Full Circle

I stared out the window of the plane as it started its descent into the Berlin Schoenfeld airport.


I started my season here with the Berlin ISTAF Indoor meeting at the Mercedes Benz Arena.


I’m ending it here too…


as a spectator.


But before that…a little context…


Berlin is a magical place for me, I came here for the first time years ago wanting to perform in a way worthy of the memory of Jesse Owens…


an Ohioan 


like me


a back to back 4-time state champion


like me


an Olympian


like me


a sprinter/jumper


like me


I wanted to be 


a person that could go through so many things off the track and overcome them all while producing amazing performances


like him




I fell hard and fast


stripped of my wings like Icarus flying too close to the sun.


I checked in at the Waldorf Astoria Sunday, and they welcomed me back to the hotel and after our cordial greetings stalled the receptionist spoke again


What happened? You were diamond at the time of booking and now you’re silver? 


A lot has happened. I said. I lost that status, along with a lot of other things this year but no worries, I’ll be gold again after this trip.


She strikes a few seemingly random keys on the keyboard of her Dell computer. 


Yes, I believe that you will, you’ll be gold again. 


And she gives me the biggest encouraging smile.


Can you tell from that screen when I made this reservation? I ask her.


Of course Ms. Bartoletta, one moment….yes January 16th.


January 16th.


Seven months ago.


Seven months ago I was certain that I’d have to be in Berlin anyway training and supporting the rest of the Tumbleweed training group, all of which is European with the exception of Christian Taylor.


Seven months ago…


I had a vision of myself rising from the ashes of the previous life I’d burn to the ground.


Then February happened and I knew then that nothing I wanted to happen would happen.


I got re-signed by Nike to one of those contracts that left me feeling like I needed to be grateful that I was getting an offer at all.


I turned up in Berlin in the winter excited to be back in the saddle only to run down the runway for my first jump and realize “it” just wasn’t there.


I continued to compete. Honoring my commitments to the meet directors all while my performances were getting worse and worse as I was slowed by the additional mass disappointment seems to add to my frame.


I knew by the time USATF nationals rolled around that it was over for me for indoor.


I knew that I was falling and failing…


So I gave myself a safety net. A yoga and meditation retreat in Bali. To help teach me how to deal with all the fear and disappointment I was experiencing. So that it wouldn’t kill me.


And so I attended USA Nationals as a spectator.


And then I attended IAAF World Indoor Championships


as a spectator.


And made new plans with new people who could help bring me back either through their expertise or their love, sometimes both for the outdoor season.


I gave a speech on a huge stage for an International Women’s Day Conference in Oslo.


I went to that retreat in Bali and it changed me.


I returned to the US committed and ready to work hard and I did.


But I continued to fail. 


And so what was meant to be a summer of traveling the circuit wracking up diamond league points and paychecks turned into a different summer entirely.


A summer where I ended up spending more money than I made.


And learning more than I ever would have if I had had the same summer, on the same circuit, around the same people that I’ve always been around.


I was reintroduced to Tianna


not the elite athlete 


who I’ve been desperately trying to hide behind hoping that she’d do her part and save me from the uncertainty I’m facing.


But she refused to show up like the Hulk did in Avengers Infinity War.


Forcing me…


like Hulk forced Bruce Banner…


to get comfortable with living life


as me.


And I could have squandered it, but instead I read and I wrote and I met up with followers, fans, and friends that really stood out to me because of their messages or their personalities, and they showed me their hometowns, secret hideouts, favorite bookstores, offered me gifts, and shared meals, and their time. Unselfishly. 


Replenishing me, uplifting me, 


not because I’m number one in the world right now, or leading the diamond league, but because I’m me. 


And then…


There was Anna. 


A recent graduate, and rising pole vault star…whose true self and beautiful light had been buried under countless horrible acts perpetrated against her. 


Who reached out to me via email to basically ask, “how’d you do it?”


"How do you keep coming back?"


We talked for months. Exchanged probably 100 emails, and dozens of hours on the phone, telling each other our tales, 


she, growing exponentially from the power of speaking up and vulnerability. 


Me, growing exponentially from learning how to communicate, how to love, how to listen.


With all of my new downtime I was able to visit her in Bath.


We spent three days together laughing…talking…crying…touring…hugging.


She’s headed back to Scotland and then abroad fully committed to seeing her Pole Vaulting dreams come to fruition.


Now, I’m back in Berlin.


A place that I had intended to be seven months ago (so confident I was in getting to this point that I prepaid the hotel).


And yet…


I would not have predicted the amount of pain and suffering


or the detours


that those seven months contained.


And yet…


here I am.


In the same city where my season started


no longer wondering if I’ll ever measure up to Jesse Owens legacy…


but fully confident that I can hold my own


and that like the receptionist here at the Waldorf Astoria said, that I’ll be gold again soon.




Blogger's Note: The lessons this year contained for me were complex but simply put what I learned was this: As long as I don't lay down and give up completely I'll get to where I want to be. But that does not mean that the events between where I've started and where I end up are going to be pleasant or even predictable. The only thing in my control...is to keep moving...in the direction of my dreams. Maybe the same is true for you too.