Setbacks and Comebacks

A lot of what I’ll be saying here might be obvious to some of you. But from my perspective, a nearly 30-year-old who’d consider themselves misguided and unpracticed for most of that time, the understanding of resilience is still in its early stages. 

I quit almost every afterschool program my mother signed me up for – piano, flute, basketball, dance, volleyball – so I didn’t learn many of life’s larger lessons from sports as many of my peers had. I learned them mostly through relationships; I was certified boy crazy from pre-k on, and even still I consider a great love to be life’s greatest thrill. I learned how to get back on the horse after being publicly dumped in seventh grade, being cheated on in tenth grade, and the slow bitter end of my relationship with my highschool sweetheart at 22. 

Each time I’d wallow and wonder “where does the love go?” when all of these ties unraveled, but I knew that love was found by searching and I always seemed to find the energy to hop back to it! My college breakup was the kind that made me move back home, quit my job, and had me living on my parents’ couch. My world was beyond rocked but I knew after having survived it, that I could survive anything. My mother had always taught me the importance of resilience and that mistakes and setbacks in life were to be expected (even welcomed). But more interestingly, she wisely illuminated that the time in which we recover from a fall can be shortened the more often it happens to us, if we learned from it. 

It can be hard to know these things for sure when you’re a young person – there’s only so much evidence that you have at that point. But now approaching my 30’s, I am seeing things I have lived through coming around for their second time. 

When Cody and I first got together, we had little to no handle on our finances. We didn’t even have budgets. We paid what came at us without strategy, without savings, and without sleep due to the chaos and stress of it all. It was a rough start getting our house in order, but with the help of a friend we got ourselves in check, enough to travel five times within that year, pay for our wedding (with help!), and establish some savings. We were on track to be out of debt in 18 months until covid-19 hit us hard. Here we are nine months in, jobless, financial aid running out, living off of savings, and few income prospects. But we’ve been here before (even more desperate then if you ask me!), and Cody and I have the confidence in our creativity and ability to hunker down when it’s needed. We know how to shrink a budget, we know that a financial check-in will alleviate anxiety, and we know how to be cooperative and good to each other when financial failure feels personal. This time around, we are dwelling less and moving forward fast! We are jumping in with both feet and pulling out every tool and strategy that we are equipped with to spend and save while investing in our future income.

The same holds true for my physical pursuits, and the proof is really yet to be seen. As a coach, I have worked with countless people who had thought they had already hit their physical peak a lifetime ago. I would always tell them all the same thing – it’s easier the second and third time around. Getting moving from a standstill is hard as hell, but the starting point is far beyond where it was when you first approached it. I have six great years of lifting under my belt, but quitting my team and covid combined has me out of the gym for nearly a year and leaving my body unrecognizable. I always knew that I wanted to come back to the sport knowing that my skittishness around coaches and my very remote location would make the next time around very different. Though every weight on the bar feels heavy right now, there is so much within me already that can close the gap between the standstill and being an athlete again. Yesterday Cody and I did a ladder of heavy cleans and front squats, and as early as 70% on the bar, I felt the weight crash on my shoulders, I felt my feet leave the floor too soon, I chased the bar forward as I recovered up and out. Tali the lifter 7 years ago wouldn’t have known how to fix that, and even the coaches I had would have probably cued me day after day, cycle after cycle to clean up that mess. But Tali today, the two-time state champion, the 10-year career coach knew to push into the platform harder and longer on my next attempt.  

Yes, getting up after you’ve taken a hit takes bravery, grit, and persistence, but the real magic is in the return of the challenge. Closing the gap between error, discomfort, or sadness, and triumph or survival, allow our new found confidence to integrate with our future approach. It can become a part of us as opposed to a reaction. We may even spare ourselves the intensity of life’s blows if we are propped up by our resilience. Think of it as a muscle to be trained, and the more we shy away from what challenges, embarrasses, or discomforts us, the tools we might have gained way back when might not be as readily available.

I am not saying to go looking for trouble, as many of the hits we take aren’t by choice, but I am suggesting to welcome the challenge when it is presented to you. Pick up your old guitar, get back into the gym, and quit avoiding the discomfort of beginning again or facing the reality you find yourself in no matter how harsh. The point is, take the fall every now and then and you might surprise yourself how quickly you dust yourself off!

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