With my first year of professional volleyball nearly finished, I thought I’d share a thought process that revolutionized the way I see daily life. This year was a very interesting chapter in my story, complete with a roller coaster of ups and downs different than any I’d previously experienced. This is how I learned a new perspective that helped me evolve as an athlete, and as a man.
The year started in a strange way. I got off the plane in the beginning of August (9 months ago already!) with two feelings dominating my subconscious: excitement, and loneliness. The excitement was no surprise – I was starting a brand new career in a new continent where I didn’t speak the language and didn’t know anybody. Each day for the first few weeks was packed with new sights, sounds, people, and completely new experiences. I immediately submersed myself in my new life, and did my best to learn French, meet new people, and eat and drink in as much of the culture as I could.
However, as soon as the novelty of these new elements wore off, the excitement was gone which left only loneliness. Three days after I arrived, my girlfriend broke up with me. I had a Canadian teammate arriving, but he wasn’t coming for a few more weeks. I was living alone for the first time, and the only people I knew in Europe were my sister and her husband, but they lived 4 countries away. I didn’t have internet at my house for the first 7 weeks, and I really felt the way anyone living a 9 hour time-difference from everyone they know will probably feel; alone. I knew that if I didn’t find a way to combat this, I would get depressed very quickly.
Regardless, I was still enjoying myself immensely. I was learning a lot on and off the court, and was busying myself with anything I could. By Christmas, I had no idea where the time had gone and I was already halfway done! But life was much different, and I was going to spend my first Christmas away from my large family. To top it off the team was 1 loss away from the relegation spot (12th place out of 14 teams) in our league, and since we have the largest budget in the league there was a lot of disappointment and pressure from everyone. The team went their separate ways for the Christmas break all-too-happy to forget about what was going on and distract ourselves for a few days. I went to Northern Germany to spend Christmas with my sister and brother-in-law for a few days.
When I got back to Tourcoing on a rainy midnight on the 27th of December, there’s no other way to put it – I was deflated. I was hoping to return refreshed, but I just wasn’t. We were back in the gym early the next morning and things were as tense as ever. It was around this time of wishing things were different, wishing I could change certain things about my situation, that I read a quote that transformed everything for me: “The grass is greener where you water it.”
I took a different perspective. It gets easy in this line of work to have an attitude of entitlement and see that the grass is greener on the other side; to compare what your friends in other clubs have, whose getting paid what, who lives where, etc. I realized that everything comes with a cost…I was getting paid to do something I love, and I can’t expect everything to be easy. It was up to me to choose my attitude.
I love the quote by Viktor Frankl that says, “The last of one’s freedoms is to choose one’s attitude in any given circumstance.” This was truer for me more now than ever. When problems arose, I begun to use them as an opportunity to grow. For example, one of the hardest parts of my life this year was, believe it or not, the free time. I have more time than I know what to do with and there is nothing to do in my town. This time is easily spent getting into a routine of being unproductive, with that attitude of just passing the time. So I started by taking pleasure in the simple things. Every time I could, I would travel to a nearby town and get out of Tourcoing. I would make a project and try to complete it. I was trying to learn French, or cooking some new meal for myself. I found that I felt infinitely more fulfilled by spending a day off this way than I would if I played video games all day. This may come as a cliché to most, and I’ve heard all of the inspirational quotes similar to this before…but this year was the first time I ever applied it, and it had a profound impact on my quality of life.
I’m not sure if it was just my perspective, but life became exponentially better. Our team started performing, and we have now won 15 of our last 17 games. The long winter ended, and the sun came out. I started to make some awesome friendships with my teammates, and met some people who live nearby. The end was in sight.
The truest test of this new worldview came when I injured my hand and had surgery that sidelined me for 6 weeks. But I did my best to profit from the injury, and recently made my return to the court stronger than ever. Having dominated our quarterfinal in two swift victories, we opened our semi final with another 3-0 win against our cross-town rival. One more win, and we’ll be playing in the championship game on May 8 in Paris for all the marbles – the winner of this game will be promoted to the top league in France for the next season!
And how does this change in my outlook affect me now? I am trying to make the most out of every situation, however or bad it may be. For example I miss Canada more than ever and feel like I am in summer school, stuck out here while all my friends have gone home to enjoy their summers. But I recognize that we are competing to win the league and that is something I am truly lucky to be a part of. If I were to say, “I hate this town,” this town won’t be offended. It doesn’t care how I feel and saying this won’t change anything. Its up to me to make the most of my time here and that starts with a simple change in perspective. If you think the grass is greener on the other side, then make it greener on yours!