In just a few weeks I will retire from the profession I have held almost continuously since I was 16 years old. Everyone who hears the news is shocked. Let me tell you, I was shocked, too.
The first half of the season had been stressful, some situations I had not experienced before, but not actually the most stressful of my career. I started this organization when I was 23 and every year brought new challenges, new growth, new achievements, and new lessons. A few times the stress became so intense that I thought about walking away, but I would quickly conclude that I could not let my skaters down that way.
There have been times when the hard parts have felt easier and I have been able to flow with the joy of doing the one thing I love best in life. Still now, I have to pinch myself to believe that I have a job exactly of my own creating. Everything I have is what I have always wanted. When I get on a bus at 4:00 am, headed for a random New England rink, it actually feels glamourous, because this has been my singular focus for most of my life.
I don’t know for how long the stress was outweighing the joy in my heart, but one night this past fall I caught my mind trying to convince me that maybe I should have another baby so I could quit and no one would be mad at me.
It was the most terrifying ten seconds of my life.
Here’s the thing. I do not want a fourth baby, but we could handle a fourth baby. I’m married to a legit baby whisperer. Our boys would be overjoyed. My pregnancies are glorious and I approach labor like I imagine a BMX rider approaches the X-Games. Bring it.
The terrifying part was how I was hearing that I really wanted to make a change, and manufacturing a grand excuse (in this case, growing a new human) to give myself permission to make that change.
This is the lesson I have learned the most deeply and painfully and repeatedly over my career as a coach. My gut will always tell me the right thing to do. And sometimes people will hate it and even act like they hate me. But, when I ignore it, the situation intensifies until I eventually do what I knew was right all along.
This is the lesson I have communicated to my athletes more than any other. They all know that I fiercely believe that they will always know what is right for them. If they get quiet and listen, they will always know what to do. Everyone around them will have an opinion, but they will have the answer. And they need to have the courage to act on their wisdom, even when they may disappoint people who care about them.
Even though in a hundred different ways having another baby would actually be easier than having the courage to tell my skaters that I was moving on, I couldn’t do it.
I couldn’t take the one lesson I value over all others and ignore it.
I had to show them how to walk through it, how to do the thing no one wants you to do and to try to do it with grace and honesty, and without apology.
I vowed then to fall more in love with this sport every single day until I am done. I want to show them how to love something so much and still walk away. I want to show them that the only person you can ever really abandon is yourself. And I want to show them that I never, ever want them to do that.