Part 5: A New Chapter

It wasn’t until I found myself in the Turkish airport, walking past a bookstore that I came across the title of a book which completely put me back on track. It read, “It’s Not How Good You Are, It’s How Good You Want To Be,” by Paul Arden. It’s probably one of those best-selling airport books because it’s an easy read that captures your attention and questions your motives, and for me, it was exactly what I needed. I asked myself, how good do I want to be? Where do I see myself? Is this where I want to be? I flipped through the book and read one chapter entitled, “Getting Fired Can Be A Positive Career Move.” That was it. A defining moment. For me, this was the career move I needed. As much as I didn’t want to be ‘let go’ from my first job in Professional Sports, I wasn’t even happy there anyway. Maybe this was what I needed, Turkey wasn’t right for me at that moment in time and I needed to be in a place that would allow me to thrive as a rookie.

My next stop, Puerto Rico. Although I had offers initially and had turned them down to play in Turkey, I am so grateful that they were happy to pick me up again. I signed to Criollas de Caguas, after journeying for almost 24 hours across the world and arriving on the island. The first day I arrived I was greeted with open arms, and told that I could take a day or two to adjust to the time change and relax from my flight. The whole community was eager for my arrival, and my teammates and staff were more inviting than I ever could have asked for. Although I was not confident yet, I took a sigh of relief. It was refreshing to feel wanted again. And with the sort of encouragement I needed, I knew I could get back to my high level standard of volleyball.

I jogged out on the court with my new red volleyball uniform on as the announcer yelled, “Numero qatource, Savanaaaaah Leeeaaf”. An echo of claps and cheers rang throughout the arena, and I ran out to give high fives to my new teammates. Although no transition is an easy one, this change brought a new positive light to playing professional sports. I felt a different sort of determination, and began training every morning, just so that I could perform at my best not only for myself but for the people that had worked so hard to provide me with this opportunity.

My mum told me the other day, “If anyone is good at adapting to change, it’s you. You have had 3 different head coaches at University, and each year in high school you went to different clubs. You know how to handle this.” She was right, I needed to stop moping around telling myself, “I can’t do this” because really I have done this, and I will continue to have to do this so I may as well get good at it. I know that with my enthusiasm and relentless fight I will achieve the goals I have set out for myself playing professional volleyball. And with this motivation, I will continue to build on the confidence that I am creating for myself.

Part 4: Breaking into the Business

After practice, one of my teammates told me the coach wanted to talk to me. I was finally getting back on my feet and starting to play well so I thought maybe the coach was going to give me some positive feedback. I certainly was not expecting what happened next. The assistant coach translated for me, “We are pleased with your passing. You are doing a lot better than we expected. We think you have a lot of potential, but we need more. We will talk to your agent about moving you somewhere else.” I started breathing heavily, I tried to keep myself from tearing up. I felt like they hadn’t given me a chance. I didn’t understand. Maybe with one more day they would see my talents. “Do you have any questions?” I stood still - not saying a word. I thought to myself, what the fuck did I fly out here for? He told me again, “You have a lot of potential but we need someone better now. Ok, you are ok? You can go home.” By this time any tears that were about to start falling dried instantaneously. My sadness shifted to anger. My business mentality started to kick in as I came back to reality. It was not a personal attack, they didn’t want me for some other reason. I didn’t do anything wrong, “I need to talk to my agent, and he will talk to you.” Enough was enough, they could’t treat me in this manner. “Ok, we are looking for a flight home, ok?”. I repeated what I previously said with a smile on my face as I knew they were in the wrong, “No, I am going to talk to my agent.” I turned around and left for the locker room as I shook his hand.

As much as I wish I could say that I handled the situation appropriately, I didn’t. I was engulfed in emotions with my face stuck against the cold window. I sat in the back seat on the way back to my apartment; my confidence had been destroyed. Over the years watching the best succeed, I have noticed one thing that stands out amongst the elite; confidence. You may be completely crap at the task at which you are setting out to achieve, but with confidence, you can make success a reality. This was the trait I was lacking at this point of my life. My confidence was down, I second guessed my talents, and I questioned the purpose of setting out on this journey. Broken, and hesitant to pick up the pieces.

The next few days were a mess, but luckily with the support of my friends, family, and agents I was able to get myself back on my feet. Ensuring me that this was not my fault, this is the name of the game, I managed to encourage myself to look at other options. I initially wanted to give up and leave the pieces on the floor, but my personality hates to give up. I think it was ever since I gave up playing the piano in 5th grade, or maybe it was giving up basketball my Sophmore year of high school, or perhaps it was giving up art when I came to University that really shifted my perspective. I am not a quitter, if I have to stop doing something it will be on my terms, not someone else’s. Every time someone has told me I can’t do something, I have come back harder. So from that day forward, I confronted my doubt, and although still not confident, I managed to practice in Turkey until we came to an agreement on how the situation was going to be handled. Even with every phone call trying to push me out of the apartment and all the gossip about the girl that was taking my spot, I could now look at the situation with a more level head instead of taking impersonal statements personally.

Fail. Fail Again. Fail better. ~ Samuel Beckett

With Grace in Puerto Rico: Part 7

One of my good friends Misty came to visit me for the weekend in Puerto Rico. We decided to explore El Yunque together since I had not been there yet, and she had always wanted to go. Here is a quick video of the places we visited.