Life is all about making priorities and determining what is most important to you. It is so easy to get caught up in something and forget about everything else in your world that makes you happy.
After I injured my knee, my active life as I knew it had come to a screeching halt. I couldn’t run, I couldn’t bike. My knee ached constantly. It hurt to stand on the bus when there were no seats available. Everything that kept me happy and in control was now a distant memory. That is why when I discovered whitewater kayaking, it brought me back to that fit, strong feeling. Sitting in a kayak and navigating down a class III or IV river allowed me to forget about that pain in my knee. It allowed me to temporarily forget other stressors in my life.
But forgetting them and avoiding them mean that, like it or not, these stressors do not just disappear. They actually grow and become bigger without you. Once you remember and turn to address them, they are so much more worse than they were at the beginning when you ran away from them.
After my dad died, I spent money. I spent thousands of dollars. I bought kayaks, gear, a motorcycle, went on trips. I was on the river and driving around the country whenever I could. And during this time, it was like my old life and my old worries had disappeared. This new life was carefree and fun; I was athletic again, discovering challenges every day on the water, and I allowed my life behind to delve into more and more disarray.
It wasn’t until recently when my eyes were opened to see what my life had become. It was a lie. Everything I had used to dream for in my career and my life had become unattainable, and I convinced myself that this was all I deserved. I put those dreams and goals in a vault, and figured that kayaking was all I had left.
I was in West Virginia last fall when Max Lentz died on the Upper Gauley. Jeremy and I were paddling down the river. I had progressed so much over the last couple of weeks, that I was now paddling my playboat down the Upper, and leading through the rapids. We made a stop at Hungry Mother, and during that play-break there was a major shift. I began losing it. I couldn’t make basic moves, I was having trouble rolling, missing lines and became an all-and-out spaz on the river. “Something’s wrong,” I told Jeremy. This didn’t make any sense. I’ve had bad days on the river before, but never in the middle of a good day, started losing my skills.
When we arrived to the spot where Max’s boat was pinned, I had no idea that he was still in it. Even after I rescued his helmet that had somehow come loose, and gave it to a bunch of rafters on the shore, I didn’t realize.
The next day I decided to cut my vacation early and drive home. This wasn’t necessarily the turning point, but this was the first time that I had been on the river and stopped living my dream world of invincibility. I thought a lot the twelve hours back to Beachburg. There were other things that were so much more important in a life that could end in a second flat with no warning.
I continued to make mistakes. Huge mistakes. But things were happening in my life to make me take notice. These tiny signs were trying to tell me that my dreams and goals may not have seemed attainable to me, but they still were. I just had to realize that and go after them.
Life is about priorities. Kayaking is a huge part of my life, but sometimes you have to take a break and address other aspects of your life. I just made the Canadian Women’s Squirt Team for the 2009 World Championships. I almost didn’t even go to Team Trials. I had taken that break and focused on and fixed many other aspects of my life that had gotten to huge to ignore. I hadn’t trained, and honestly believed that I didn’t stand a chance.
I stood a chance, and now that I have realized that balance between family, kayaking, career, relationships, friendships, and Jenny (yes, Jenny is a priority all in itself), I can still enjoy the things I love the most, and be able to handle the little stressors that come along quickly before they spiral out of control.