What I Am Up To These Days

When people ask me “what’s new, what have you been up to, what are you doing?” I could say a lot of interesting things.

IMG_0555For example….

I’m learning Japanese! “Neko wa sakana o tabateimas” means roughly “the cat (subject) the fish (object) eating.”

That’s the first real sentence that I made up by myself! The Romanized translation is clunky because Rosetta Stone doesn’t teach you grammar, but I’m proud nonetheless.

IMG_0537 I am experimenting in the kitchen, cooking from scratch, testing my own versions of things I’ve found in magazines & restaurants.

Pupusas?! Crazy simple.

I found a lemon bundt cake recipe that calls for 3/4 cup of lemon juice! Thank god because our tree is bursting with fruit. If I ever get around to making that food blog I’ll let you in on the rest of my discoveries.

Speaking of discoveries! I am cleaning out my garage and my closets!! It’s a nod towards being minimalist, though if you know me at all, you know I’m not actually that. What treasures I’ve found from high school! IMG_0557A homemade welcome packet from the “San Jose Sharks Finatical Fan Club,” complete with limericks, original illustrations, color-photocopied headshots of the only player I cared about, and a couple of inside-joke references that are now indecipherable. #tbt!! #keep

I’m growing kale in the front yard. There are grapes in the back yard. I’m working out at the gym with Justin (hello cyclist arms!); riding with friends regularly; contemplating going through yoga teacher training just for the experience; organizing a trip with friends to ride a fully-supported 100 miles on Idaho’s gravel roads.

There is also a steady stream of “retired athlete” events. Just one recent example: volunteering at the teen heart screening at a local high school. And more…

There are so many topics I could go with when someone asks me what I’ve been doing.

But instead my life and all the many projects and hobbies and interests – not to mention the variety of ways I’m generating income – bounce around my head like lotto balls and what comes out of my mouth is “eh….I ah……don’t know. [shrug] Nothing new…you know, coaching…I guess.”

Coaching – it’s the simplest thing. The easiest for people to grasp in a sound byte. But not the thing that I want to “be,” because “coach” doesn’t encapsulate who I am. In a lot of ways, it’s the least interesting aspect of my current life. It is, however, the most solid, the thing that I am most certain will stick. A thing I know for sure I can do. The steady drip of income that makes it possible to take the risk of being otherwise self-employed.

What do you do? What is your identity? A terrible question to ask me these days. It’s not as simple as it used to be.

For years (a decade, to be exact) all I did was narrow my field of vision, perfecting the art of being an elite athlete. I did it well. The sport part – the training, the eating, the sleeping, the logistics – I loved. What do you do? “I am a professional athlete.” Living the dream? “Yup, living the dream.”

IMG_0558The latter part eventually became an ironic inside-joke by the end. I was, on one hand, living out a childhood dream – since second grade I’d wanted to wear USA, to get “paid” to be an athlete. (As a woman in a non-marquee sport, it turns out paid refers to the gross income; the net value of my salary for sport was a red number.)

But I was also living a nightmare, a political nightmare which no one outside wanted to hear or believe (“tell ’em what they want to hear” is how you win friends and sponsors, a lesson I learned quickly) and which I was afraid to discuss inside because, well, things were already hard enough. So I’d smile and say “living the dream” but there was a lot of truth left unsaid.

The payoff for going with the half-truth, for perpetuating the half-lie and letting people believe in “the dream” was in their response: typically an endless waterfall of questions. Where do you train? It’s like the Olympics, really? So you lived in the village? You must eat a special diet? How far can you ride? How fast do you ride? What do you think of Lance Armstrong?

The logo on my sweatshirt or backpack could spawn conversations that would make a cross-country flight or three-hour delay pass in a fraction of the time.

So, now, a confession: I’m writing this blog at 3am, unable to sleep because yesterday when I was headed out to support that teen heart screening event under the admonishment to “wear something that will identify you as Team USA alumni” I couldn’t find my favorite sweatshirt.

I don’t know if it’s lost or misplaced or stolen from work. I keep telling myself, “it’s just stuff.” I’ve given multiple cars full of stuff away in the last year, stuff I once thought I couldn’t live without, stuff I don’t miss in the least. It’s just one sweatshirt. I have a half dozen other sweatshirts with the same letters – U S A ! And yet, I feel almost panicky, a bit heart-broken. Where did it go? Can I find it again? Or is it lost for good?

Maybe the timing is bad. Maybe if I hadn’t just read an article about Steve Nash and his sudden awareness that sport ends I wouldn’t be wondering if my attachment to a hoodie is basically a metaphor for my attachment to my old life. As my sport psychologist reminds me occasionally: I didn’t love all of it; I actually kind of hated it. But the answer to “what do you do” was so easy, so entertaining in airports and at weddings.

It’s a good question: What do I do? Nothing obsessively anymore. (Even snapping cute photos of my sleeping cat is limited by the storage on my phone.) And what am I up to? A little of everything. I don’t have an obvious, pat answer for you. And, as difficult and frustrating as that is, it’s probably also for the best.

But if you run into me and it’s been a while, maybe just ask how my Japanese is coming along.

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