I grew up in a Christian household and identified myself as a Christian, but looking back my identity has always been being an athlete. When I decided that I wanted to compete at the collegiate level, I looked for a Christian institution that would help me grow in my faith while also doing what I loved. That is what brought me to Northwestern. Once my freshman year rolled around, I was excited and eager to compete again. Some would say I had a phenomenal rookie season as I was at the top of the conference. I may have looked happy but internally I struggled with anxiety and feelings of not being good enough. I constantly worried that I was going to let my team down. Most of the pressure that I felt came from myself. This pressure that I was putting on myself played a huge role in my life going into my sophomore season.
Going into my sophomore year something was different. I instantly felt the pressure from myself that I needed to be better than I was the year prior, or I was letting my team down. I would cry and beat myself up after every meet and would often wonder what my purpose was if I was not performing well. I also was running with hip pain that continually got worse as the season went on. However, I was lucky enough to end the indoor season on a high note when my teammates and I achieved All-American honors in the 4×400 meter relay. Shortly after nationals I found out that my labrum was completely torn. I decided to continue running and scheduled surgery once the season was over.
Recovery from surgery was one of the hardest things I have had to do so far in my life. I suddenly could not walk or do some of the basic things in life. It was difficult for me mentally. I felt like my identity was taken away from me because I could no longer run. When I returned to campus that fall, I was finally cleared to jog again, but I would compare myself to my teammates and how far behind I was. I could tell that something was different. I was no longer mentally in tune with my body and constantly scared that I was going to reinjure myself.
I started working with a sports psychologist to help build my confidence back. But right when I was feeling somewhat back to normal, I was told by our athletic trainer that I had a stress fracture in my tibia. I ended up taking a step back from track for a couple of weeks to mentally recharge and think about if I wanted to continue running in college or not. During that time, I spent a lot of time relying on God to guide me.
I am now in my final semester of my senior year and deciding to continue to run has been one of the better decisions I have made in life so far. This year has felt different because I am having fun running. Yes, I still put pressure on myself and caught myself comparing to how I was pre-surgery, but I have also learned that I am human and am given unconditional grace by the Lord. My times and how I perform do not define me. I am not just an athlete. I am a child of God. My sport can’t define me because I am too complex to be defined by any single thing. God created us as unique individuals and our life is in his control, not our own. I am forever grateful for God’s never-ending love and everyone who has walked this path with me.