Plans change. Even long dreamed of goals change. Your mindset changes in ways you could not imagine.. until you look back at your past self.
Earlier this year I was kayaking with the intention of selection for the World Championships, representing Great Britain. My entire life was dictated by the sport. Fast forward to August, and I am typing this in Australia, travelling a country I’ve always dreamed of visiting. Until last week, I hadn’t sat in a kayak for 4 months.
I wonder how my past self from a year ago would take the news that I would be leaving kayaking to travel. I’m not sure it would have been a positive reaction. A year ago I was fully invested in the sport, and I was not yet confident enough to travel solo. Past me would probably have considered present me a failure. I quit before I succeeded in my goal of making the World Championships.
I don’t think I am a failure, because I am happier. My competitive side is still very much there, but I have much better perspective. Life isn’t about boat races. I was so scared of letting people down, but the people who put the most into my kayaking tell me they couldn’t be prouder. From the girl who was scared to leave the sport that ran her life, I have grown up.
Looking back on kayaking
Kayaking for ten years helped shape who I am. Being used to the intense pressure of competition has enabled me to deal with some tough situations. Battling my way back from injury has shown me the importance of sticking with your dreams. Leaving the sport has made me realise that dreams change, and that’s okay.
I didn’t think I could get in a boat again while I wasn’t competing. The idea of being slow in a kayak didn’t really agree with me. However while in Perth I emailed round a couple of clubs, and ended up have a (free!) tour of the Swan River by kayak. I was hopelessly unstable, even after 40 minutes, but the only emotion I experienced was joy at being on the water in a stress free environment.
be open to change
I think what I am trying to say is that don’t close yourself off to potential opportunities. You might not yet be ready to travel/ start a business or start down whatever new path opens up. However you never know how experiences you have or people you meet might change your mindset. All of a sudden you may feel ready to make that leap and take a totally different direction.
I’m not advocating giving up on your goals easily, or changing direction whenever things get difficult. I trained for three years after injury without improvement, but finally I proved to myself that I was capable of winning races. I became real competition for some of the best paddlers in the country. If not for that perseverance, I wouldn’t have had one of the best years of my life.
However there is a difference between not giving up easily and actively holding yourself back because you are afraid of change. I could have just kept toiling away at kayaking, and taking jobs purely because they fit around training. However I was so used to that way of life that it was no longer outside of my comfort zone. On the other hand I grow in confidence while travelling every. single. day.
Don’t be the fly
One of my favourite analogies ever is the fly bashing against the window. No matter how hard it tries, it will fail and eventually die, because it is not strong enough to break through glass. However if it was able to take a moment to think about its situation, it would realise how easily it could fly through the open window to freedom. Luckily we have larger brains than flies.
Changing path is not necessarily failure. I may have given up kayaking, but I chose to pursue improved confidence, independence and happiness. There is no reason I can’t return to the sport one day, and maybe I will be a better kayaker than I ever was.
I wish you so much luck whichever path you are on x