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If 2020 was an athlete

Twitter is full of fun trends.

For the most part, the trends are harmless jokes that help us engage with our friends from all parts of the world.

We scroll. We click. We laugh. And sometimes, we block. I've been doing that last bit A LOT, trust me.

As I type this, I'm laying in my hotel room in Aruba. The palm trees sway as if they're dancing to J-Lo and my hands are puffy from an allergic reaction my skin had to sunscreen, of all things. So I realize my privilege in this moment, but in prime 2020 form, it's been a wild rollercoaster that led me to where I am today.

My daily routine consists of waking up, scrolling through Twitter and either smiling or throwing my phone across the room. I'm sure y'all can relate. This morning was a bit different, though.

I came across this tweet by Dan Clark, a podcaster/sports personality:

And I had a little chuckle.

The first athlete who came to mind was obviously Johnny 'Football' Manziel.

Back in 2014, Manziel was drafted by the Cleveland Browns in the first round at pick 22. He was one of the most hyped up players I remember watching, and his whole Johnny Football nickname had me cheering him on from the West Coast (back when I was still considered a Vancouver resident).

I'm a 49ers fan, but a part of me really wanted to buy myself a Manziel jersey. There's something about the Browns that you hate to love. Maybe it's their inability to do well in a season. Who knows. Anyway, I followed Manziel's career in Cleveland from hero to zero.

He had such promise. And then he had a drug addiction and a plethora of other problems that made him a complete liability in the NFL. Of course, he was released by the Browns in 2015 after too many off-the-field controversies and then spent two years away from football. Only to make his triumphant return to the gridiron, this time on my side of the border in the CFL. Manziel signed with the Hamilton Tiger-Cats, then the Montreal Alouettes, and eventually in the AAF with the Memphis Express.

Boy went around the block and for whatever reason, life got in the way and derailed him completely. Isn't that the most 2020 athlete you could ever think of?

Especially if you break down how great this year started.

I rang in the New Year with my boyfriend and family in Maple Ridge, British Columbia. I had spent the holidays with my parents and was looking forward to getting back to Toronto for my second semester in Sports Broadcasting school.

Life seemed too good to be true.

Then one of the most admired basketball stars in the world died in a helicopter crash on January 26th and it's as if 2020's big plans for the year came to a complete halt. Something shifted in the universe the day we lost Kobe Bryant. And I think we all kind of switched into this weird autopilot mode, drifting through the weeks without any recollection of why or how.

Then on February 2nd, the San Francisco 49ers lost in the Super Bowl and I became a zombie, only half-smiling most days because what was really the point otherwise?

And just like the rise and fall of Johnny Manziel, March came along and dropped a pandemic on planet Earth.

My school went on reading break on March 9th and I remember feeling so broken down on what to do in my life. Financially, I was a mess. I had just paid another ridiculous tuition instalment and had no money left to my name. My boyfriend was away in New Zealand. I spent my days alone in my tiny 419 square foot apartment and struggled to get out of bed most mornings. Toronto was still pretty cold, so I'd Netflix & Chill with my dog, Rux, until it was absolutely necessary to get out of bed. I barely ate. And I missed my family with every shred of my heart.

"What the hell am I doing with my life?" I thought.

On March 14th, I worked an 11-hour shift at the restaurant I serve at. I went home feeling sick as shit and I curled up into a ball of numbness.

I had never felt so lost and alone.

My reading break was supposed to finish and we were meant to go back to school on March 16th, but the coronavirus put a big 'X' to that and basically anything else on our schedules. For the first time in my legal years, I didn't go out to a bar to celebrate St. Paddy's Day--if you walk around downtown Toronto, you'll still see old signs that say, "Come celebrate St. Patrick's Day with us this Tuesday!" It's pretty damn eerie.

Thankfully, my boyfriend was back by my side and after having what I thought was a panic attack the night he returned, something inside of me finally shifted. And I began to ask myself questions I had been too scared to face before:

"Why are you unhappy?"

"If you could change anything in your life to be a happier version of yourself, what would it be?"

There was no hiding the fact that I felt underwhelmed at school. I had learned everything in other experiences in my life. I was paying so much money to do exactly the same things I had already done. I was digging a big hole filled with more debt and uncertainty, and it had left my mind and body completely disheveled.

After one month of lockdown, I remember FaceTiming my mom and she cried with me on the phone about my Nonna, who had been moved to the hospital due to the severity of her dementia. And to top it off, my sister was struggling to work her full time job and teach her two kids from home, since school had moved to homeschooling due to COVID.

My family was falling apart and I was across the country, miserable in my little condo, with no word from school on how we'd progress during the pandemic.

I realized I needed to go home, so I flew back to Vancouver on April 26th.

There's something extremely comforting about flying over mountains. I grew up in the most beautiful place in the world, surrounded by white-capped peaks, lakes, oceans, rivers, and everything in between. I felt my soul smile for the first time in a long time and I knew I made the right decision to be back with my family.

Sports were non-existent, so my school wasn't really a thing either. Sure, we submitted articles for one of our classes, but in no means did it feel like I was a full-time student. If anything, I felt like a full-time daughter again.

I embraced my mom and dad in ways I had forgotten to do since I was a little girl. I spent real, quality time with each of my nephews. I bonded with my dad about his beautiful mom, who I never had the pleasure of meeting because she passed away when he was only 13. My sister and I grew closer than ever, since I spent every day attempting to teach her two boys while she'd work in her home office. And I felt my big brother's protection again in a way that I had longed for since our high school days together.

It was family for the soul.

Eventually, school returned and we began doing Zoom shows via an online platform. Yet, it just didn't feel the same. The passion I had for the program dissolved. I began to look around me at what really mattered and finally focused on what was truly important: my family, my health, my happiness, and my boyfriend--someone I had neglected while pursuing different endeavours in sports podcasting and beyond. He deserved so much more from me.

After interviewing former 49ers linebacker Patrick Willis, he told me that I am the hero of my own journey. So I decided to take control of my life and put not only the people I love first, but also put myself first.

I took an internship with a sports radio network not long after I realized my worth went far beyond school. Little did I know, my boss was extremely mentally abusive. Now, I've dealt with my share of jerks in my life. I knew going into sports, there would always be at least one dude trying to "help me succeed" in ways that definitely were not okay. I put in a solid month of interning before I caught on to the inappropriate behaviour. It didn't really click until I was back in Toronto, away from my family, and truly in my own head about what I needed to be happy.

After a night of what I can only describe to y'all as complete closure with my past, my happy-go-lucky, free-spirited self jumped outside of my body and took me by the shoulders. She gave me a HUGE shake and basically told me to snap out of it and look around at what is going on. To listen to how I'm being talked to.

Phrases like, "you're mine," "you're signing a lifetime contract with me," and "think of me like your boyfriend" loomed over me EVERY single day. To top it off, if I posted something that wasn't deemed appropriate, I was berated then ignored by the person who was supposed to be my boss.

Enough was enough.

I decided to quit the internship. My boyfriend and I booked a vacation for the first time since we began dating three years ago. And I let go of every single asshole in my life who ever held me down.

It took a pandemic to snap me back to who I am.

And while there's a lot in my life I still need to sort out, for once, I'm sorting it out with a clear mind and an open heart. Every door that has been shut on me was shut for a reason; luckily, there's a whole lot of windows in my hypothetical house for me to climb out of, too.

This year has been a bitch, there's no sugar-coating it. One thing 2020 has given me, though, is incredible connections via social media. My "fam" on Twitter has been a virtual hug for me, even during my lowest of lows. Today, my online BFF, Ryan Hallam, said it best:

"While 2020 has been tough at times, it allowed us to spend more time with family and gave me an opportunity to pause, slow down, and reflect on the good things in life."

After reading his quote, I sat back and reflected on Dan Clark's tweet. Johnny Football is not the athlete who represents this crazy-ass year. Not for me, at least.

So, if 2020 was an athlete, it would be Kobe Bryant.

Mamba mentality never dies. Even after a fatal crash, Kobe has inspired so many to live the life they were meant to live; to never settle for less than we deserve; and to win, despite an onslaught of adversity and struggle.

2020 may have broken me down in so many ways, but I promise you, the rebuild has only just begun.

Just wait and see.


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