Sweden & a Little Perspective on the Price We Pay as Pro-Athletes Abroad…

I am officially in Sweden playing for the team called Telge, in Södertalje, Sweden. It’s pretty much a complete 180 from my situation in Lebanon. I have a cute little apartment with actual space to move around and a kitchen! Oh the little luxuries… The team’s gym has 6 courts, we have our own locker room, a sauna, and the weight room all in one place. We also get free gear, are Adidas sponsored, and receive massages/treatment the day after games. I real-life felt like I was an orphan they adopted from a 3rd world country (though not literally) when I first got here. Beirut outside of my specific situation was good, but I was just SOO happy to be in this situation here in Sweden. They would apologize about stuff that was completely irrelevant to me. Such as, apologizing that my apartment wasn’t the absolute best. That they didn’t have my practice gear ready or have a water bottle for me. I looked at them like “You can seriously save your apologizes, I’m just happy to be here. “ haha

Anyone who has played overseas understands that it is nothing of the discipline, organization, or professionalism college was. In Poland I slept on an uncomfortable couch made into a bed the entire 4 months (my back killing me) and good medical treatment was hard to come by. Sometimes you don’t even have a trainer to treat injuries or tape your ankles before games. In Lebanon, we had no practice gear, no treatment, and no real access to a decent gym. It was in no way a professional, organized situation. If we wanted shots we could go to this sub-par gym with slippery, rubber floor, loose rims, and broken nets. We maybe, practiced 3x a week which consisted mostly of less than mediocre scrimmaging. If I was just playing recreationally this would be fine but at a professional level, when it’s your job, it’s not a good situation to rise in. Luckily, I’m no longer there.

I’ve played 2 games since being here. We’ve won both. First game, I got MVP with 23 points/13rbs the first game. Second game, I was 18 pts and 10 rbs. Our team has a lot of potential and so many fantastic shooters, but hasn’t had a real post player all season. So it’s a learning curve on building that chemistry and changing mindsets to utilize me. We will be fine though. Everyone is friendly and positive, which is a nice environment to be around and play the game I love in again. I’m blessed to be in the situation I am now, surrounded by good people and like I’ve said before it takes bad experiences to appreciate the good ones all that much more.

ON A SIDE NOTE..  

I know so many people who wish they could play pro ball overseas. They see it as this amazing “dream” and like it’s a life of luxury. Yes, we get paid to see and experience the world. We get to do a lot of things other people could never dream of doing. We get to be fully immersed in the culture and get paid to play the sport so many people love. We get to delay the inevitable curse of growing up and “adulting”. But I want you to understand that that experience and lifestyle comes at a cost. We pay for it through our relationships with friends and family. We pay for it through a lot of time spent alone in a new country, where we are literally all we got. We pay for it through family time spent mostly FaceTiming our nieces/nephews so they don’t forget us while they grow up without us around. We pay for it on lonely nights abroad, becoming game-masters of Netflix wishing we had good, loving people to come home to every night. Wishing we had people physically present who truly, honestly cared about us and actually know us on that level. We pay for it through long-distance relationships that struggle to survive the 6-8 months in an entirely different time-zone. Through blood, sweat, tears, and occasionally physical injury, we pay. One way or another we pay for the decisions we make on the lifestyle we choose to live. It’s important to me to let you know, we pay. We take the good with the bad.

Sometimes the sacrifice is playing in a country with a terrible league where most players don’t share same level of basketball IQ as what we’re used to. Many players have to make the hard decision to either make more money playing in a bad league with bad basketball or play in a good league for less money. The lucky ones are able to make it in to a country with both, but those are the players who have been able to create a reputation for themselves while remaining healthy. We sacrifice our quality of life and sometimes our happiness in order to make a good amount of money in a short time. Or we accept the Goodwill version of the game we love and grind through all while knowing what quality basketball looks life and feels like. The game we fell in love with and chose as our career, watered down. Like nails on a chalkboard, because we know what “flow”, chemistry, discipline, and great clockwork basketball “IQ” looks like.

For women, we already make less than what men make and are put in worse situations than most male players. Men seem to have it better in the quality of what they receive, the way they are treated, and money they get for playing abroad. Though, I know plenty of guys who have seen some pretty terrible situations too, but women get the short end of the stick on this one 99% of the time.

We face a lifestyle that isn’t exactly the “norm”. It’s not the popular route for women because we’re supposed to find a partner, get married, get a good job, and start a family. Most of the women in this line of work don’t follow that or aren’t able to do it well and are forced to retire. Many men have wives and kids they leave back in the states while they play. Some are lucky enough to take them along, but it’s still a difficult life to live for everyone involved. My friends talk about how hard it is to not be with their kids while they’re gone. The sacrifice to play professional basketball abroad isn’t a light one, by any means.

Most people don’t realize what we sacrifice in order to follow our dreams. We risk our health, our relationships, our finances, our families, often times our sanity in order to keep clawing after and doing what we love. We sometimes float around during the summer months not knowing where our next job will be or when. People ask us over and over what’s next and us not having a good answer for them. Players get called up one night and told they have 2 days to pack up and be on the next plane out of town. It’s not a lifestyle for everyone. In a way, it’s a gypsy lifestyle. I write all of this, not to say our lifestyle is harder than others but to give you perspective. To show you that in every decision, a sacrifice is made. Not everything is as it seems. Not everyone is as they seem. Just something to chew on, from someone standing in a different pair of shoes.

For now, I’m just thankful I have been placed in a good situation, with decent basketball, and good people. I made a hard decision, to be in a place where I could be happy and where the quality of life is 100x better than the situation I was in before in Lebanon. Asking for my release wasn’t an easy thing for me to do. From the month spent in Puerto Rico due to the hurricanes, to my situation in Lebanon, I was tired of just simply “surviving”. I wanted to actually do more than exist and be able to begin enjoying it all again. Find my vibrant self, back again. So here I am… Ready to start exploring, start enjoying, and start living again… Simply enjoying where I’m at .. right .. now…

#StillBlessed 😉

“If you can’t sacrifice for your dream… then it’s not your dream.”

“In order to become the 1%, you must do what the other 99% wont.”

“Everyone wants success, until they see what it takes to get it.”

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Dare To Do More Than Dream…

Anyone who knows me knows that my journey hasn’t been the easiest, nor has it been the hardest anyone’s ever experienced. I’ve been through the ringer in the pursuit of my dreams and still pending…

The funny thing about DREAMS is that a lot of times we are looking at those who are already living their dream, but we don’t see the journey it took them to get there. We don’t see the tears, the blood, the sweat, and often times the unfair, broken moments crashing down around them. We don’t feel  the lonely nights choosing not to do what everyone else does in order to stay on track. We don’t feel the pain, the disappointment, the frustration, the heartache that made the fact that they actually made it happen that much more impressive. We don’t always get to see, read about, or understand the DNA of other’s successes.

For many, a dream is just that… a DREAM. Something unattainable. Something you go to sleep for, so you can fantasize about. Waking in the morning; crashing back to reality. Back to that mundane job you hate with coworkers who don’t want to be there either. Back to that weekly routine of waiting for the weekend. That 9-5 grind on repeat. Something that only those lucky individuals you read about or watch on TV are blessed to be living. Something other people do or live. Like they were “dropped” into that role or won the lottery for it. Praying for that miracle life to be sprung on you.

In my opinion, too many people are just “dreaming” and not “doing”.

Ask yourself: What makes you happy? What motivates you? What kind of change do you want to make in this world? What kind of impact do you want to make in your short lifespan? How do you really want to live it? What kind of work are you willing to put in to get it?

Dreams are meant to be chased. Dreams are meant to be clawed after. Dreams are meant to take pieces, take chunks out of you along the way. Dreams take work! It’s your dream, so why shouldn’t it take parts of you and your time to fuel, to create it?! They say nothing good ever came easy. I believe it.

The pursuit of my dream has broken me physically and mentally. It has tried me over and over again. Most recently, it has put me through not one, but TWO Category 5 hurricanes playing in Puerto Rico. It has left me lonely, staring at the ceiling of a gym at 3 AM wondering what I was even doing. Asking myself, “What am I thinking for daring to dream something so BIG, that at times feels unreachable?” It’s created a lifestyle where having a real meaningful relationship with anyone worthwhile is nearly impossible. Again, staring at the ceiling in a foreign country, where I’m all I have, wondering what’s wrong with me? Taking me to the darkest parts of myself with every knee operation on my resume. It’s left me bawling my eyes out alone in my cold Poland apartment, knee swollen in unbearable pain and heartache knowing another surgery awaited me after a 28+ hour travel day back home. It’s driven me to push my family and my friends away at times so I could bask alone in the crappiness of it all, knowing I’m the only one who understood the heartache I felt. The only one who could see the details unseen or read the language of the pain inside my soul. It’s taken pieces of me inside and out and at times, without meaning to, from those around me as well..

I’m nowhere close to achieving my dream but I do know I’m closer than I would be sitting on my ass dreaming of reaching a destination without the ambition to get in the car and drive. Basketball isn’t my life but it has given me a platform and the confidence to share my struggles with others. It’s given me the ability to help others and motivate young minds. In a way, I guess I’m already living my dream.

In my silence, I found my voice…

In my breaking, I found my making…

In losing myself, I found myself…

In my journey, I found my dream…

The struggle is a part of the dream process. Your steps are the keys pressed down to make the notes, creating the music to the masterpiece of your life.

The question is: How much of that masterpiece are you willing to write? How much are you willing to fail? How much are you willing to fall apart, only to put barely put yourself back together again and again and again?

Dare to DREAM! Dare to claw after them and make them a reality! It’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be fast. It’s not going to be instant gratification. You have to climb to get to the top of that mountain. Ever notice that books are written about and movies are made about those people who faced adversity and overcame it? Those are the stories we like to hear. Those are the people who have the best stories and those same people were dreamers once too. Don’t settle to be less of the person you’re capable of being! Whether you would love to open a business, succeed as an athlete, graduate from college, or even just to live your life you want! Make those steps. Get up and start walking! Start working! Just simply START! Wake up from that fantasy every damn day and start living into your dream, until it starts to become your reality. You’re capable of so much more! You’re capable of more than just simply sitting around dreaming.

Start “Doing”…

 

Dating… in a world where less is more??

Now let’s talk about how hard and oddly how easy it is to find yourself single in this world today. Like, how do you meet other human beings of the opposite sex or same sex depending on your preference, these days? It’s a serious question!! I like having a drink or two every now and then but even then I don’t really have much success in meeting quality guys at the bar, club, local Chipotle…Not to mention, they have to be at least 6 ft to even get on my radar and maybe a ticket out of the friend-zone…if they are lucky. Trying to talk to a guy or even date one is so mind boggling and a rollercoaster in itself. You don’t know how much of yourself to show to them because you don’t want to show them all the crazy you are snuffing out for the time being. You want to seem at least sane and a bit normal (whatever that is anyway). It’s an endless battle for girls at least to be stuck in their head like: “What is he thinking? Why did he say this? Oh he didn’t text back. That must mean he doesn’t like me. What are we?”

Then we all have these crazy moments when we somehow get to the extreme like: “He didn’t text back. He doesn’t respect me. He probably is talking to another girl, three, ten. Yep he’s definitely a player. You deserve so much better! Go off on him for ignoring you. Naw, don’t show him the crazy. Meh, whatever. light him up, he deserves it. …. * no response for 2 hours* “ Okay crap, backtrack and apologize. Blame it on the one – five margaritas.” “Okay you spilled all crazy out and he hasn’t replied. You’re so stupid. Delete him and ignore him if he ever messages back… This is probably why you’re single. ” “oh he texted back! *waits 1 hour for revenge*.. Hey babe, I’m sorry too for being a little crazy.”

It’s a constant mind game. I don’t know about you, but I go through phases where I find myself lonely and wishing I had someone to care about me/the things in my life and then I decide to actively try to date or talk to guys. Then there’s those times where I’m content just doing my own thing because putting energy into that area seems pointless and too time consuming. There’s also that phase right after a failed attempt to talk to someone and you’re like: “Well… THIS is why I am single and it’s really not so bad. I may just live here….. FOREVERRR. It’s getting pretty comfy in here. “

My problem is that I just want to be blunt and put it all out there. I want them to know what they are getting into. Which is, as you can tell from my previous posts, a person with “issues”.  Haha. I’m constantly fighting the role of knowing what I deserve and not settling for anything less than quality or anyone that doesn’t fit in my screwed up puzzle quite right. I’ve always said “You can’t force a puzzle piece into the wrong spot, the picture won’t turn out right.”

If you’re looking for just a piece to fill that hole, then it does the job but the overall scheme/ picture isn’t going to look complete and it isn’t going to be pretty. The right piece is out there, you just have to put the work in, be patient, and find it. Sometimes it just gets kicked around, lost in the chaos, or in between the couch cushions. I’d say this past year has tested me to practice what I preach and taught me how painful it is to let go of those people you care about but are no good for you. That however is a topic is for another day and another blog.

It’s weird how being blunt scares people off. How sometimes being too real and showing them your undiluted self, scares them. I just want to be like: I’m looking for someone for the long haul. Someone I can actually have deep conversations with, not just superficial/surface conversations. Someone I can relate to and can relate to me and let me tell you guys AND gals, there is NOTHING more sexy or more attractive than someone with ambition, intelligence, kindness, humor, and LOYALTY. Someone who knows what they want or even WHO they want. Nobody should ever tell you anything different. Have goals! Know the kind of person you want in your life for the long haul and know the kind of people you want to be surrounded by. Know the kind of person you want to be and be it! Have some sort of drive towards something! Have an open mind and constantly be thirsty to learn and gain knowledge! Don’t settle for who you are today because tomorrow’s going to come and you don’t want to look back and see that all you’ve been doing is standing in the same spot for the past year. It’s in our nature to want to feel fulfilled and accomplish things, no matter how small. Keep moving, keep walking, and run if you can!

I had a great conversation about this exact thing with someone months ago. It was my birthday weekend, so it only seems right that I was able to relate on this topic with someone else. It was refreshing to know for a fact that there are girls out there that have the same line of thinking as me and that I’m not just screwed up in the head after all those concussions I suffered in college. Nice to know that I only came out with the bare minimum “Dain Bramage” as my dad would put it. 😉

Dear men, let me just say that being a gentleman in the “old school” meaning of that word, will never go out of style. I don’t know a single girl who wouldn’t appreciate a door being opened for them, a call instead of a text, just to see how their day was. An ACTUAL date that requires thought instead of just “Netflix and chill”. Chivalry isn’t dead, it’s just that we allow ourselves to accept less and be less. Don’t allow yourself to be any less of the man you are supposed to be and ladies don’t allow your man to be anything less either. But don’t allow yourself to be any less of the woman you are supposed to be either. Be a real WOMAN or MAN in the purest form. Not that watered down version society deems acceptable as the “norm” now-a-days. BE better. DO better!

If you already are in a relationship guys, the best advice I’ve given some of my own friends is that “When in doubt, do more!”. When she says,  “Don’t’ come over.” You best be already on your way over. When she says she’s “fine”… She’s not and you best already be already at a McDonalds picking her up a Mcflurry or something sweet… Just saying… You’re welcome!! You’ll thank me one day when you find your better half, who makes your days all that much brighter. Like I said in my last blog, don’t settle for less than what you deserve because you deserve the world! But you also deserve to be pushed to be the best version of yourself possible. Don’t settle for being LESS than who you can be because people also deserve to experience the BEST version of YOU too!