As was expected, I had my first breakdown last week about being so far away from home. I knew it was bound to happen sooner or later, and was actually surprised I held out without a breakdown for almost a month. In a conversation with a friend who’d played overseas, we talked about how a good way to think of getting through such a long season so far away from home is to break the season down into months, weeks, and even days, which is what I had been doing. I am getting quite comfortable with my routine here, but I look forward to getting to see little glimpses of home. For example, it’s great knowing I’m going to be getting a package (so those of you are, please keep sending them- they give me something from home to look forward to). When you break down the season by months, weeks, and days you start to set up goal points that you aim to make it to. It’s really tough, and incredibly disappointing when you have a goal point within a certain reach and then that goal point disappears. Needless to say a few days before our first conference game I found myself questioning what I was doing 3000 miles away from my family and friends. Then I remembered: I knew it was going to be like this.
Back when becoming a professional basketball player was only a fluttering thought passing through my head I’d read a few books written by female basketball players playing overseas. “It’s tough,” they would say, “you go to a game and score 30 points and feel like the queen of the court, but then you come home to an empty apartment and only a telephone.” Those athletes would say I have it easy; I have “skype” now and other ways to see my families and friends. If they could do it without all the technology we have now, I know I’ll be able to do this.
I’ve never been incredibly dependent, I think most of my family and friends would attest to this. I actually enjoy living alone; I like the privacy and the independence, doing things on my own time, and not having to worry about getting my ‘paint by number’ off the coffee table so someone else can use it. I will tell you however, that there is something about coming home to an empty apartment and a cold computer that makes living alone a block away from your friends a lot different than living alone 3000 miles away from that safety net.
I think it is unfortunate that as progressive of a country that the US is, we don’t have more opportunities for female athletes in ‘The States.’ It doesn’t seem right that we have to choose to not play and stay home, or play, but travel 3000 miles. When a teammate asked me the other day if I want kids and I responded with an “I don’t know” she said, “but you are a woman!” Yes, I am a woman, and I know that means perhaps I should want kids, but I also want to fulfill those dreams that I thought were so out of reach as a kid, but have been blessed with the opportunity to fulfill as a young adult. It doesn’t seem right that I should have to choose one or the other, but that’s still where we are as a society, and if I have to, I’ll choose my professional dreams over a concept in a heartbeat.
It also dawned on me that I am not being forced to be here. If I want, I can be done in a split second and be on the next flight home. I remember a conversation I had with a teammate when I was at my first college, and had my first thoughts of transferring. I had told her how I didn’t think that my college experience would be like this, that I hated it, and was thinking about leaving. When I joked that we could rule a lower level program together she looked at me with sad eyes filled with empathy and said, “Hillary, I know this is where I need to be.” I was baffled at the time. Sure, we all had dreams of getting full rides to college and being a part of a winning program, but I wondered how she knew this was where she needed to be. What told her that? I was so heartbroken in that moment. I questioned why my dreams of a scholarship program didn’t live up to what I thought they’d be, but the reality was more than enough for my teammate. I think now, 6 years later, I finally understand what that teammate knew back then. When I’m not feeling lonely and even when I am, I realize that something deep in my gut is telling me that I’m doing the right thing by being here. So just like that I remember why I’m here, doing what I’m doing; I’m living out the dream I’ve had since I was 11 and first picked up a basketball. I made it; I’m a professional basketball player, and it feels right.