When you would have asked 9 year old Alyssa what she wanted to be when she grew up, she probably would have said something like “orthopedic surgeon” (thanks to the amazing Doctor who fixed my broken arm!), or “a lawyer” (probably because I watched a lot of People’s Court – it was on before the Price is Right at 11). Basically anything that involved a lot of school, a lot of effort, and a lot of time. I was dreaming big, important career dreams. Even through college, when I realized I didn’t actually want to spend any more time in school than necessary, I was looking at jobs that would require long workweeks, and really “paying your dues” in the first years of your career to move up the ladder. Actuary, consultant, investment banker….these were what I gravitated towards for a career.
Nine year old Alyssa wouldn’t have said she wanted to be a professional triathlete.
But, 9 year old Alyssa was out in the backyard just about every day kicking the soccer ball around. She was out there jumping from the swing set, challenging the neighborhood boys to running races, and propping up a wooden beam on bricks so that she could pretend she was Dominique Dawes (her older sister was always Kim Zemeskle). Side note: don’t forget to put some bricks under the middle of the beam too. Otherwise you may find yourself breaking the wood in the middle of a split jump and the beam will be gone forever 🙁
Nine year old Alyssa – shoot, even twenty-two year old Alyssa – would never have thought that a future – let alone a career – as a professional athlete was possible, so she just didn’t entertain those thoughts.
It has taken me awhile to be comfortable with the fact that life isn’t always what you dream it will be like as a 9 year old. I don’t have a crazy job in consulting where I’m trying to run the corporate world – rather, I’m quite happy being somewhat low in the pecking order. I don’t have a master’s degree, let alone a PhD….nor do I have any intention of going back to school. It has taken me awhile to come to grips with the fact that my 25 hour training weeks are the long days in the office, even if that’s not what pays the bills right now. And that working my way to earning a pro card and racing with the elites is just as meaningful as spending these years working my way up to the corner office.
This is a hard perspective to keep when you do hear a lot of “I know you want to just workout all the time, but what do you really want to do for your career?” from the outside world. But once I realized it, I was able to look back at my past and see that I just might have been working for this from the very start – I just didn’t know it yet. And once I’ve realized that, I’ve found encouragement around just about every corner. From friends, to family, to the internets, the support and the encouragement is there.
You just have to open your heart, and mind, to it.