April 28

By the age of seventeen, I believed dreams could be premonitions, including this one. All I remember from this dream is speaking with my Aunt Fanny, who had died almost ten years prior. For some reason, she had purple hair. The only thing I remember her saying was April 28 was the end of the world. Clearly, that did not happen in the literal sense or any sense. In fact, I don’t recall any tragedies occurring April 28 to the this day.

I do recall calling my then ex boyfriend, Damian* at 2am explaining this dream and being afraid. Today, I realize I must’ve sounded psychotic and paranoid, but then, it felt real. It felt real because I still believed, from my freshman year, that I was not going to live to see the age of eighteen. Again, there was still no reason to feel that way, but I did. Because my high school was a private school that excepted girls from various towns and cities, the school had buses for those that qualified. I remember sitting by the window and quietly tearing because I was afraid I would not survive long enough to make it home. The possibility of enduring a deadly accident seemed too real and highly plausible. There were some days I was afraid to leave my house because of what or who was on the other side. If a car drove too close to me, I was convinced it was someone stalking me. I sometimes sat on my bed and imagined my funeral. What would my coffin look like? Who would be there? I was preparing for the end without thinking of the positives that could be in my future.

April 28 came and went numerous times. I enjoyed my eighteenth birthday and am writing this at 23. The end is likely not known for anyone so preparing for it just makes you lose today. This was relevant for life in general and track and field. As a track athlete, I was never great. I was never the All-American that people wanted to meet and run against. When listing the greatest high school, college, and post collegiate athletes, my name was never in that conversation. Locally, people were aware of me, but nothing beyond that. For this reason, I thought my running career was over many times.

I ended my senior year of high school barely running the 400m hurdles any faster than when I started. By then, I was strongly interested in running in college, but I knew nothing about the recruiting process. My school was a small school and did not have a track team my first year. We were a track club. By sophomore year of high school, my school became an official member of NJSIAA, basically the state track and field association. Because we were so new to the sport as a team and I was the only runner on the team with any chance and desire of getting some sort of athletic scholarship or recognition from colleges, the athletic director and track coach had no idea how to even get schools to look at me.

After running in state championships  senior year, I competed for my youth summer club team Transy East in Paterson. This was my second to last year competing for this youth team, but I new the natural end was coming. By the time I had reached the young women’s 15 to 18 age group of summer track, I realized a significant number of girls I compete with had stopped competing. By then, high school seniors have either received a college scholarship or decided to quit running. Regardless, by the end of the summer as qualifying rounds for youth nationals approached, conversations about school choices became more frequent. I was fixated on going to Villanova University. The first year, I ran for Transy East, the summer of my junior year of high school, I met Nicholas*. Nicholas was a former member of the team who was also a 400m hurdler. By then, he attended Villanova University in Pennsylvania. Doing research on the school, I noticed the school had a notable reputation in the track and field world and at the time was top 10 in the country for its business school, my intended major. The school was located close to Philadelphia with easily accessible Septa train lines from the campus to the city. I loved Philadelphia. The murals on the walls showed so much culture, and it was nice to be in an area with a large black population. The tall, connected homes reminded me of scenes from Harry Potter and black history oozed from the streets. The Nova campus itself reminded me of my high school. I visited the campus with my mother during my senior year of high school. We drive through a suburban yet concrete area to reach the front of campus which hid behind a large, black gate, like MHCA. Once we enter a gate, there is a small, grassy area to the left and a the athletic facilities, including the notable Pavilion which hosted home basketball games and the Jake Nevin fieldhouse where the track was located.  Directly ahead was the Nova church. Like St. John’s Episcopal church, the building probably dated back to the 1800s or earlier, beautiful grey brick with two steeples. Based on what I saw and new about the campus, I was fixated. I had to attend the school no matter the cost, and this small, private institution of about 6000 students had a large tuition cost. I was determined to work and have numerous personal bests the summer of my senior year to get a scholarship to go to my dream school.

That did not happen.

I ran decent times. I barely hit the walk-on standards for the team. To be honest, I might not have even hit the standard at the time. My summer coaches, Ronald* and Wayne* and the man who helped me look into other schools and coach of Jersey City Gladiators, James* all tried to get me to choose a more affordable school willing to give me an athletic or academic scholarship. I was not interested. Even when Wayne* felt I belonged in a division II institution, I was not changing my mind. By seventeen years old, despite my times, I knew track was my sport and I have the possibility to be one of the best in the country. However, all that conviction did not help me improve my times and this was the first time I was afraid I would not make it onto the team and my track career would be over.

Spoiler alert, I did compete with Villanova as a walk on, but it did not ease my fears for long. By sophomore year, I decided to transfer. Despite improving significantly during my time at Villanova, my times still didn’t seem fast enough to get a full ride to another school. Regardless, I was as fixated on leaving Villanova as I was for going. My mindset was, “I don’t care what is next. I just have to go. God will get me through this”. This was a second time where I believed my track career was over. What if no school wanted me? What if Villanova decided to retract its 50% offer? Where would I go? What if my new coach isn’t good? I was afraid that this decision could end all of my goals of being a world class athlete.

Spoiler alert, I was offered a full ride from Coach Kyle* at the University of Connecticut, but it did not ease my fears for long. By senior year, despite no longer running the 400m hurdles, I ran well. I was Second Team All-American on the team’s 4×400 relay. I was conference champion in the 800m. I competed in NCAA East Regionals in the 800m and missed the second round by .004 seconds. I had other accomplishments as well. Despite these accomplishments, my times still weren’t world class level. I was angry and frustrated. By the end of outdoor season, there were a lot of emotions brewing within the team between the athletes and the coaches. It was overwhelming and not how I wanted to end my track career. Despite these times, I still wanted to run professionally. However, the same questions and others came to my mind. What if no coach wanted me? What if I couldn’t afford to train pro? Where would I go? What if my next coach isn’t good? Again, I was afraid that this decision could end all of my goals of being a world class athlete.

Spoiler alert, I was accepted into the UCONN Department of Communications Graduate Program as a full time student and teaching assistant which waived my tuition and provided a stipend large enough to pay to live. In addition, my 800m coach from UCONN, Coach Mark was willing to continue to train me. However, my fears were not eased for long. In fact, since running post-collegiate, my fears constantly loomed over my head. These fears manifested itself in anxiety levels strong enough to have thoughts of suicide and go to counseling on campus. They also manifested in my dreams. Some of my dreams involve the white car and my identity and the broken school.

 

You Can Have Your Identity Back

As I always say, I am all about dreams and dream interpretations. Dreams have meanings that, especially when repeated, are worth reading into most times. This dream that I had during my nap in the indoor track facility last week has led me to make yet another life changing decision.

If you have not read my beach post, I will summarize. During this spring break, the track team went to the beach where I met with them because I could not travel with them because I am not on the team. On the beach I had a revelation that I was alone and needed to change my life. Since then I gradually became angrier and quickly lost my motivation to run. I was not running well in practice and I was crying before during and after every workout. One day, I curled into a ball on the high jump mat that is placed against the wall in the indoor track facility at UConn and this is where I had a dream.

I was driving this white car with a black grill on this two lane highway and was just at the top of a hill. I don’t know how but I suddenly found myself standing on the side of the road but my car was still in drive and rolled full speed down this large two way street where at the end I knew there was an intersection. Because this car was a rental I immediately started to panic wondering how would I be able to pay for any accident damages that is going to happen. I walk down this hill and see an accident at the intersection where the two cars that collided were covered. I looked underneath both covers and realized neither of these cars were my white car. I go to a small shed to the side of the intersection and asked these two men if they have my car. They first pull out a small, and I mean toy size small, grey older car to see if I’d claim it. They showed me other small size cars but none of them were my new white car with the large black front.

Apparently I was going somewhere specific and needed to get there soon. I go to this gorgeous black woman. She must have been about 30 years old. Skin glowing. Hair was slicked back into a long pony tail. She was friendly and so confident riding a four wheel motorcycle . I got on this bike with this gorgeous woman and we drove. Our first stop was a colorful but clearly old day care.

I guess this woman had a daughter. We get there and I see my former sprint coach, Coach T, playing with some little girl, about 5 or 6 years old. She runs past me and looks at me like I knew her. I knew her too but I didn’t know how so all I could do was awkwardly pat this girl on the head. She turns to me and says “I don’t like when you do that.” I reach down to give her a hug instead when she runs to another room in the day care with those small tables that barely go up to your shins because they were clearly meant for small children. There, she spoke to pretty 30 lady. The woman tells her “I think you should focus on track and school.” The little girl was actually reluctant because she wanted to dance but the woman insisted this girl focused on track.

The little girl sulked and grabbed her red umbrella and was preparing to leave with me and the pretty woman by getting her lunchbox and backpack. Then, and older white woman, whom I’m guessing is the one in charge of this day care, tells me she cannot leave unless I have a group a of 8 people.

Fast forward to outside the front of the day, we are clearly kidnapping two or three older people and putting them in the back of the trunk of this older, maybe early 2000s or late 1990s, car which was clearly also stolen (dream-me is so badass). Somehow this was approved and the dream ends with me and my sprint coach in the back seat of this car with this little girl in the back with us and this pretty woman looking in the rear view mirror at the three of us. I would say this was the end of the dream but something in my dream made a surprise appearance in my life which made all the difference.

 

Now To Real Life:

Where to begin!? For the images in my dream, I hyperlinked them to dream meanings found on my favorite site, dreammoods. But this dream led me to make the decision to train with my sprint coach, Coach Terrelonge. Prior to this dream, I had numerous dreams with various symbols indicating I needed change and it was coming soon. I did not know what change was coming until this recent dream. It was a lot of debating. There were many benefits to training for the 800 with Coach Clark, but my heart told me something needed to change and I started with coaching. Why coaching? I was closer to Coach T. Despite not training with him, he was a comforting person to be around which after my beach experience, I realized is what I needed.

Is basing such a career changing decision off a dream wise? It is incredibly risky and not recommended. However, I believe I am moving in the right direction. The next week after this dream, Monday April 4 was the day I told Coach Clark that I wanted to train with Coach T. It was the same day I brought my blue Nissan Rogue to a body shop to get its bumper fixed. Because it would take a couple of days to fix, I needed a rental (I wonder who sees where this is going yet). I waited for the rental to come, Enterprise was about ten minutes late but I’m over it, and of course what drives up to the front of the body shop was a 2015 white toyota corolla with a black front.

This was the car I was looking for in my dream. If you did not read the link meaning to dreams about cars, this one I will remind you. Cars are symbolic of your identity. To lose your car or have it drive away is a way to say you are losing your identity. Prior to this decision, I felt lost. I didn’t believe I could qualify for the Olympics. I didn’t have a goal in track and I almost wanted to quit. I was also mentally and emotionally exhausted from people telling me the time span of my track career, what I should be doing instead of track, my talent level and so on. I knew changing coaches in the middle of the track season during Olympic year was a crazy decision but it was MY decision. Making this decision based on what I believe is the right choice for me and not the one that would get the most approval was me making a step to take back my identity.

Driving around in that 2015 white toyota corolla felt like God telling me, “you can have your identity back.”

 

 

Proverbs 22 The Right Circle Part 2

Proverbs 22 lists the various people who are seen as favorable and unfavorable in the eyes of God. I first mentioned some types of people that one should avoid if one wants to be successful in track and field. Track and Field is seen as a solo sport. We compete for ourselves and sometimes train by ourselves. However, the circle of people we surround ourselves with, including our coaches, trainers, training partners, and supporters, influence our success.

Proverbs 22 describes the type of people we should look for to be in our circle and the type of people we should be. Proverbs 22:3 mentioned the prudent man who foresees evil and avoids it. Not only should we be prudent, but we should be around prudent people as well. First, no one knows ourselves better than us. We know our addictions and we know the problems we cause ourselves. As an athlete, I know my problem is laziness. I could sleep all day if possible, but sleeping all day doesn’t allow me to speak about how God has blessed me through track and field. Being prudent is avoiding the things the deter me from working my hardest in track and field. To combat my laziness, I make sure to avoid the voices in my head telling me to just sleep. I make the conscious effort to go out and be productive and challenge myself physically. Being around prudent people who know your sins is important too. There should be someone we trust to be honest with some of our problems. That way, when that person knows you are in trouble or falling back to old bad habits, they can help you find a better path to happiness. A prudent person thinks ahead.

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Proverbs 22:9 talks about being a generous person. Running unattached has taught me the power of generosity. Although I am excited to run unattached, it is difficult to lose some of the benefits of being an undergraduate student-athlete. I miss the days where we received  new gear every year. I miss the days where I had a locker to leave my stuff. I am blessed to have former teammates who help me out when they can. If I need a swipe into the dining hall, they are there. If I need to leave my bag in the corner of the locker room, they won’t touch it. These may be small instances of kindness, but they make my days much easier. As I progress in track and in life, I hope to gain new benefits that I can share with others. Maybe even one day be able to afford the generosity that LeBron James has paid towards youth with his foundation and paying millions for children’s college tuition.

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Proverbs 22:17 mentions sayings from the wise. This verse, as all the others, can be looked at much more in depth than I will look at it for this post. I spoke about the importance of being wise in track and field, but it is important to listen to those who are wise. The verse says to “bow down thy hear.” To me, I read that as an act of humility. It does not matter who we are, and track specifically, it does not matter where we are in our track careers whether we are Olympians or new to the sport. There is an older athlete or a coach who has been in our shoes and some of our experiences and can give us necessary knowledge to get through this phase in our lives. Often times the wisdom stays with us and like this picture of Kareem Abdul Jabbar, the person sticks with us and watches us grow.

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Proverbs 22:29, the final verse of Proverbs 22, writes “Seest thou a man diligent in his business? He shall stand before kings. He shall not stand before mean men.” It wasn’t until today, before church, as I scrolled through my Instagram, I reached a small epiphany. I noticed post after post were pictures and comments of great athletes including Sanya Richards Ross, Ajee Wilson and Maz Okoro doing training activities similar to what I do in practice or hanging out with other people I know. Post after post were pictures and videos of nationally ranked collegiate athletes I have met running great openers for the indoor season. Then in church, I sat between my coach, Coach Clark, who has coached numerous sub two minute runners and Chanelle Price, a world class mid distant runner. As I sat there, I realized I was among kings. By no means am I at these elite runners’ level yet, but my circle of associates and people I follow in social media have become the very people that I aspire to be. It took years of injuries and hard workouts to get to where I am, and it will take that same effort and more to keep achieving. What I am saying is remain diligent in your work. Remain focused on the vision God gave you. When you work hard enough, you tend to attract others like you.

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