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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Take a Step Outside…

Since I’ve gone MIA for a bit I figured I should throw an update out there to catch people up on my adventures. I am currently living in Beirut, Lebanon. From what I’m told, the night life here is great and the food is spectacular. So far I’ve managed to make my daily home base a café right down the road called “HOOK” where I’ve made friends with the owner and her family. The area I’m living in is very much a residential community where people park wherever they can find an empty few feet of space and I’m sure a few dozen people get hit by cars on the daily because the lack of sidewalks. It’s definitely a different world but the people are very nice. A few blocks down the way is a more ritzy area where there’s a great social scene. A few low key bars and nice restaurants to eat out at, mostly by myself. Haha One thing I’ve learned traveling, living in a foreign country, and trying to get the most out of every place I visit is to not be afraid to go out and do things alone. Not everyone is as eager to fully immerse themselves in it and some people are just here to play ball and get paid. I find that a bit sad, but to each their own. Not everyone gets this opportunity to get paid to experience the world and not everyone will get to live somewhere completely out of their comfort zone like we do. The other day I went out and had a glass of wine and devoured an entire pizza while onlookers watched me enjoy my table for one and be the fatty my momma raised me to be. Corn fed and Iowa Bred. I won’t lie though, I was initially nervous because I had never been to the Middle East and because of all the tension over here. But Beirut isn’t at all like I imagined and hasn’t in any way made me feel uncomfortable living here. Even though my tall, Amazonian, ginger self gets stared down literally everywhere I go.  I kind of stand out just a wee bit.

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I wouldn’t say my living accommodations are spectacular at the moment but I’m just accepting where I am and working with what I got. On a positive note, I’ve only been electrocuted about 3 times since being here. One while trying to use the washer and another while trying to use my stovetop. Lebanon is already trying to kill me. Lol But overall, I’m not high maintenance and I’ve become very good at adapting to my surroundings. We don’t have a car so our teammates pick up the other Americans and I for practice daily. Which also means I do a lot of walking if I want to go anywhere somewhat close to me. It’s okay I could use the extra exercise and work through all my untapped reserves from not playing consistently for a while. We’ve played two games so far and lost both of them. One of them was to the top team in Lebanon but the other should’ve been easily won. I however wasn’t making anything for the life of me besides 3’s the first game. Makes sense right? Lol The further out you get the more accurate your shot becomes? The second game I played much better but not well enough to pull out a W. It can only go up from here though after every game my body feels like it got hit by a truck. I definitely do not bounce back as well as I could in my college days of taking charges and running around with an endless motor of energy. I’ve been living in compression tights, a knee brace on for walking around, and ice bags strapped to me since day 1 of practice. Haha

My sleep schedule has yet to become regular. It doesn’t help that the other Americans go to sleep at like 3 or 4 AM every night. The first week I was sleeping mostly during the day and awake for most the night. The last few days I’ve had a sort of insomnia and averaged about 3 hours of sleep per night. One would think I would be super productive with all this time but you’d be wrong. Still adjusting. I’m getting better though. I spend my days doing schoolwork at a coffee shop and nights practicing or working out. But boy did I miss this, getting paid to play basketball and have the freedom to explore the world. I get to dedicate my time to learning and investing in myself in the areas I value the most. What more can a girl ask for? J

For now, I’m just enjoying where I’m at and learning from where I’ve been. New year, New you. Not the same girl I started off as at the beginning of this long basketball journey but boy have I learned a lot. If you ever get the chance, step outside your comfort zone. Hang with people you don’t normally hang with. Experience a new restaurant, coffee shop, fun activity, event, or bar. Learn a different language or travel to a different country. What you know, where you’re from, and who you are, is just a speck of what this world is made up of. The world is bigger than you; so take a risk, take a chance, and step outside… I promise you won’t regret it.

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”…