I am an avid Harry Potter fan. As a boring, middle class girl with overprotective family, the idea of escaping to this magical world was wonderful. At twenty years old, I went to the Harry Potter theme park at Universal Studios, and I felt like my life was complete. My constant need to escape the loneliness of reality led me to often blend fiction and reality. For years as a little child I believed the cartoons on the television were real and I only needed to find a way to access the world through the television to be with Jimmy Neutron and others.
I always wanted to be a witch. My dreams reflected that. This dream is one of the few storylines I remember. I was in my backyard in New Jersey with some girls from my high school. My house was deceptively small, and my yard was actually small. I was learning magic for the first time, trying to levitate something with my wand. Fast forward to the end of the dream, I was standing on a diving board high, at least two stories high, above this pool in this dark natatorium with dark wood paneled walls.. The pool was so blue, the water glowed. This woman reminiscent of the flamboyant host in The Hunger Games movie series explains the task. I needed to jump into this pool to prove my magical capabilities. In my attempt to jump, I end up leaping to the wooded walls and running along the walls on some Spiderman shit. On this journey I ran past some African masks hung on the walls. Then I woke up. I don’t know if I actually made it to the pool.
I was about thirteen or fourteen years old but still believed in magic. I believed in the experience of learning. I believed in taking small leaps of faith and excepting where I landed. Like my dream, like most people, magic started at home. It starts on our blocks, in our backyards, or in our basements. I loved Harry Potter because the books always started in the mundane muggle world where some random magical moment unleashes an entire magical adventure. I loved the books because there was a character for everyone. We are or have a Harry Potter, Malfoy, Hermoine, Ron and Voldemort in our lives. We definitely all have a Dumbledore, some caring wise person who is a positive influence, in our lives. Dumbledore is a family member that always throws bible verses at us in every family function. Dumbledore is the teacher who saw a special talent in us and noted it in club recommendations, encouraging comments on coursework or blatant compliments. Dumbledore is a pastor or even a friend.
Today, I believe less in magic but more in this inexplicable human capability to exceed expectations. I believe in this natural human inclination to never be stagnant, either physically, emotionally or intellectually. Think beyond your backyard and take leaps.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
I’m no saint but I do make the effort to go to church. This past Sunday, my Pastor based his sermon off of Proverb 8:14 “Council is mine, and sound wisdom: I am understanding; I have strength.” There were so many great insights my pastor showed the church from this verse. I am excited to apply what I’ve learned to my track and field career.
“Council is mine”
First I learned that the knowledge we need to succeed is already with us. After 8 years of running, the knowledge I need to perform my best is already in me. There is so much to know in track and field so for this post I’ll use my top 5.
1. Track is 10 percent physical and 90 percent mental. Track unlike other sports is a solo sport where you have to push yourself.
2. Track is a jealous sport. If you don’t give it your all you won’t get much out of it.
3. You are your own competition.
4. Warming up and cooling down are just as important as the workout.
5. When something is hurting, it’s okay to stop.
“And sound wisom”
My pastor defined this as knowing how you feel. He also differentiates between intellect and wisdom. There are a lot of intellectual people in track and field. Experienced coaches and athletes will tell you or try to persuade you to run a certain way or what times you should pursue or where your career should go. I know from experience coaches have told me I would not be as fast as other runners but I know God instilled in me a passion and drive unique that will help me succeed. When my summer track coach told me I should not go to a DI school for college, I worked my way from a walk on at Villanova University, a DI school with a strong history in track and field, to being an All American with a full scholarship at the University of Connecticut, another great DI school. It is wisdom, understanding yourself and what God drives you to do that should have the last word. Too many times in track, the rational thing to happen does not. The one who was the favorite to win doesn’t win or someone of a certain body type should be competing in a certain event but excels in another. Success comes with doing what feels right and when intellect and feeling combine correctly, that is knowing the different ways of training and knowing what feels right for you, is when an athlete is wise.
“I am understanding”
My pastor explained this to mean being a representative of God. When people look at you, they should know there is a God. It is a blessing to be an athlete. The ability not only to walk and move is a blessing but to do so in a way that inspires others, allows you to travel, allows you to meet others and help you financially is a blessing that should be shared with others. As an athlete, you are in the spotlight more than others. People are watching your progress and how you hold yourself on and off the track. To be a representative of God, you need to perform with confidence and win or lose, carry yourself with humility and optimisim.
“I have strength”
My pastor explained a lot in this part. I learned the last word of a line in Hebrew poetry is the most important. Because strength is the last word of the verse, it is the focus of the verse. This verse is meant to explain how one gets strength, by having knowledge, wisdom, and being a representative of God. Strength is so important in athletics. Of course an athlete needs to be physically strong, but to compete to your best, you must be strong in your mind.
The pastor acknowledged the structure of the verse and related it to God. God is at the beginning giving you the knowledge you need to succeed and at the end giving you strength. This is appropriate to talk about for 2016. It’s a new year and there may already be questions on what is the next move in your life. Just remember God guided you to the end of 2015 and is there for you in 2016. Sometimes you need to focus on being positive rather than what’s going to happen next because God already has His end goal planned for you.
This will be the first year I compete as an unattached 800m runner. This is my second semester as a graduate student in the Masters of Communications program at the University of Connecticut and a graduate assistant teaching public speaking to college undergrads.
2015 was the Year of Forgiveness. A strange resolution, but necessary. As an athlete, I compete the best when my mind is free and relaxed. Holding onto anger, resentment, regret caused by others or yourself only adds emotional weight which holds you back from competing and training to your best ability.
The Year of Forgiveness was also meant for my perfectionists out there. As an athlete, not every practice is going to be perfect and not every race is going to end with a personal record. For me, it was like the end of the world when I didn’t run well. I mean on the floor head in my hands end of the world. It felt as if that race was a reflection of all the work I’ve put in in training and talent. Of course that’s not the case. So under the Year of Forgiveness was learning to let go of my own mistakes and downfalls. Just Let. It. Go.
So 2016 is here and The Show is about to begin. This is the year everything I’ve learned is put into action. Although I never stop learning, this year is where it counts.
What do I need to put on a show?
You’ve got your supporting actors aka your support system. They may not be on the track with me on competition day but they are their pushing me and encouraging me. This is what I love about Track Nation. The track community is so supportive.
You’ve got your director aka my coach. I am so blessed to be trained this year by Coach Clark. He’s coached so many great middle distance athletes before me and I plan to train and challenge myself until I am one of the names on that list that no one forgets.
You’ve got the stage. My home, the track.
You’ve got an audience. In that large group is everyone you’ve ever met and people you will soon meet. Let’s remember, the audience isn’t always cheering and not everyone in the audience appreciates or cares about all the behind the scenes work you’ve put in to get to perform. Sometimes you’ll have audience members who show up just to see you fail. Sometimes, the audience isn’t even coming to see you. In college and high school I wasn’t a track superstar but people learned about me overtime. Now, I am a lone runner representing myself. This is the year I make a name for myself and introduce myself to the audience.
Finally, you have the producer. This is the one who oversees it all including, choosing the cast and director and even funding the show. I would love to say I am the producer of this show, but I would be lying if I did not acknowledge God. He instilled this talent in me and had me go through different trials in order to be in the position I am in now. God created this vision of athletic greatness in me that I could never get out of my head. Even as an okay high school runner who never even made it to nationals or other big high school meets, I felt the urge to look up Olympic standards because I had the audacity to believe I could be a great runner like the Olympians. And when no one else believed me or understood why I worked so hard, I knew I was following a vision that a great producer instilled in me. I have been so blessed to be able to afford to pursue my dream because God blessed me with a supportive mother and introduced to me to all of the right people in my collegiate career. When I could no longer afford to be a walk on athlete at Villanova University, God introduced me to Coach Terrelonge whom I have been blessed to work with my first year at UConn. God is intentional in every way. Every person I’ve encountered has affected me in a way that has made me better. Every failure has been a lesson that has made me stronger.
After 8 years of running, competing for 2 prestigious universities, working with numerous coaches and more track meets than I can count, it is time to put it all together into an amazing competition season.