For the last eighteen years of my life 8 times out of 10 the first thing someone would ask me when they saw me was “how is basketball?” Eventually (hopefully), they would get around to asking how I was really doing, but sometimes not. It became my identity, and it was easy to feel as though nobody knew much about me outside of basketball. So now that I’ve retired and lost basketball in a sense, there’s been some moments where I’ve felt like my identity was lost too.
Hear this, at UCLA I was told every single day I was far more than an athlete, and I was treated as such. This shift has still been really difficult, and that’s no knock on anyone, or because of anything anyone did or did not do. Any kind of change is hard no matter how well prepared you are for it, and this change is drastic. Anyways…
For five years I was introduced to EVERY new person I met like: “this is Chrissy, she plays basketball at UCLA.” To play basketball at UCLA was the greatest honor of my life, and I am so grateful for people’s interest and how deeply invested so many were in my experience and career as a whole. But the last year or so I started beating people to it and introducing myself on my own. I’d try to keep basketball out of the conversation for as long as possible, because I knew I wasn’t going to be able to introduce myself as an athlete forever. I was teaching and convincing myself to be okay with that.
And now that it’s all said and done, people are starting to ask a different question, “do you miss it?” And I find myself fighting back tears almost every single time.
Yes, I miss it. It’s who I was. It will always be a part of who I am. It’s what my days revolved around, what my sleepless nights obsessed over, what my routine was based upon, and the shift has been hard. You could not choose a better place to go to school, a better coaching staff to play under, or better teammates than what I had at UCLA. I promise you that. I don’t think I’ve slept through the night since we lost. I really haven’t had much of an appetite. I’m struggling because the experience was THAT incredible. Ask any of my closest friends I’ve been a bit of a wreck.
But my mess has been met with unrelenting grace, long hugs, a willingness to listen and remind me of who I am, and to whom I belong. Through so many conversations I’ve been learning that my identity was never in who I was as an athlete. Yes, I shed a piece of myself as I have entered into retirement, but I have not lost any bit of myself. I am no more because I was an athlete, and no less because I’m not anymore.
There’s a lot of lies swirling around in my head these days, so I’ve been challenged to focus on what I know to be true. The Lord, who parted the Red Sea, who turned water into wine, knows how many hairs are on my head, how many stars are in the sky, who walked on the water, died on the cross and would have done so if only for ME, if only for YOU. He sees me, He loves me, and His plans for me are so good. He says I am loved, and I did nothing to earn that love, so there is actually nothing I could do to lose it, not even the end of my basketball career can change that. That is my identity, that is all it always has been and all it always will be.
The transition is still so incredibly difficult. I’m grieving the loss of the only way of life I’ve ever known, shifting into a completely new and unknown season. But, for each chapter that has to come to an end, I know He’s going to create something new, something good, something beautiful, perhaps even something better, because that’s His promise. His faithfulness that I have seen in my life thus far does not end just because my athletic career has.
This blog is the beginning of that something new. So, allow me to reintroduce myself. Hi, my name is Chrissy. I used to be a basketball player, sometimes I still wish I was. My heart wrestles with the idea that I’m not good enough. People probably won’t like my Instagram pictures as much. The DMs from little girls telling me I inspire them will eventually stop. And on some days, all of that will probably hurt a bit.
My life looks pretty different these days, and I have non-athletic aspirations for the first time ever. Most of my time is spent at the beach or in coffee shops, thinking and dreaming about what is next. I just graduated from UCLA and accepted my first job in Santa Barbara at UCSB with Fellowship of Christian Athletes. I have dreams and plans to write, even write a book one day, maybe more than one. This past year especially there’s been a handful of people who I feel very seen by, who have challenged me in these new dreams and have graciously breathed life into them. You know who you are, thank you so much.
This new life, and new me is still pretty scary. I’m wrestling with the realization that it all looks absolutely nothing like I thought it would, and nothing like the people closest to me. Some days it all feels like a dream, others a bit of a nightmare, but I truly do believe my best days are ahead.
There have been countless times when the words of other’s have healed me and made me feel way less broken than I have convinced myself I am at times. My prayer is that just one person would find the same kind of comfort in these words. You aren’t alone. Change is hard, and I sometimes think we don’t give ourselves enough credit. So, if you have forgotten to tell yourself this today, you are doing just fine, and most importantly you are loved more than you even have the ability to comprehend by someone who died to know you, who’s love is completely independent from anything you have ever done and anything you will ever do.
I have gotten to share parts of who I am through playing basketball the last eighteen years, and I feel like it’s been placed on my heart to muster up some courage and tell you about the rest. I’m not exactly sure how it will look, but I’m excited to see.
Here’s to believing in something better and more beautiful.
Keep dreaming with me.
He makes all things new.