My basketball career ended yesterday. It's kind of a weird feeling, considering it's the only career I've ever known, even before I had a career. Since high school, there's never been a time I wasn't working at least five days a week, usually six, towards a basketball driven end. And now, at age 28, it's over.
After my first three weeks in Lebanon, I thought this might happen. The team I was playing for was great, and my teammates were amazing. They all had jobs outside of basketball and would come to our 6:30pm practice after having worked an 8 to 5 day. While I was getting paid a pretty good salary, they would come and work their butts off for a little more than free. It made me stop and ask myself, if I weren’t getting paid for this, would I still be doing it?
Since 9th grade the answer had been undeniably yes. Yes, I would continue this love/hate relationship with basketball. I would do it because I still had a hunger that wouldn't allow me to let go, or even loosen my grip. I would do it because in the end, it was always worth it. But at that moment, when I asked myself that question, I had to answer honestly: no, I wouldn't.
If I weren’t getting paid, I wouldn't be here lifting weights and going to practice. I wouldn't continue training, or chasing my hoop dreams of a return to the WNBA. Without the motivation of a paycheck, I would go home, to my family and the potential of a relationship, and pursue a career in writing. Writing was something I would do for free. Then it hit me: I was falling in love all over again.
We had been through too much together, basketball and I. Similar to when the love of your life has wronged you one too many times. You really want to forgive him or her because of all the good times spent together, but you can't find the energy. That's how my time in Lebanon has been. Basketball and I have developed the type of deeply fulfilling friendship that can only be born out of true intimacy. But the love affair is over.
Sitting in the locker room after my last game, I didn't feel sad; I felt unexpectedly relieved. It's time. Even though I don't have a job lined up, or any concrete idea of what I will do for money, or even what coast I’ll be living on in three months, this is something I have to do. There have been so many times in my life I've had to jump without knowing exactly where or how I will land. And this is another one. It's not like I'm jumping with no possibilities. I do have those. But there's a huge difference between possibilities, and counting on someone sending you a check every month.
I'm not scared really. It's more of an anxious feeling; a desire to know what's coming next. But I've always been taken care of, and I know this situation will be another example of that. The combination of my faith in my work ethic and, more importantly, my faith in my God, allows me to believe that.
One of my favorite quotes is, “What would you do if you knew you could not fail?” But the thing is, God promised me success. So really, I can't fail. Where we sometimes get mixed up is when his definition of success and our definition of success are not the same. I always thought my success would come from basketball. I wanted the Lisa Leslie type of success. And I've had some, but not nearly at the level I dreamed of. But after all the injuries and mishaps, and now with my basketball career ending at 28, it's obvious that "Lisa Leslie success" wasn't in the cards for me. God must have meant success in some other way. Another thing I’ve always wanted for my career is to have a choice in when I walked away. And that's what this is. In coming to play in Lebanon, it was my declaration that no one, not the Atlanta Dream, not naysayers, not even my own body, was going to tell me when my career was over. I wasn't going to be forced to retire because of injuries or lack of options.
My time in Beirut has been amazing. I've played well, stayed healthy, and felt what it was like to be part of something bigger than myself again, which is hands down, the best feeling in sports. I was flattered and grateful when my team here offered me a multi-year deal to come back and play for them. But as much as I would love to, I can't take it. It's time to move on. And God has given me too many other talents to stop right here and settle for some job I don’t love. I just have to figure out how to use them.
I will always be an athlete. It's the mindset that has made me a fighter my entire life, and it won’t change. I will always speak up for female athletes and try to represent them well, because they deserve it. But I'm looking forward to this new adventure in this transient experience we call life. I'm up for the challenge.
So here I am, jumping off the ledge - figuratively speaking of course. You’ll know when I land, because like everything else, I'll blog about it! Lol.
“For we walk by faith, not by sight.” ~ 2 Corinthians 5:7