9/7 Ending a Commitment
“When was a time you stopped pursuing something you were passionate about after running out of steam? Do you regret quitting? What do you miss about it? Have you thought about trying to pursue it again? What is stopping you?”
Today I want to journal about a passion project I gave up and I do not regret: rowing competitively. I spent most of my life deeply committed to team sports—swimming, playing lacrosse and field hockey, even a little softball and volleyball. Rowing on a team was the most intense by far, and I took it to extremes. When I was a high school senior and college freshman, I had no idea what I wanted to do with my life, and I threw my entire focus into being the best rower I could be. I forced my body into long hours of training, weight gaining, and deeply punishing exercises. I injured myself trying to make it to the olympics, when I was on a lead boat in the US development team, and that fall, I was completely out of tune with what I needed. Sophomore translates to “wise fool,” and I could not think of a more acute term for my jumbled mind that year.
I desperately sought after substances, different sexual partners, and bad habits with food, all as an escape from the scary truth: I needed to take a break from rowing. I hadn’t just run out of steam; I was running on empty. I would party whenever I could as a retaliation against my coaches and teammates, and still show up for practices at 5am (like a piece of shit). I stopped caring about important classes and let my academics fall downhill, all because I was out of sync. I didn’t know how to quit. I had been brought up to stick through hard times and persevere. No one had ever taught me how to gracefully let go. Bowing out felt like failure, and so I stayed on the team. way. too. long.
When I finally did quit, it was an emotional mess. I had destroyed friendships, ruined my future as a rower, and upset so many along the way. I remember my coach screaming at me and telling me I would never make it without him. I felt bullied and alienated. What is worse, I felt I was letting down my whole family. My mom and step dad supported me through so many different regattas, even housing friends when we were competing near their home. My deceased biological father had been a rower, and it was one way I felt connected to my roots. Even my older half brother, who never cared to have a relationship with me, cheered me on when I won a big race he had also attended.
Was I permanently cutting myself off from something I should have stuck with? Maybe…
Or was I opening the door to a cage I had imprisoned myself inside? That’s more like it!
Getting off the team allowed me to find radical self expression. The amount of time I had to explore “who am I, and why am I here?” expanded exponentially.
Do I regret quitting? Nah. I was ready long before I actually pulled the trigger. Even though the experience was dark and upsetting, it rocketed me into so much change. I had the guts to travel solo in Central America, transfer schools, and find out how to expend that energy in new ways. I found yoga and skiing and so many other outdoor passions, now that I wasn’t only a rower.
Do I miss it? Sure. I miss feeling like a dolphin gliding across the smooth water, but I find that in sailing and rafting. I miss the camaraderie, but I find that in mobbing with large crews to festivals and playing in the mountains. I miss the devotion, determination and discipline, but I remind myself THAT CAME FROM WITHIN ME and I seek to push myself in other ways. I wake up earlier to meditate or teach or practice, knowing that I kept that schedule for years in the past.
Have I thought about pursuing it again? Yes, and I will totally hop in a skull whenever the opportunity arises! What is stopping me? It’s rare to find a boat house that takes walk ons, but after journaling on this, maybe I’ll make a few moves to try it again soon.