This is something that has taken me years to figure out. I had always associated my friends’, my families’ and my own identity with that of their job. You work in finance? You work hard and want more for yourself. Sports media? You’re active and love your team. Marketing? You’re creative. Healthcare? You’re giving. But what if we stripped all of that away? What if your job was taken from you? Would you lose who you thought you were? Or would there be substance remaining?
Part of what my identity has been my entire life is an athlete. It’s been all I’ve known since the age of 3. As I grew up and continued to improve I was fortunate to earn a scholarship to play lacrosse in the United States. It was an incredible experience but further solidified the idea that I was a lacrosse player. It was the identity pushed on me because of the sport I played, or the idea of playing a sport.
Fast forward a few years I stepped into professional sports. It was 2019 and I had signed a contract with the Vancouver Warriors of the National Lacrosse League. Imagine that? Being paid to play a game you love? Moving across the country, living in a condo above Rogers arena with a view of the mountains and a brand new team owned by the NHL’s Canucks Sports & Entertainment? Sounds pretty good to me. Well it wasn’t all pretty. I couldn’t find my game for the life of me. I was paying horrible. Doing something I had always been the best at and this time I was the worst. I was lost mentally, physically and emotionally. I felt alone across the country and I lost my love for the game. After months of identity crisis I was ultimately released from my contract and sent home to Ontario.
This was the lowest point of my life. I stepped away from the game for a while and after many conversations with sports psychologists, friends, family and most importantly a former coach- I learned the lesson I’m writing about today. I verbalized my thoughts with him. I told him I felt I had lost the only thing I had ever been- an athlete. His response was simple and to the point: “You’re a person who will drop anything for anyone, a brother who loves his family more than himself, an uncle that wants to help his nephew reach his full potential and a friend that demands the best out of his circle daily.” Wow. What? I’m not just a person that plays a sport? There’s substance here? It wasn’t until I took a step back from the game that I realized how much I loved it. From then on I vouched to myself to work harder than I ever had, to do things other people may not be willing to do, to ensure I would never have an ounce of regret in life- and was able to play with freedom knowing that I had so much more to offer the world behind the simple idea of a job title.
My point is simple. If you’re struggling with who you are, where you’re going and comparing yourself to those around you- take a step back. Write down characteristics of the person you want to be. Describe it in detail- and then work backwards. How doe we get there day by day? We are all more than what we do for a living and we’re all trying to navigate that.