Current Occupation: ___________________________
I’m seeing a new specialist for my concussion recovery and, per standard protocol, I was sent a waiver and history form to fill out before our first appointment. I blankly stared at the “Current Occupation” blank space with more blankness than the blankness of its blank space.
For six years, I filled in that space with a prideful “professional soccer player.” It was a subtle nod, a “you’re damn right I’m still following my dreams and doing what I love, despite my setbacks and squirrel food salary.”
Now, for the past 6 months I’ve looked at that space with a mango pit in my stomach (I just googled “stone fruits with the largest pits”and based on my intensive one minute investigation I believe mangoes have the biggest pits. Please correct me if I’m wrong).
What the hell do I write down? I’m taking this season off. I haven’t played in a true professional game in over two years. I haven’t felt like myself playing at the professional level for over 3 years. I straight up just haven’t felt like myself, period. Filling the space with “professional soccer player" doesn’t feel accurate right now.
I’ve seen a lot different specialists since I’ve stepped away from soccer to focus on healing. Hence I’ve had to fill in a lot of “Current Occupation” blank spaces. Sometimes I fill in the spot with “Lyft driver.” I picked up driving for Lyft after I left the Utah Royals halfway through the season to:
feel like I’m a contributing member of society
make a little extra dough
secretly practice being a therapist. I’ve low-key made it a goal to dive as deep as possible with my passengers during our time together, regardless if (especially if) it’s just a 5 minute drive to Plaid Pantry. Not shockingly, many of my passengers hate their job. They have closeted dreams of dope things like creating a movie theatre that features TV shows. As their unbeknownst therapist, I always encourage them to make that ish happen (disclaimer: I am not a certified therapist, however my therapy sessions are included with the ride, no additional charge. Tips are appreciated, but not necessary, but like, really appreciated).
Sometimes I put down "soccer coach.” I love individually training determined young girls and boys. But, that’s just a side gig.
I plan on writing a book, public speaking, podcasting (consistently) and launching a mentor program for athletes, but I haven’t done any of that yet.
Writing down “unemployed” makes me feel lazy. And I’m not lazy.
I vacillate this blank space, the same way I do when someone asks, “what are you up to these days?”
“Oh ya know, the same ol’, just really trying to focus on healing.”
But, what I’m really thinking is:
you mean what am I NOT up to? You mean what am I NOT up to and what have I NOT been doing for the past three years as I’ve simultaneously attempted to let go and fight for my life to stay afloat as I watch the thing I dedicated my entire life to slip away and I literally feel like I want to die at least twice a week, but not like actually die, just die for like three months so I can shut off the crazy ass thoughts that move at 100mph and filtrate my mind every day and often cloud my ability to to see how fucking blessed I am just to be a living, moving, breathing, being on this beautiful earth, but, like it’s really all good, I know people have it much worse and I’m a privileged, blond, white girl, I think I am just gonna move to a remote island and drink coconut water and eat bananas and float in the ocean for the rest of my life. Thanks for asking.
I typically go for the more socially acceptable, avoid-my-true-feelings response.
You know what’s wild? Ever since I was 8 years old, I have had a crystal clear picture of what I wanted to do with my life. You know what’s even more wild? I’ve had the determination, discipline, and good fortune to see actions through and make my dreams come true. Do you know what’s the most wild? I currently feel like my once crystal clear picture has entirely disintegrated, my dreams are in menopause, and I genuinely have no idea who I am or what the future holds.
I’m currently receiving therapy because if you haven’t deciphered by now, my mind is a little psycho and I’m totally cool with it (except for when I’m not totally cool with it) because we are all psycho, and if you think you aren’t psycho, then my personal theory is you may just be the psycho-ist of them all. I highly support therapy for everyone.
But essentially, I believe I’m dealing with what my therapist deems “post-traumatic sports stress.” I have currently been participating in this really neat modality called brain-spotting. I’ll be writing about it more when the time is right. I have literally no idea when that “right time” will be because my ability to actually make things happen right now comes and goes like the Portland sun. If you want to learn about post-traumatic sports stress and brain-spotting before I write about it 9 years later, I recommend the book This is Your Brain on Sports by Alan S. Goldberg and David Grand. They write all about how unresolved emotional sports trauma, and past emotional trauma in general, can affect your physical sports performance and increase your chance of injury.
It’s strange because my will to take actions towards my dreams right now has been playing hide and seek with me. But, my passion for my dreams is still there. It hasn’t faded an ounce.
There are days when I am 100% certain, without a shadow of doubt, that all of my aspirations are going to come to fruition.
Dreams are sickkkk!!! Anything is possible! My breakthrough is so close! I’m going to take all the lessons I’ve learned over these three years, apply them to my life to make a full comeback and play the best and most enjoyable soccer I have ever played in my entire life!!!!!
I still fully believe this is a feasible option. But, will my life actually turn out this way? I honestly do not know.
I believe a large reason for my disappearance of discipline is not necessarily from the physical blow of the concussion itself, but rather how this injury has made me question my entire belief system and the way I have gone about living my life.
I hear people always say “do what you love and you won’t have to work a day of your life! ” But the thing is, I was doing what I loved. I was following my dreams and doing everything possible to make them happen. And for my entire life, I had been successful at it.
For the first 20 years, I was riding on cruise control with my “work really, really, really hard” recipe. I’d face a setback, work hard to get through it, and eventually achieve the thing I wanted. I intended to follow this plan until I made the US national team roster and played in a World Cup.
Soccer has been my greatest protector throughout my most difficult challenges in life. When I got the call my brother was in critical condition at the hospital from a near-death car crash, when my boyfriend whom I (naively, obvi) thought I was going to spend my life with broke up with me, when I found out my grandma unexpectedly passed away while I was 7,497 miles across the globe in New Zealand…I committed myself to my sport even harder.
Yet somewhere along my journey, the lines got blurred between my profession and who I am.
‘Soccer player’ proudly became my main identity. But, I didn’t just see myself as a soccer player, I saw myself as a good soccer player, one who works really hard, one who keeps getting physically better every day, one who achieves their dreams.
A few years before my big concussion, I experienced energy issues, and it felt like the harder I worked, the harder I ran into walls. My illogical rebuttal was to work even harder, which resulted in many more wall crashes. And then the big bang happened (referring my concussion from my head smacking the ground, not the beginning of the world, but actually it kinda was the new beginning of my world).
Ever since then, doing what I loved physically, emotionally, and mentally felt like I was pushing a flat-tired semi-truck up an ice-covered hill. My body wasn’t working the way it had been able to work for my whole career. I wasn’t getting the praise I had received my entire life for my athletic endeavors. I wasn’t able to use soccer as an emotional outlet. I finished last in fitness drills. I was cut from my team. The single thing I had poured my entire life into turned into a slow-motion eyebrow threading session; almost torturously, little by little, plucked away from me.
Stepping away from my sport was the first time I have ever examined my existence without soccer. It didn’t take long for me to see that I have NO. FUCKING. IDEA. who I am without it.
When we identify with our sport so deeply, we often subconsciously believe that we need our sport to feel complete. Consequently, this means that we don’t feel like we are enough as we are without it.
It makes complete sense then, that removing soccer from my life feels like I’m missing a part of myself. It’s as if I’m frantically (but trying to act like I’m totally not frantic) trying to find out where that missing piece went.
In a way, soccer has been a coping mechanism to hide my insecurities.
I believe a big reason my concussion happened was to force me to stop hiding behind my accomplishments; to stop basing my happiness on if I start in a game or not, if I finish first in fitness testing, or if I play well.
I am no longer able to cover up my flaws with more drills, more long balls, more sprints, more…anything.
My athlete cloak has been taken off. I am naked. And when I first looked in the mirror, I hated what I saw. I felt like a toddler who was learning who I was all over again. But I have committed myself to showing up every single day. Even days when I literally feel like I’m trapped in a heavy load, hot water, extra wash, washing machine cycle, filled with a months worth of my dad’s sweaty workout clothes, somehow I always make it through. And I’m starting to see that the “missing piece” was never actually missing, but simply covered up by false narratives about my worth being tied to factors outside of myself. Step by step (with a lot of assistance from therapists, specialists, and my people ), I am standing a little bit taller on my own two feet. I am looking in the mirror and staring at the core of who I am. Without the awards. Without the notoriety. Without anything or anyone, but me.
If you ask me “what are you up to these days?” my answers will vary on any given day from “(insert some short, generic BS answer that I’m well)” to “I have no idea” to “I’m making my come back bitchezzz.” But, really, none of those answers matter to me.
I am not and will never be defined by my career, even if I am an out-of-this-world, Lyft driving, therapist, inconsistent-podcasting, mentoring goddess.
I am enough. Exactly as I am. Right now. In this very instant. I will continue to remind myself of this truth until I feel it in every fiber of my being.
Until then, if you need a Lyft ride and/or therapy sesh and/or soccer coaching, and/or know of any great podcast guests and/or are interested in being mentored by me, don’t hesitate to hit me up.
Kendall, Current Occupation: ______naked_________