Last night, after The Cleveland Cavaliers won their first NBA Championship, Lebron acknowledged his roots when “Against all odds. Against all odds” floated from his heart to the mic. The phrase trampled my thoughts as I laid in bed, winding myself down from the energy of the win. Inspired by the kid from Akron, I decided to set intentions for the week, instead of letting the inspiration dissipate, without value.

Intention One: Start my day with running, cycling, yoga, or weight lifting. Get out of bed by 5:45am.

Intention Two: Get my old basketball hoop from my dads to shoot around in the evenings, because it’s something I used to love… and I let it get away from me. (Why is it that 30 year old women don’t typically spend their free-time playing basketball? I’m here to change that).

***

I was 12 years old, in eighth grade, when I moved in with my dad on Thanksgiving weekend. It was after a particularly abusive fight between my mom and I, and the threat to move in with my dad was somehow different this time; it was taken seriously and it worked. It was the first fight I remember sticking up to my mom, albeit physically, because that’s all I knew. And so, she let me go. Her punching bag started fighting back, and the narcissist can’t deny when their source has either gone lifeless or stronger; leaving them nothing to gain. It was time for her to find new prey.

I was so confused, lonely, aggressive, and angry for the first few years with my (single-parent) dad, but because I decided “athlete” was my new identity, I’d take my basketball to the elementary school down the street and practice for hours, until it was too dark to see the rim. Everyday, that first year.

Basketball was my first sport. I was naturally drawn to it and organically gave it all my effort. It wasn’t to impress anybody, and it wasn’t forced. I played basketball for me, and it was the first thing, sport or otherwise, that made me feel good about myself. Intrinsic motivation has only been palpable a hand-full of times since, and basketball laid the groundwork.

Basketball was the sport I decided to play when I moved in with my dad, after living in 14 different places in the previous twelve years: after the abuse; with a shell of a soul. I made a conscious decision to be nothing like I was when I lived with my mom, and “basketball player” was furthest I could get. Athlete was opposite. I was determined to become an athlete.

***

At 12, when I found myself in a stable home with a consistent parent (please don’t confuse this with money), I made a strict decision to become a new person, by my own will. My intentions to become an athlete led me to do things I couldn’t imagine as a broken little girl living in a boarded-up, abandoned house just a year prior. I know now, that when your basic needs are not met, it’s hard to strive for anything else, except surviving.

In high school, I ended up breaking and setting my Division 1 school record in the 200-meter dash and 800-meter relay, ironically against Lebron James’ wife, Savannah Brinson. I decided to be a soccer player in 9th grade, when most, if not all other players had years of experience from their childhood and club soccer; I made Varsity by Sophomore year and became leading scorer by senior year, still just learning the game, comparatively. Basketball was my gateway sport, and it’s still my favorite and best sport, but I didn’t make the high school basketball team… not understanding coach favoritism.

I’m not saying this to brag, it’s just:

I was just a girl who got a chance to escape oppressive poverty and change my life, just outside of Akron, Ohio. Against all odds, this is part of my life-story.

***

True athletes are self-made. That’s the appealing part about it. Giving myself an athletic identity, I was confident and determined to keep it alive, and, when I moved to California after college, I duck-dived and almost drowned my way to becoming a surfer, almost a decade after poverty. I incorporated the intense daily practice of Bikram yoga. I ran and rode my bike almost every day. My chosen and developed athletic identity is how I coped with my former life. I was so damn determined, because I was so damn fearful, that it was all going to crumble. That I didn’t deserve anything but a shitty life.

***

And crumble, it did. Somewhere along the line, sports started slipping further and further away from me. To pinpoint: when shame of drowning in debt took over and alcohol became my chosen way to cope. This instigated deep, repressed feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, and from that, spawned depression and more drinking; I gained 45 pounds. It was a viscous cycle for about four years, starting just after I filed bankruptcy at age 25, when I moved back to Ohio from California. And, it began lifting on March 3, 2015, when I made the life-altering decision to quit drinking and start taking responsibility for my life and happiness.

From my experience of turning myself into an athlete all those years ago, I followed a glimpse of a deeply hidden belief. I knew I could change my identity again, if I fully committed. I always kind-of-knew I would have to face the things I tucked away into that padlocked, black box of abuse and neglect, and that’s where this journey begins.


“Against all odds, against all odds.”

-LeBron James on leading the Cleveland Cavaliers to their first-ever, NBA championship.

June 19, 2016. Just a kid from Akron.