly passionate about, why I'm doing this in the first place, is that I spent so much time and energy judging myself for, and tying my worth to, my accomplishments. And no matter who you are: so what? You're doing it. Everyday, you're making that choice. Your strengths in one area of success can be translated later when you're alone and asking yourself, "Who am I now?" And you'll do things that don't depend on that accomplishment, but you can rely on the person you needed to be to complete that.
I needed to suck up my ego and be a finisher.
Work to completion on something hard. I needed to have strength of mind and body of resilience. I needed to be my own leader and choice-checker. I needed to remember every day that I was important; that what I was doing was for a reason and a passion.
Moving my body is a celebration. Finishing what I started is a celebration. Admitting, "I'm not perfect, but look what I confidently chose," is important to me. And I matter. We all need these small celebrations and I am worth celebrating.
Then and today, I celebrate.
Tell me: What's your greatest accomplishment? Why is it so important to YOU?