I posted a long one today, but hear me out
The leap from college to the not-so-college life is quite extensive as real world stress gradually builds and brings you farther and farther from the good ol’ days. I think I was more prepared for the working world after high school with the long, structured hours rather than tasting and falling accustomed to the unrealistic luxuries and freedoms that college has to offer. Everyone falls prey to different transitions after the cap is tossed on graduation day. For some, it is respectfully, but sternly convincing parents that although you now live under the same roof again, you are more than capable of making it home safely after dark. For others, it is facing reality that sweatpants cannot be a staple in your everyday wardrobe. On the other hand, most graduates do get to enjoy the novelties of having (+) signs in their bank account rather than just (–) all the way down. And of course, once the day is done, most real world newbies love that homework is only a memory. As I scroll through Facebook and check the Twitter feeds, it seems that this leap into the world’s reality comes in different sizes. I see that some have delayed the leap all together and have continued with Grad School (I am jealous of you, but good luck with the loans). Some have picked up miscellaneous adventures before joining the socially acceptable 9-5 working man/working woman leapers, and then there are the select few that have catapulted off the cliff and into married life. Out of these four real world jumps, I am examining the realization that I do not connect with any of them. One of my friends in college always loved calling me out when the NCAA commercial came on TV – “There are over 400,000 student athletes who will be going pro in something other than sports.” In college there is already a divide between the lives of athletes and regular students. At Duke we would call them NARPS – “Non Athlete Real People.” It is sad to say that this divide has expanded even deeper as my once relatable counterparts have taken the NARP step. Yes, all would say that my job as an athlete post college is an anomaly, but it has taken two years for me to fully comprehend how this abnormality trickles down into every single aspect of my life.
It is important to understand that “Athlete” on a business card really means a 24/7 competitive critic. We don’t have an off-season, because our competitions run all throughout the year. Everything we do is monitored, if not directly by our coaches, then it is our own mind that is saying, “You can do better than that.” Imagine having your boss monitor every stroke of your pen at the office. You doodlers out there wouldn’t make it very far. With a squad of 30 athletes, only 18 get to wear the uniform and travel around the world. One bad practice in the morning means you better make up for it in the afternoon. A bad night of sleep doesn’t just mean you are tired the next day, it means that your performance will be negatively affected and cannot be fixed with coffee. Down time isn’t “go do something fun time.” It means that even your rest should be productive. The once feared run test in college is now a reality every week. I find it strange when something isn’t sore on my body. I have been forced to ignore the intensive, confused stares at my athletic body structure. I am commonly confronted with the question, “Do you do CrossFit?” Breaks for a holiday means trying to find a gym in your area that is open and will give you a reasonable price to temporarily train there. Water isn’t just something that you drink at meals, it is carried with you every place that you go. Your location is constantly tracked by an organization for random drug testing at any point during the day. Peeing in a cup has become normal. Your weight, hours slept, and muscle soreness are all tracked into a spreadsheet every morning. Sick days are only for extreme circumstances. “Personal days…” the concept makes me laugh. You miss weddings, funerals, and numerous life events because of practice. To “Go to bed at a decent hour” means that often times you need to force yourself to stay up until 930 to avoid oversleeping.
The success of your job comes down to one important thing – how well you mange life’s stress. This is at the top of the list for how unordinary my life really is from the average population. The typical stress relievers for someone my age are as follows – Eating, Drinking, Talking, Exercising and/or Shopping.
- Eating – Its called comfort food for a reason. There is just something about indulging in sugary deliciousness that calms the stress, but annihilates an athletes desired portions of carbs, protein, and fat that should be consumed in a day. This is probably my hardest discipline as an athlete, but a freedom I look forward to after my athletic career.
- Drinking –I will occasionally enjoy some beers or a glass of wine, but I can honestly say that I have never consumed an alcoholic beverage without thinking of how it could possibly affect my training. Happy Hour after work sounds like paradise to me.
- Talking – Sharing your stress with another person is often a huge relief for some people, but as an occupational anomaly it is hard to find answers to your issues.
- Exercising – haha.
- Shopping – contrary to popular belief, my “pro status” doesn’t at all reflect in my bank account. From the time I “clock in” to work in the morning to the time I leave including practices, daily rehabilitation, lifting, conditioning, and off field meeting requirements (sports psych, player review meetings, and nutrition meetings), I have 9 hour days at the “office” and make roughly $6 per hour. That’s not exactly conducive to a shopping spree.
Bottom line –
1) Although my life may be unordinary, I am confident that this is where I am supposed to be.
2) The costs outnumber the reward, but the reward outweighs the costs.