People often ask me, “Alicia, why do you like sports so much?”
If I were to be completely honest, my love for sports comes from my realization that sports can change the world.
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a sports fan. I’ve never been big on following stats or looking at the intricacies of plays. Rather, I’ve always watched sports to see the stories of human perseverance that unfold on a court or field. These stories speak to me in a way that nothing else in my life has.
I’m blessed in the sense that I’ve been able to make my passion my job. I’ve made it an emphasis of my sports writing career to highlight stories of athletes, teams and leagues giving back to their communities. Why have I made this an emphasis? Simple: Because nobody else is really doing it. These stories need to be told.
Since I launched RulingSports.com on July 1, 2011, I’ve had the great opportunity to interview hundreds of people to find out how sports changed their world. More interesting to me, though, is finding out how these people are using sports to change the worlds they live in.
The first athlete I interviewed in my career was Rafer Johnson, the 1960 Olympic decathlon gold medalist. Rafer, who is African-American, grew up in a segregated Texas. It wasn’t until his family moved to California that he was given the opportunities in sports that would build him into one of the greatest athletes in history.
On a summer day in 2011 when I sat down to interview Rafer in Manhattan Beach, CA, we not only talked about his impressive athletic feats, but how he had used sports to give back to others. A close friend of the Kennedy family, Rafer was one of the founding members of the California chapter of Special Olympics. At 78-years-old, he is still heavily involved in the organization.
When asked why he’s still involved in Special Olympics, Rafer said to me, “I’ll always be involved with the program, because I came up as a youngster in a very small town in California and that’s what I think provided the basis for the rest of my career: that somebody helped me be the best that I could be.” Sports changed Rafer’s world. And now, through sports, he’s changing the worlds of others.
What if we all could use sports to help others become the best they could be? How different might our world look?
This holiday season, I want to introduce you to six amazing sports nonprofit organizations who through sports, are changing the worlds of others. To learn more about each organization, click on the link below:
In getting to know these organizations, I was blown away by how much they are able to accomplish on very limited budgets. Learning this fact got me thinking: How many more peoples’ worlds could these organizations change if they had more money?
Whenever I write a story about athletes, teams or leagues giving back, there is one question I always ask: ”In your role in sports, do you have an obligation to use your platform to help others?”
The answer I receive to this question, while worded differently, always reaches the same point: YES.
And this holiday season, it is my obligation to see to it that these organizations have the resources they need to keep changing the world.
To help the six organizations above, I have organized the Sports Can Change The World campaign. The campaign has several components. It is my hope that each of you will find at lease one way to become involved in the campaign.
1. T-Shirt sales: To raise funds, I have created a t-shirt campaign. The t-shirts cost $20 with a $5 shipping cost and will arrive by Christmas. They come in adult and youth sizes and are printed on very, very soft t-shirts. All profits from sales of the Sports Can Change The World t-shirt will benefit one of the organizations listed above. You can purchase your shirts between now and 11;59 p.m. ET on December 9 by clicking here.
2. Social media: In order for the Sports Can Change The World campaign to make the biggest impact, word needs to get out about it. Will you share this link with your friends so they can learn about these great organizations? Will you post the link to the t-shirt campaign on Facebook? Can you tweet about how sports have changed your life or upload a picture on Instagram depicting how they have? Be sure to use the hashtag #Sports4Good, so we can show just how many worlds sports have changed!
3. Voting: As mentioned above, one organization will receive the profits from sales of the Sports Can Change The World t-shirt. That organization is the one that receives the most votes between now and 11:59 p.m. on December 9. After clicking on the links above to learn what each organization does, cast your vote on the poll at the bottom of this post. Voting runs between now and 11:59 p.m. ET on December 9.
Sports can change the world. Will you support the Sports Can Change The World campaign this holiday season to change the worlds of those in our communities?
A couple of months ago I went on a first date. In terms of first dates, it went relatively well. At the end of the night, the guy walked me to my car. As we were standing there, he literally said, ‘Wow. I thought someone who does everything you do would have a nicer car.”
A few weeks later I stopped at CVS to pick up some odds and ends. When I walked out, my car looked like this:
I’m no car expert. I’m a lawyer. Turned writer. Turned professor. So when I saw this, I promptly texted my friend Nick and said, “Um, what do I do?” He promptly responded with what everyone else has responded with, “What did you hit?” To which I said, “I swear, nothing.”
Realizing that I was on my own when it came to fixing this debacle, I marched my irritated self back into the CVS. The young guys working there said, “Did ya forget something, ma’am?” ”Yea, duct tape.”
In the Florida humidity, I spent the next 10 minutes of my life utilizing all of the engineering skills I garnered in my four years at the Colorado School of Mines to do this:
As I stood up to admire my feat, a fireman drove by in his firetruck. I’m a woman, so when he quickly backed up, I thought, “YES!” However, he just shouted down from the window, “Duct tape fixes everything!” and drove on. Traumatic.
Today I drove to work at the University of Miami in my duct taped Honda Civic.
When I was in college, I was a nanny for two girls. They lived in a wealthy suburb in the Denver foothills. One of my responsibilities was to pick them up everyday from school. At the time, I was driving a 1998 Saturn that was on its last leg. At one point, the stereo was broken (and/or possessed), as it would randomly turn up in volume. When I say, “randomly turn up in volume,” I mean, “randomly turn up in ear-deafening-uncomfortable volume.” Somehow, it would also always find a way to change stations to Christmas music or Spanish music.
What was notable about the possessing of my Saturn, was that it would only happen right before I would pick up the girls. The school bell would ring and kids would scatter out to hop in their mom’s Cayenne or their dad’s Mercedes. I would see my girls with their heads down, kind of chuckling as they approached my jalopy. Deep down, they were certain of what awaited them. They’d put their little hand on the door, and they’d be greeted with, “I WANT TO WISH YOU A MERRY CHRISTMAS!….FELIZ NAVIDAD!!!”
I told them this was a character building experience.
And everyday for the last month, I’ve held onto the hope that it is a character building experience for the professor to hop out of her duct taped car when her students roll up in Land Rovers.
When I got to work today, one of the first things I did was take my personal laptop to our IT guy. Last night when I was trying to catch up on old episodes of Homeland, the blue screen of death erupted across my screen. I figured it must’ve been terrorists. Our IT guy, though, said it was my hard drive. He suggested I call Dell to see if my computer was still under warranty.
When I got back to my office this afternoon, I called Dell. I was nicely surprised when I wasn’t put on hold for eternity and when the guy who answered my call spoke perfect English. He and I had fun together for nearly two hours as he ran an insane number of tests on my computer system and I continuously kindly reminded him that someone had already done this for me. Not only had someone already done this for me, but someone had already told me what the problem was. I was just calling to ensure my computer was under warranty and to have them send me the parts necessary to fix the hard drive. ”But Miss Jessop, we just need to run one more test to see what’s wrong with the computer.” ”You’re the expert, man. Do your thing.” Two hours later my new friend said, “Well, Miss Jessop, thank you for your patience. The problem is with the hard drive. We’ll be sending you a new one.” Luckily for this guy, I value new friendships, so I appreciated the chance to build a new one with him as we painstakingly re-identified the problem.
I have a lot of work to get done that involves using a computer, and generally, the blue screen of death would cramp that plan. However, the University of Miami bought me a nice iBook earlier this semester. So, when I left work, I packed that baby up and planned to go home and work my little heart out.
In August, I moved into a new condo in Miami. The cable guy came a couple days after I got here. He was really flirtatious and as he spewed cords across my condo in the name of bringing TV to it, he said, “Miss Alicia, I am really going to hook you up!” I said, “Ok, that would be appreciated.” He said, “Miss Alicia, I am going to give you wireless for free!” I said, “I thought I was already paying for that?” He said, “No Miss Alicia, I take care of you. Just don’t tell them I am doing this.” As I was mostly confused as to what in God’s name was going on since I ordered a wireless router, I just nodded in agreement. He said, “Ok, I’m going to set your password for you, so you can enjoy wireless for free!” I thought nothing of it, like for instance, that I cannot call my cable provider to find out what my wireless password is should I do what I always do with my wireless password: forget it.
When I got home tonight, I plopped down on my couch looking forward to watching some college hoops and finishing my work. I turned on my cute little iBook and quickly realized I do not know my wireless password. So much for being “hooked up.”
So now, I sit here with this finagled set-up: In case you can’t tell, that’s a short USB cord stretched from my cable box to a haphazardly placed kitchen chair.
On my drive home tonight, it started raining. When I got home, I realized that the rain had washed away my car’s duct tape job. The fender is once again hanging on by a string.
I’d die to know what that guy I went out with thinks that says about “someone who does everything I do.”
I am a firm believer that the universe sends situations into your life to see how you respond to them.
When frustrating things happen in life, the quick response is often, “woe is me.” I like to look at frustrating situations as opportunities for character growth.
What kind of patience am I exhibiting towards others when I am undergoing these types of situations? What value do I place on material objects and how big of a role do they play in my life? How kind am I to others when I am in a stressful or annoying situation? The frustration that today could’ve turned into, in all honesty, brought me a lot of laughs.
They say that when it rains, it pours. We all have days that start out perfect and end up hilariously disastrous. Life is about perspective, though. The best perspective, I’ve found, is to laugh when life sends you a rainy day.
And if laughter isn’t enough, you can do what I did tonight:
Yup. That’s Haagen-Dazs Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough for dinner, baby.
Let it rain!
As I inch towards age 30, I continue to look for ways to improve my health. Recently, I thought a lot about my diet. Overall, it’s not terrible. I don’t drink much. I don’t eat out too much. I eat a lot of vegetables. I probably drink too many drinks from Starbucks. However–and this has been true my entire life–I don’t eat much fruit.
I don’t know where my distaste for fruit comes from. I spent my childhood wandering through my grandparents’ garden, which had a field of raspberry bushes, rhubarb plants and grape vines. I’d pluck fruit from each and pop it in my mouth and go on my way. Perhaps I OD’d on fruit as a kid and now, I just don’t like it.
On Sunday, I was at an event for my sorority called Founder’s Day. It’s the day in which we recognize Sigma Kappa’s founding on November 9, 1874. There, I met a woman who although she was 83-years-old, she looked like she was 60. Her body stood upright, her hair was beautiful, her skin fragile and she just epitomized health. I want to be like that.
Adding fruit and other non-processed foods into my diet along with more strength training are two things I thought I could do to improve my health. One way I am going to add fruit into my diet is by drinking a smoothie every morning, Monday through Friday.
Today, I share with you my first smoothie recipe.
1 Green Tea Bag
1/2 Cup Boiling water
2 TSP Honey
1 Cup Blueberries
3/4 Cup Vanilla Soy Milk
1 Cup Ice
Place tea bag in boiling water. Let steep for three minutes. Mix in honey until it dissolves.
In a blender, add blueberries, banana, soy milk and ice. Pour tea mixture over top. Blend until smooth. ENJOY!
In 1874, a group of five women got together and made a decision that would change the world: They founded Sigma Kappa. I am grateful for the role that Sigma Kappa has played in my life as a young woman and believe it is largely responsible for teaching me the leadership skills I’ve learned. Today, it’s an honor to be the keynote speaker at the Southern California Sigma Kappa Founder’s Day Celebration. The following is the text of my speech.
Since the dawn of mankind, the most-asked question whispered around the world, has been, “Why?”
“Why was I born?”
The question of why we were born and what we were put on this Earth to do is at the bane of mankind’s existence. Each of us at some point has questioned the reason for our existence. We find answers in religion. We find answers in spiritual gurus. We find answers in yoga retreats and meditation vacations to India.
Ultimately, though, the answer to, “Why was I born?” lies in the answer to another question. That question is, “What is my legacy?”
We are here today, because on November 9, 1874, a group of five women–Elizabeth, Mary, Ida, Francis and Louise–sought to answer that question and define their legacy.
The legacy of these five women was built upon their doing two things: Surveying the landscape of their community and surveying the landscape of their hearts.
We sit in this room today, as women who all received or are receiving the gift of a college education. Today, the number of females pursuing a college degree exceeds the number of males doing so. For Mary Caffrey Low, however, the gender make-up of her college campus could not be more distinct.
Mary entered ColbyCollege in 1871. It wasn’t until 1873, when another female joined her as a student on campus. In fact, the female population of ColbyCollege boomed in 1873, as four new women–Elizabeth, Ida, Francis and Louise–all began their college education that year.
As the five women oftentimes found themselves together, they began surveying the landscape of their community. They quickly realized, that although they had been given the opportunity to attend college, their opportunity differed from that of their male classmates. The women faced insults from male classmates and teachers. They were not given the same opportunity to perform in the classroom as their male counterparts. They were held back from participating in the bulk of the collegiate experience, as they were often precluded from engaging in student organizations.
The survey of ColbyCollege’s landscape was the spark that ignited the idea of creating an organization on campus aimed at addressing the negative issues the women faced. However, that idea did not birth Sigma Kappa until the five young women examined the landscape of their hearts.
Those five young hearts were joyful hearts. They were filled with love and friendship and a belief in serving others. They were hearts captivated with the idea that a woman could grow up to become anything she wished to be and that in doing so, she could serve others.
The landscape of these women’s hearts, is what would become not only their legacy, but our beloved Sigma Kappa. From the hearts of Mary, Elizabeth, Francis, Ida and Louise, was born an organization that to date, has captivated the hearts of more than 152,000 women worldwide. From the hearts of five young women, a legacy woven into the fabric of all our lives was born. That legacy is Sigma Kappa.
Because we all seek to answer the question of, “Why am I on this planet?” we all seek to identify what our legacy is. How do you do that, though? The process of defining what your legacy is, is the same in 2013 as it was in 1874: You must examine the landscape of your community and the landscape of your heart.
What does it mean to examine the landscape of your community? Examining the landscape of your community involves taking off the blinders that normally bind you, to look at the community in which your life unfolds. When the blinders come off, you must look at the needs of the community you love.
What is your community? Is your community your school? Is it your chapter? Is it your new member class? Is your community your job? Is it your child’s school? Is it the people who live under your roof?
When you define who makes up your community, you can begin identifying the needs of those people. Those needs can span any number of issues. Some issues may be small and some may be monumental. The size of the issue, however, is not important. If issues worth addressing exist in your community, your legacy is made by setting out to address them.
After identifying the needs that make up the landscape of your community, it is critical to analyze the landscape of your heart. This step is critical, because it is what is in our hearts that allows us to address particular needs in our communities.
The reason why there are over 6 billion people on this planet, is that each of us brings unique abilities and beliefs to the table. The combination of these unique abilities and beliefs are written on our hearts. Sometimes they’re called passions. Other times they’re called dreams. I like to think of these unique abilities and beliefs as the things that keep me up at night wondering what I will do next with my life.
Because each of us has unique abilities and beliefs, and hence, a unique story written on our heart, we are not made to address every issue that faces our community. If you were capable of addressing every issue your community needs, you would be the only person who lived on this planet. Instead, each of us was created to address the particular issues that match the abilities and beliefs that are melted into the landscape of our hearts.
The last two years of my life have been a whirlwind. I’ve traveled enough this year that I’ve racked up three free airline tickets from the frequent flier miles I’ve accumulated. I’ve been to the Super Bowl and the NBA All-Star Game. I’ve stood on the sidelines at Cowboys Stadium and the NBA Finals. I’ve interviewed the likes of Colin Kaepernick, Jim Brown, John Cena, Stephen Curry and Barry Sanders. I’ve been on national radio broadcasts and made appearances on national television. And the only reason I’ve been able to do any of this, is because in 2011, I looked at the landscape of my community and got in touch with the landscape of my heart.
In early 2011, I was working a job that although I was grateful for, I was not made for. My unhappiness at work led me to seek something that would provide an outlet for channeling happiness throughout the day. For me, that outlet was sports.
Since I was a young child, sports have fascinated with me. As the only child of a sports enthused father, I spent a large amount of time as a child watching games and learning the intricacies that made them interesting. As I grew up, I could recite statistics, the names of whole rosters and analyze sports in a way that not many other young women were doing.
In 2011, when I needed a reprieve from my law firm job, I would poke around on various sports news websites. As I did, I quickly realized that there were few journalists who wrote about sports in a positive manner. Lost in the stories of athletes who went broke, used banned drugs, got pulled over for DUIs and cheated on their wives, were the stories of athletes doing good things in their communities that I knew existed.
As I examined the landscape of a community I loved–the sports community–I was forced to analyze the landscape of my heart. That landscape is one that believes in the innate goodness of mankind. It is a landscape filled with belief that, although we all make mistakes, our good outweighs the bad. It’s a landscape that holds firmly to the belief that positivity will get you further than negativity every time.
When I began looking at the landscape of my heart, a dream that had been pushed down for too long because of a feeling that it was impractical, began coming to the surface. What if I could become a sports journalist? What if I could tell the world about sports in a way that was positive? What if that could become my legacy?
With an idea of what I wanted my legacy to become, I had to take an honest look at the unique abilities and beliefs I held. From an ability perspective, I had recently graduated from law school and also held a B.S. in economics. This educational background, I believed, would allow me to analyze sports from a perspective few others could. I also had a passion for writing and have been told by numerous people that I can tell a good story.
In turn, the unique beliefs I held in the goodness of man and that positivity outweighs negativity meant that I would use my analytical and writing abilities to tell the story of sports in a way that celebrated it.
On July 1, 2011, I woke up and told my roommate that I was creating a website. After hours of mulling over names in my head and tinkering around trying to figure out how to build a website, RulingSports.com was born. Creating RulingSports.com changed my life. Yes, it gave me later opportunities to write for Forbes.com and The Huffington Post and become a professor at the University of Miami. However, it changed my life, because it became my legacy.
Each of us has a community. Each of us has a heart. Each of us has a legacy.
The world needs to stop asking, “Why?” We know why we are here.
The question for some of us now, though, is “What?” “What is my legacy?” What are the needs of your community that you can address like nobody else? What do those desires on your heart motivate you to do like nobody else?
Some of us have answered the question of what our legacy is. The question for us then become, “When?” and “How?” When will you begin creating your legacy? If you haven’t begun creating it, will you realize today that the time to start is now? If you believe your legacy is complete, why are you still on this planet? Is it because there is more to the story of your legacy?
After answering those questions, how are you going to bring your legacy to life? How are the abilities and beliefs written on the landscape of your heart perfectly suited to address the needs faced in the landscape of your community?
Each of us was put on this planet for a reason. And that reason was to build a legacy. The time is now. And I cannot wait to see how you all do it.
At least once a week I get an email from someone looking to break into the sports industry. If my schedule allows it, I set up a phone call with the person seeking my advice. More often than not, at the end of the phone call, I wonder if I’ve given them anything practical they can use. So often people ask me, “So, how did you do it? What’s your story?” I’ll tell them. And then I realize that in all honesty, my story will probably not help anyone land their dream job in sports.
Why is that? It’s the same reason that your personal story won’t help me land my dream job in sports. The reason why my story won’t serve as a perfect road map for you, and yours most likely won’t for me, is that each of our journeys is personal. We all experience different things. We all come from different places. We all have different motives. What worked for me may not work for you. What failed me may be your key to success.
Realizing this, I’ve thought long and hard to find one way to sum up how I got here that may be beneficial to others. And after thinking about this for over a year, I’ve decided that it can only be summed up in two words: Be bold.
To explain why boldness is critical to finding the job you want, I need to take you back to two years ago this weekend. I was about to board a flight to San Francisco. And as I made my way through the airport, I knew that my destiny laid in the crosshairs of the outcome of that weekend.
In October 2011, the law firm I was working for at the time wanted me to relocate to their San Francisco office from Orange County. At the time, I was blessed to have a well-paying job that offered full benefits and a retirement plan. There were a handful of young associate attorneys who I became incredibly close with. I lived three blocks away from the beach in Corona del Mar, CA. From the outside looking in, my life was nearly perfect.
As grateful as I was, I was dying on the inside. And it was beginning to show on the outside. My job didn’t inspire me. My job didn’t motivate me. It got so bad, that my job didn’t even make me want to get out of bed. My friends didn’t recognize me. I didn’t recognize myself. I was drowning. It was painful.
Up until July 1, 2011, I thought that this was just the way life had to be. I racked up over $100,000 worth of student loans putting myself through law school. It was now time to pay those loans. And the legal market was dim. Many of my friends didn’t have jobs. Those of them who did, either worked part-time or as a paralegal. I knew I shouldn’t be complaining. But deep down, I knew that mortgage banking litigation wasn’t what I was put on this planet to do. I knew that even though I should be happy, I could expect better for myself.
And so I sought out to make a bold change.
Last Thursday I sat at the after-party for the Miami premiere of Machete Kills, with my friend Jenny, who is the publicist for an actress in the movie. We were sitting next to a former publicist of Clive Davis. Unannounced, Jenny began recounting the story of my 2011 to this woman. She told her how I went from being the happiest person in the room to someone whose emptiness impacted her friends. She told her how one day, I woke up and had enough. And she told her how I came to my friends, told them that I had started a website and that my life was going to change.
I remember those days. They were so invigorating. In short, I’m sitting here telling you this today, because I was so bold in those days. I refused to take “no” for an answer. Sports is my greatest passion. And I was going to make sure that it became my career.
As I boarded that flight to San Francisco in the second weekend of October, I felt that “fight-or-flight” sting. The partners of my law firm had no idea that I had started a sports law website. The firm didn’t have a sports law practice, and I had been previously pulled aside for not showing enough of an interest in banking law. I knew I was on thin ice.
Thus, I had to keep Ruling Sports a secret from largely everyone in my firm. This became a challenge, as I spent most of my lunch breaks working on the website at a local Starbucks in these days. Often, I’d run into from someone from the firm. They’d pop around my computer and say, “What are you working on?” And I’d be forced to come up with some haphazard lie about “Oh, just poking around some sports articles.”
My personal favorite memory during this time in my life was the distance I went to tape a radio show. Most radio shows that I tape fall during my workday, especially when I was living on the west coast. Given that my firm didn’t know I was living a double-life, I couldn’t have the radio show hosts call into my office phone, which was answered by our receptionist. Our firm also had a policy against being on your cell phone during work hours. So, I faced a dilemma: Do I follow the rules and not tape radio shows at the risk of not furthering my passion? Or, do I bend the rules a bit in a bold way and further my passion?
I chose option two. For radio shows that I was unable to tape during my lunch break, I would sneak out of my office, tell a co-worker that if I was paged on the intercom to text me and headed into the parking garage. There, I would crouch down in the front seat of my car and tape a radio show as if there was nothing strange about this entire process. It was frightening in the sense that a partner of my law firm could walk by at any moment and I’d be caught. It was invigorating in the sense that I knew I was taking a step toward the future in which I wanted to live.
One question I get often, is how do I have time to write and tweet so much? When I launched Ruling Sports, I knew I wouldn’t build a following without having fresh content up every three days. So, I spent every free moment I had to get that content prepared so that I would meet that goal. And it worked.
As for tweets, when I was at the office, I would allow myself to read one sports article an hour. I would then send out a series of tweets with my legal opinion on the article I read. Yes, I wasn’t supposed to be tweeting at work. And no, I didn’t care. Remember, this was fight or flight. My life wasn’t in the place I wanted it to be. And I was the only person who could change that.
As I got off of the plane in San Francisco that fall afternoon, my heart was in a frenzy. I knew that moving there would in a sense be the end of Ruling Sports. I knew this, because this job not only came with a 25 percent salary raise, but more billable hours. This increase in billable hours would take away the time that I was spending building Ruling Sports.
However, I knew that I needed a job to pay my bills. And blogging at the time wasn’t doing that. The legal market at the time wasn’t a place that was just handing out jobs like candy. It was relatively desolate. So, I knew I had to put on a good face and show interest in the job. And I also knew I needed a backup plan.
I’m a very religious person. My relationship with Christ is one thing that has gotten me through my life, which has faced its share of trials and tribulations that are too big to share with a blog read by strangers. In this instance, though, I prayed. I prayed that God would give me an opportunity to keep building Ruling Sports, if that’s what He wanted me to do. I needed time. I needed a job that would allow me to keep up with my radio appearances and building my social media following.
He answered. The father of one of my best friends is a deputy prosecutor in Colorado. The week after I returned from San Francisco, he called me and said he had a job opening. He said, “Alicia, I know what you are trying to do with your sports career. And I appreciate that and I will foster it. I want to give you a chance to build that. All I care about, is that you get your work done for me. If you finish it at 10 a.m., you have the rest of the day to work on sports stuff. Just do a good job for me.”
God answered my bold prayer.
In December 2011, I moved back to Colorado. One thing that few people know, is that I lived in my parents’ basement for 18 months. That, perhaps, was the boldest move of them all, given that I hadn’t lived there since I was 18, and well, I like living like an adult.
Living with them, though, was necessary for what I was trying to do. For one, it allowed me to spend freely. If I wanted to pick up and travel to a sporting event, I could. If I needed a brand new wardrobe for an appearance, I could purchase it. Additionally, it provided me with an extra layer of support as I waded through this world. For all of the support I’ve received from many of you, I get my share of criticism. When someone tells you they want you to die, judges your looks or sends you a hateful message, it’s nice to be amongst family.
Living at home was also necessary, because I knew that Colorado was a temporary stop for me. It was a launching pad. It was a place for me to go, clear my mind, catch my breath and figure out what it was that I really was working for.
And that has taken me to Miami. I’m a professor at a top-50 university. I write for Forbes and the Huffington Post. I have a broadcasting agent who is probably sick of my emails (Hi, Matt!). Some days, I still don’t believe that all of this has happened. I don’t think the depths of my gratitude for everything that has happened to me in the last two years can be explained on a blog. I know that my prayers were answered. And I thank God every, single day. Without fail.
So, you want to work in sports. Who wouldn’t?
If you want to work in sports, there is only one real piece of advice I can give you: Be bold.
Boldness is not brazenly breaking the rules. Boldness is fighting with everything you have to get where you need to go. Boldness is knowing the feelings of your heart and taking yourself where those feelings are guiding you. Boldness is refusing to give up, not taking “no” for an answer and being your own biggest supporter. Boldness, at the end of the day, is getting what you want.
Be bold. It just may change your life. It certainly changed mine.
Today is October 3.
October 3 is a day, that in history books, is relatively unimportant. Save for some great games and moments in sports history, Sinead O’Connor tearing up a picture of the Pope on national television, and O.J. Simpson being acquitted of two murders, October 3 is a day relatively void of any significance.
Today, though, took on new significance for me. Today, I realized that save for some surprise I’m currently unaware of, I will not be a mother by the time I’m 30. Save for something short of a miracle, or a Britney Spears Vegas-style wedding, I will not be wed by the time I’m 30.
The fact that this is an item of significance may seem surprising to anyone who knows me. It would seem surprising, because I’ve spent the bulk of my life focused upon academics and career success rather than expressing the desire to or actually building a family.
But, like everyone else, I want it all. I want a job that I love that brings home a solid paycheck. I want a warm home and pretty things. I want cool friends and fun endeavors. I want to be able to travel and have adventures. I want a story to tell. And I want a husband and some babies to rock. And maybe a Golden Retriever. However, because of my allergies, a Golden Doodle may be preferable.
There, I said it.
I want every, little, teeny-tiny ounce of it all.
Society, though, has this nasty little way of telling us that we–men and women alike–cannot have it all. It whispers in our ear doubts. It says, “How are you going to manage a demanding career that you love–and ghasp–a family?!” It says, “How are you going to be a strong woman and obey by your husband?” It says, “How are you going to be a breadwinner and have time to be a dad?” It says, “How do you live your values when you blow your paycheck on a Marc Jacobs bag?”
If there was a place called Buzzkillville, Society would be the president.
For the bulk of my life, my attempt at gaining it all was mostly focused on my career, while my family, friends and anything mirroring a relationship waited in the wings. As I write this, I’m 29-years-old and a full-time professor at the University of Miami. I graduated from law school cum laude and am licensed to practice law in two states. I write for two national media outlets and have standing appearances on radio and television shows nationwide. To quote the ever-popular 50 Cent hit, In Da Club, “I’m fully focused man, my money on my mind.”
The approach to life I took in my 20s was one I see many of my peers taking: I was selfish. Really, really selfish.
At 22, my selfish spirit took me to California–1,000 miles away from home–exactly one month after my mother had a heart attack and had to be shocked back to life. Most 22-year-olds aren’t focused upon the preciousness of life and how it can be swept away in a split second. Given that I fell into the “most 22-year-olds” category, I had no problem packing my bags for California, because California meant law school. To me, law school appeared to be the easiest path to having it all.
In California, law school became my life. In my selfish way, I wanted to be the best at it. So, I secluded myself from friends in a way that I had never done. I became one with my books. Namaste. Professors said that the key to success in law school was being invited to join the law review. I wanted success, so I wanted to be ranked in the top-10 percent of my class so that I would be invited to join law review. So, study I did and a social life I alienated and law review I joined. We can talk about how much fun law review is another time.
At 24, I graduated from law school near the top of my class. Two months later at 25, I sat for the California bar examination. The day after it ended, the selfish chains wrapped around me began to loosen their grip.
After you sit for a bar examination, you want to do one or both of two things: Go home and sleep and/or party. I went home and slept after the test ended on Thursday afternoon. I was looking forward to partying that Friday night. But my mom called. And was in a panic. My dad was in the hospital. He hadn’t eaten in days. He looked terrible. Doctors were scared that his cancer had come back and spread. This could be it.
Between the ages of 22 and 25, my brain had matured some and I realized the preciousness of life and just how short it is. I called my friends and said I wouldn’t be able to make it to Newport Beach’s famed Woody’s Wharf that night (yes, Chuck Norris once owned this seaside dive bar). Instead, I haphazardly packed a bag, got in my Honda Civic and hit the rode for the fourteen-hour drive to Denver.
I wanted it all. I wanted success. I wanted a strong social life. I wanted family.
And when my car hit the parking lot at Lutheran Hospital and I rushed upstairs to sit by my dad’s bedside, I slowly began to realize how I could have it all.
As I approach my 30th birthday in June, I know now that getting everything you want in life is about balance. If you want it all–whatever that means to you–you have to make room for it all. If you don’t make room for it all, then it should come as no surprise that you don’t have it all.
Why am I going to turn 30 and be unmarried and without child? Because my prior definition of “having it all” was unbalanced. For the last decade, I have focused upon building a career. And that focus, has bore significant fruit. I am proud of it. I am happy with where I am. I am grateful for it. Truth be told, I probably would change very few things about my 29 years of life.
During these years, though, time seeking love lost out. I’ve dated a who’s-who list of men throughout my 20s (however, Where’s Waldo? might be a better analogy for some of them). There have been professional athletes, actors and coaches. There have been great men and the shadiest men to ever walk the face of earth (you know who you are). There have been men who were solid lovers and friends and others I should have ran from at the get-go. The reason, though, why none of these relationships worked from my end, is that they were never a great enough part of my focus. Hanging onto them wasn’t my greatest priority. Rather, building what I thought defined “success” in my life was. Now, though, I can realize how that approach was misguided.
How, then, can late-20-somethings and early-30-somethings work to have it all?
It’s about balance. And practice. And patience. And forgiving yourself for what you did or didn’t do in the past.
Recently, I made a list of my priorities for my life going forward. These things were on the list:
-Be a better daughter
-Be a better friend to more people
-Develop a stronger relationship with God
-Focus more upon physical fitness and health
-Be open to new romantic relationships
-Develop a legacy of giving to others
-Maintain the pace of your career
Those seven things add up to “having it all” for me. For a person who not only teaches at a top-50 university, but also writes for two major news organizations, how do I balance all of these things so that I can become whole in my own eyes? As my mom has always said, “Practice makes perfect” and “patience is a virtue.”
It takes time to become whole. Being whole is another way to say, “having it all.”
Just because you spent the entirety of your 20s focusing upon one or several of the things on your “having it all” list doesn’t mean you failed. But, to gain it all, you need to reassess where you are with each item on your list. Is it time to refocus your energy from one item to another? Can you take a break from something to build up another area of your life?
One of my favorite childhood books, The Velveteen Rabbit, perhaps sums it up the best: “‘It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept.’”
I may not be a mother by the time I’m 30. Heck, I may not even be a mother by the time I’m 40! (Luckily, my maternal grandmother didn’t give birth to her first child until she was nearly 41–and that was in 1948! So, with the help of good genes and improved technology, that may be feasible–albeit not preferable–for me). Chances are, I won’t dance my first dance with my husband by the time I’m 30. The state of affairs now says that I might not even know him.
But, I’m becoming. I’m becoming closer to “having it all.”
And it’s only because it doesn’t happen all at once. Understanding that, my friends, is the key to having it all.
Sports is a dominating force in the Jessop household. As an only child, I became the son my dad never had. Except I wore dresses, was a cheerleader and in a sorority. However, when it came to talking sports, I could hold my own.
My mom, on the other hand, although she tolerates my dad and my affinity for sports, well, doesn’t get it.
Earlier, the Colorado Rockies gave Todd Helton a horse to commemorate his last home game as a member of the organization. This gesture, while lighting up the internet, also spurred one of the best conversations EVER.
“Hey, mom. Did you see that the Rockies gave Todd Helton a horse?!”
“A HORSE?! Like a real, live horse?”
“Yea, a real, live horse.”
“Did they give him a horse trailer?”
“Well how is he going to get the horse home?”
“I have no idea.”
“Did it come with a saddle?”
“Actually, yea, I saw that the horse was wearing a Rockies saddle.”
“A ROCKIES SADDLE?! Where is the horse going to live?”
“I have no idea.”
“Did Todd tell them he wanted a horse?”
“Mom, I really have no idea about any of this. All I know is they got the dude a horse. You live in a cowboy state.”
“Maybe they got it for him because he got that DUI. You know, so he could ride a horse home instead of driving?”
Christine Jessop, ladies and gentlemen.
A video from the Colorado Rockies of Todd, getting said horse: