At what point can someone call themselves an athlete? After they win something other than a finisher’s medal or a personal best award? After a coach calls them such, as if knighting them with a PVC pipe? Or is someone an athlete simply by giving their all when participating in a sport. Is a participant an athlete? Is a “Weekend Warrior” an athlete? Am I an athlete?
It’s a label I am only now starting to embrace, to own. Owning it scares me: Owning it publicly scares me even more. Because for decades I was the furthest thing from an athlete. I was chubby, I was fat, I was skinny and fragile, I was a participant, I was a dieter, I was an exerciser. The majority of people in my life today have never seen me in these roles and are surprised to hear I once wore them, or some of them. But I remember wearing them well and it’s the memory of them that causes trepidation when I now say, “I am an athlete.”
“What if,” I think, “others disagree. What if I am in fact not good enough yet?” But I am. I have transformed myself once again, finally becoming the person my heart always wanted me to be. I am now living, not existing.
I know I’m not alone. I know others are working to shed labels and mental baggage. I know others might wonder when they too have crossed into athlete territory, or wonder if they are capable of crossing into athlete territory. I hope that by putting myself, past, present and future, out there will help those people shed, cross, embrace.