Finding Purpose In The Little Things
In 1955 a young girl named Susie Williams asked her friend Billie Jean King to play tennis. Billie responded, “what’s tennis?” 17 years later, Billie Jean King championed the effort to get Title IX approved so that women in an educational institution could have equal opportunities to play sports; a year later, she beat Bobby Riggs in the infamous tennis match dubbed “The Battle of The Sexes;” and a year after that, Billie founded the Women’s Sports Foundation. Billie had purpose.
Living on Purpose
Fall used to be my favorite season. It’s a transitional time that used to represent all my hopes and dreams and now just represents all my short-comings. Maybe that’s a little harsh, but it’s how I feel. Over the last year I’ve struggled to make the transition away from life as a professional athlete. I miss my skiing career. I miss doing something that I feel I was born to do, I miss challenging myself, pushing the limits, living my purpose and exploring my potential. I miss it. All of it.
My insides ache for flexibility that once defined my daily existence. It aches to live a life that I was meant to be living, to live my PURPOSE. In attempt to fill that void that skiing so adequately filled, I started taking on a million small projects. I’ve been attempting to add more purpose to my life. So, I’ve been mentoring young girls in mountain biking, sitting on the board of another non-profit, fundraising for a third non-profit, finishing my college education, getting a “big-kid” job in an office from 9-5, racing professionally in a sport other than skiing, taking on freelance writing assignments, and helping my husband start a custom teardrop trailer company. My days have become so “full” of intention and purpose that they leave me depleted.
How Did I Get Here?
When my dad died, I reflected a lot on the quality of life that he lived. The delicate balance that he struck between work and play. My dad was brilliant, ahead of his times. Got his master’s degree from MIT in one year, taught computer science at Yale for 32 years, and wrote a progressive computer programming language. My mom is brilliant in her own right. Valedictorian, got a perfect score on her SATs, and went to Yale School of Management for her master’s degree. Oh, and don’t forget about my sister, she was no slouch either. She gave the class-address at her high-school graduation, got a PhD in clinical psychology and now helps kids and families live better lives.
You see, when I was skiing, I felt okay being so different from the rest of my family, because I was making a difference in the world. I had a purpose! But now that I’ve made the attempt to “transition” out of it, I’m confronted with the reality that at 30 years old I’m supposed to start over at an entry-level job while I juggle trying to finish my bachelor’s degree and maintain my 3.8 gpa, while still living a life of PURPOSE by making a difference in the lives of others. It’s a heavy burden to carry.
For some reason I’ve felt that I’m only worth what I’m contributing. That at the end of the day, if I’m not making a massive difference to someone somewhere, then I have no value. The little things don’t ever feel like enough.
I began this post with a story about Billie Jean King, but the story was really about the young girl who first asked her to play tennis. The world doesn’t know Susie William’s name in the way it know’s Billie’s. Yet, without Susie, Billie never would have found the sport of tennis, become the first female athlete to earn a six-figure income, broken more glass ceilings than we can count, and created one of the most influential non-profit organizations for female empowerment: The Women’s Sports Foundation.
Susie was 11 years old when she asked Billie to play. She wasn’t overanalyzing her actions or trying to force her life’s purpose out into the world. She was simply following her heart, doing something she loved and sharing it with someone else. This action had a powerful ripple effect.
I’ve spent the last year trying to leverage this next phase of my life to make a massive difference in the world, but perhaps that’s not my role. We can’t all be the Elon Musks, Billie Jean Kings or Mark Zuckerbergs of the world. But we can help them flourish. It takes all types of people to make this world go round.
As I continue navigating this transition, I’ll be mindful of how my small actions may have unforeseeable effects. I’ll feel good about doing what I can and stop worrying about whether it’s enough.