Alexandra Hoethke, editor
We each have a defining title that secures us within our own life. Whether it be son, daughter, student, athlete, business person, we all have a defining title that makes us each a unique individual. I ask myself, what truly defines us, and have we invested our self-worth into our defining titles?
For the preponderance of my life, I was defined as a competitive figure skater. My whole life revolved around the field of competitive figure skating. Our defining titles give us discernment of self-purpose. But what happens when the day comes that our lives change? Do those defining titles stay with us, or do we exchange them for new ones to reestablish our self-purpose? What happens to the famous Olympians that we love so much at that moment, and do we ever wonder how hard their life may be after they hit that peak and their careers are now over? What title do “they” hold today?
As a competitive athlete for more than a decade, I invested my life into my defining title as a competitive figure skater. Since the age of seven, I was a skater who woke up at 3:15 in the morning to begin training and traveled across the states to compete. I sacrificed the typical childhood of going to the malls and sleepovers to dedicate my life toward achieving my dreams in figure skating. I trained for hours on the ice and hours off the ice, all in motivation to achieve my goals. However, as with everything in life, eventually, things change for various reasons.
Today, as a full-time student, and while I’m no longer a competitive figure skater, I wonder, did I lose my defining title by leaving the sport, or can I always label myself this and later include additional definitions to my title as a person? As we’re confronted with life’s complexities and transitions from old lifestyles to new ones, we’re also faced with one of the most complex predicaments. We have to redefine ourselves, or rather, our purpose moving forward.
The transition from being a competitive athlete to now primarily focusing on my future goals of attending medical school, was immensely difficult as I not only had to adapt to a new lifestyle, but I also had to find a new purpose and feel that it was “okay” to not train every day. Through this transition, I acquired a perspective on how our past influences our present. We, as individuals, invest our life purpose into something that inevitably reshapes our lives. However, when we leave the thing that reshapes our lives, what happens? Do we simply move on and detach from our past, or do we continue to build on our history and further develop into well-rounded individuals? We fail to appreciate the fact that the past hardships and experiences we faced enable us to be very successful going forward.
We invest our life purposes into our defining titles. While we may feel secure when working towards our defining titles, we must realize that once we continue through our title’s lifespan, even if it changes at a certain point, it does not mean that what we have done in the past no longer matters; instead, it contributes to influencing our development throughout our lives.
In retrospect, why do we feel the need to redefine ourselves when we move on from something in our past? While I’m no longer a competitive figure skater, I earned this title through my extensive competitive years of dedication and hard work. Therefore, although we may feel as if we lose ourselves when moving on to new things in life, in reality, we don’t lose ourselves or our titles, in fact, we earned them. As I look at my wall and the many medals that are hanging, I realize I am still and always will be defined as a competitive figure skater. We must not redefine our past selves to conform to the people we have become today, as our past self-definitions are inextricably linked to the people we become.