A Tale of Two Tb's

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times, it was the age of wisdom, it was the age of foolishness, it was the epoch of belief, it was the epoch of incredulity, it was the season of Light, it was the season of Darkness, it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us…”

For a final exam in one of my high school English classes we had to scribe the first paragraph of Charles Dickens’ A Tale of Two Cities. We were graded on how well we memorized not just the words, but proper punctuation and capitalization. So it’s no wonder when I limped off the track after running the 100 meter dash in the Diamond League Final, as my body started to feel the effect of being on the run since May 1st, that these words floated back into my consciousness.

I’m always intrigued by what I remember and when.

But before that…some context.

Just this past week one of my friends called Coach Coffey was messaging me from Havana, Cuba.

We were having a rapid back and forth conversation about paradoxes. How we really want to see first hand how people are living in places like Rio or Havana, or other tourist hot spots where the local population struggles to meet their daily needs. But that we also felt that by going there we were inadvertently contributing to the tourism industry that isn’t exactly benefitting the people of that country. And then at the same time by us NOT going we are also at risk of accepting as reality whatever narrative is being pedaled through whatever sources we go to for our information. We ended our conversation in agreement about one thing.

Life is all paradox.

There are always two cities.

The one you see. 

The one you don’t.

Same goes for me.

And probably for you.

Here’s a glimpse at the tb you didn’t see…

After the diamond league final I cried on the bus ride back to the hotel, I cried in my hotel room, I was crying as I collected my food from a very confused Uber Eats delivery man in front of the hotel. 

I felt like I was going down the rabbit hole…

or at the very least that a tiny version of me was in oversized emptying porcelain bath tub circling faster and faster near the drain, and that I was reaching and clawing for anything that would allow me purchase so that I wouldn’t be lost forever.

I was hoping that the Diamond League Final would turn out differently, so that I could feel more hopeful heading into the final quarter of the year. I wanted to walk away with something tangible that I could point to that said…

Your work has paid off…

Your consistency during the season under devastating circumstances mattered.

Something that said, "you proved your worth enough to the right people so you can be a little less anxious about your future."

It was my best of seasons.

It was my worst of seasons.

On my vision board I had written that I wanted to jump 7.50, that I wanted to run a personal best in the 100 meter dash. That I wanted to win my third long jump world championship title, and bring home two gold medals from the world championships.

None of which I achieved.

But there were other things on the board:

The best is yet to come…

Be fearless…

Make this your year...

You will win the war…

Attitude is everything…

Be happy…

Freedom from worry and fear…

It was the epoch of belief. 

It was the epoch of incredulity.

So now what?

Yea, I was kind of wondering that myself. But this is the part where I look back on my life and see that I’m actually 100 percent prepared for this, because for years I’ve been practicing how to just be with what is.

Meaning, thoughts and events both negative and positive are simply helium-filled balloons that float in and out of the frame of our lives.

You don’t have to grab the strings. 

You don’t have to cling.

Sometimes, the tb you don’t see has trouble processing emotions because she’s too good at observing her life, taking all the hits, and putting together a plan to fight back. She goes numb.

But the tb you saw this year,

felt every blow

every punch to the gut

and even cried…

on the podium.

The metaphorical dam that I’d built to hold all of those emotions began to breach as I had to wait in the medal ceremony call room for the answer to Ivana Spanovic’s appeal to know if I’d actually be leaving with a medal at all.

I could almost hear the sticks cracking under the weight of so much tempestuous water as Rowena of the IAAF was finally able to apply my Toyota podium bib on my medal suit.

I could almost see the leaks springing between the shifting mud-packed rocks as Darya Klishina, who's been such a sweet friend to me over the past few years, stepped out of the presentation order to give me a long hug before we entered the stadium to receive our medals.

By the time I was leaning forward to receive the bronze medal that would be draped around my neck, as our presenter wiped the tears from my eyes and kissed my wet face I had no more defenses, no more strength, no more pretense.

It was the season of Light.

It was the season of Darkness.

It was the spring of hope.

So I enter this offseason armed with this knowledge: that whatever it is, just is.

and that

we may have nothing before us now

but we also have

everything before us too.

nick steadman