“That is what is so admirable..The willingness to stare failure down in the face and shove your middle finger back at it…Because there’s no such thing as a lack of adversity…The point isn't to get away from the shit. The point is to find the shit you enjoy dealing with.” - The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck, Mark Manson
Perhaps there are some years that you look back on and say to yourself, “Damn. That was a good freaking year.” Maybe you got a promotion, or you reached your career high ranking, or you got married (dogs are better, but to each their own). Well, my friends, 2017 was not that year for me.
A few weeks ago, I had to do a 7 1/2 mile beach run that began at a parking lot and ended at Fort Lauderdale by the pier. When you reached the pier, the run was finished. About five minutes into my run, my headphones broke, so I spent the next hour or so alone with my thoughts (I enjoy being alone, but certainly not with my thoughts). That wasn't the worst part, though. The worst part was that about half a mile in, I saw the pier. “Alright, look at that! It's the pier, I can see it! This isn't so bad!” I swear, every step I took as I ran closer to that pier, it got farther and farther away. I could see this stupid pier for seven miles, and it literally never ever felt like I was going to reach it.
That's kind of how 2017 went for me, if I had to describe my year using a poorly framed athletic metaphor. What I'm trying to say is, it was long, it was tough, and it felt like I was getting further away from my goals, no matter how hard I ran towards them. To make matters worse, my headphones broke a few months into the year. (No, not my actual headphones - think outside the box, people.) Like my run, I found myself unable to avoid my own thoughts as the year dragged on. I couldn't mentally get away from the smallest of failures, and I couldn't accept or deal with adversity when it came my way - and boy, did it come my way.
I wasn't going to write about my year, because who feels like telling everyone, “Hey! I failed a lot! Over and over again!” But, this is a part of life - especially athletics. Of course, the year wasn't a complete bust. I won my first doubles title, and did have good wins and solid tournaments - but they were too few and far between, both for myself and my idea of what I wanted the year to be like.
One of the biggest reasons that my year went downhill was because when faced with failure coupled with adversity, I buckled. I think that this was one of the first years in my life that I felt like I had a constant stream of shit thrown at me, from all directions. (Excuse the expression) When one bad thing came and went, another problem arose. And another, and another. I'm not talking about on court issues, either, although those were thrown in as well just for good measure. As I began to stress out more and more about tennis, I watched my grandma slip away from Alzheimer's. I saw my family come together for something so sad. I missed her funeral because I was at a tournament. My sister lost her baby when she was five months pregnant. The list goes on, but I won't go into harrowing details, because everyone has problems, and who really wants to listen to me whine about mine?
The bottom line is that the stress I felt about tennis only increased with each loss, and my failures on court - however minor - were magnified by off court issues. I let things build and build until, inevitably, everything began to fall. Instead of using each failure and personal setback to build me up, I freaked out. Did I take each failure and “shove my middle finger back at it”? Certainly not. Because of this, I didn't allow myself to grow as a player. I didn't want to make necessary changes because change means even more failure; you have to fail before you can succeed. You can't be successful in anything if you're afraid to fail. To top it all off, I spent the year feeling sorry for myself because life happened. News flash: life isn't always good.
It took me moving to Florida (there was a rumor going around that I had moved to Australia? As lovely as that sounds, this is false) and basically uprooting my entire life to realize that I was in no way productive or helpful to myself in 2017. I took failure and adversity and I allowed it to dictate my emotions and decisions. I was, at times, a brat and a baby. I couldn't accept or understand why all of these bad things kept happening, and I couldn't accept when I worked my butt off just to not be immediately success on the court. I set myself up for failure because I didn't want to accept that in order to improve, I had to fail. Amigos, instant gratification coupled with a perfect life are simply not things that the world gives us.
What I learned from 2017 was that bad stuff happens. It happens often. You’ll fail a million times. You’ll have countless personal problems. Things won't go your way on a daily basis. But, if you really care about something, you'll accept the bad, as it's a stepping stone for success. Adversity and failure will be handed to you, and you’ll hand it right back. “No thanks, I'm good!” This past year really showed me how you have to be comfortable with the knowledge that shit is going to hit the fan, and in the toughest moments, you have to fight back and get through it in a productive and positive way. Accept that life is going to suck sometimes, and be okay with it as you find other roads to keep moving forward.
Former Hawkeye now playing tennis professionally; Journalism major.