It’s crazy how from one day to another, your life can completely change before your eyes, when you least expect it. From the first moment we enter this world we are learning about life. We get older and go to school for what seems like a lifetime. Where all you do is dream, dream about the wonderful future you can’t wait to have one day. You go through school making decisions. What subjects are you going to study? What is going to help you live the bright future you have always dreamt of? This is all a part of life, learning and growing.
I never knew what I wanted to study at school as I got older, all I knew is that one day I wanted to go to the Olympics, then settle down and start a beautiful family. I always thought I was going to be a long distance track runner. I really loved running and it was all I ever did at school. One thing was for sure, I really loved sport. I always found it hard when I had to go back into the classroom from being outside, let’s just say that sitting still was not my strongest ability.
As a young girl I faced situations that were challenging and as I got older and started high school I began to struggle mentally. I went to school and really loved it. I was the funny kid, that liked to secretly distract my class mates. I was friends with everyone, but also really appreciated my own space. I would feel so down coming home from school and it started to really worry my family. I realised it was time to get professional help and it was the best thing I have ever done. It was hard for me to admit that I needed help but there comes a time when you know it’s neccesary.
When I was younger my parents used to take my siblings and I to the local Christmas Cycling Carnivals. There was woodchopping, athletics and what I enjoyed watching most, track cycling. Around the same time my psychologist suggested that I start a new hobby, and of-course, I chose cycling. My parents were always one hundred per cent supportive of what ever I chose to do in life, no matter what it was. To cut a long story short, this is where my cycling journey began.
I began to love cycling. I found training was the best therapy for me. I would come home from school so eager to just ride my bike! There was something about it; the fresh air, being alone, thinking about things in a positive mind set, the adrenaline from racing and producing those good endorphins! I just loved everything about it!
Cycling has given me so many beautiful experiences. It has taken me around the world countless times. It’s given me so many wonderful relationships, friendships and eventually a husband. It has taken me to two Olympic Games (London & Rio) and two Commonwealth Games (Glasgow & Brisbane). I am now 2x Commonwealth Games gold medalist, 4x Junior World Champion and 3x World Champion. Perhaps most importantly cycling has taught me resilience. It’s shown me how to deal with so many situations and adversities in life. Sadly, one of my biggest challenges has been my recent divorce of my husband, a man I thought I would spend the rest of my life with.
My hardest days have made me stronger. Who would have thought that in those tough school years of 11 & 12, when I was struggling the most mentally, that I would become 4x Junior World Champion. If you had told me a year ago that I would marry the man of my dreams in October, then the next month be told he no longer sees a future with me, I wouldn’t have believed it.
To win the World Championships this year in Febuary, has been one of my biggest achievements so far. After what has been one hell of a rollercoaster the last 6 months, I have been asked so often how I have stayed so strong and positive throughout this period. People struggle to understand how I have handled this, the way I have. I’ve never really given a thought out answer, I’ve never really thought about it properly until now. How can I share my strength and maybe help someone else going through an adversity? Sometimes the world we live in is cruel. Sometimes life throws hurdles our way that are hard to comprehend, but I honestly believe that everything in life happens for a reason, even if that reason maybe hard to see at the time.
With my decision to reach out and get help when I was younger, I learnt a very valuable lesson. In life we are not shaped by our experiences, but shaped more by the meaning we attach to our experiences. If you do your best to focus on the positives, positive things will come. I have a tattoo on my ribs that I try to live by. “It’s finding that one positive out of every hurt that makes us stronger.”
Anthony and I had been planning to settle down after the Tokyo Olympics and start a family of our own. I believed this was my future. I couldn’t imagine it any other way, but I cant sit back and think this. I’ve decided to look at this as another opportunity. Maybe this was meant to be, a door closing ready for another one to open? During my lowest periods, I have also had my biggest triumphs. What maybe just around the corner for me? I don’t know, I can’t read the future. One thing I know for sure is that if I stay positive no matter what life throws at me, positive things will follow.
It’s easy to sit back and say you need to be positive and look at the positives in life. But sometimes being positive is simply choosing not to focus on the negatives. Sitting back and realising the sun is shining, I have food on my plate and tomorrow is another day.
I also know now that I wouldn’t be the resilient person I am today if I didn’t admit that I needed help when I was younger. Our biggest strengths sometimes come from our weaknesses. I might seem strong to the outside world and sometimes emotionless, but I have had my moments of weakness. I’ve had days where I have turned up to the track and struggled to hold the emotions in. I’ve had days where I’ve turned around and walked back inside, deciding that even attempting training was too hard. I’ve had days where I’ve wanted to stay in bed. But the most important thing in life I want you to know is that it’s okay to be not okay, as long as you’re doing something about it. The strongest choice you can make is to speak up, because when ‘I’ is replaced with ‘we’ even the word illness becomes wellness! If I could give anyone going through a hard time any advice, It would be to speak up to the right people. That’s what strength is all about.
No one can not determine the future. We can plan as much as we like but ultimately we need to accept that our path may veer in unexpected directions, and sometimes this can be where the most beautiful things in life are found. The future should not be feared nor shall it be forced. It’s something that should unfold by living life to the fullest and doing the best you can with whatever life throws at you!