A Letter from Shante Little post Bird Camp
We were absolutely blown away by this note from our own Haute Volée Shante Little after #birdcamp15. Read it and you will understand why this woman is so special. Shante, thank you for sharing your story. Your transparency will not only help others who are struggling, but will free you to achieve on your own terms. We love having you in our runfamily!
Around this time last year, I started drafting what would become my 'coming out' letter. I had been engaged in this battle with bulimia for years—the climax of it being the aftermath of winning my first outdoor national championship. All of a sudden there was this enormous pressure to be great- to stay great. My sport wasn't my own anymore.
I think that sometimes acts of self-destruction in any form are about regaining ownership of oneself. For me personally, it was about taking back control and destroying the 'body' that was subject to external abuse. In this case, my eating disorder reared its head in response to the anxiety surrounding my loss of authority and autonomy in my sport.
When I first decided to come out about this particular struggle, I reached out to KMet. I had been in talks with Oiselle for a few months and I wanted there to be absolute transparency. Basically, I wanted Kristin to know what she was potentially getting into. And you know what? She was great. She didn't shy away from the topic and she didn't write me off as a liability. Oiselle wasn't afraid of my story.
For a while things were good. But I soon realized that I was still holding on to this idea of what success looked like. Not in my eyes. In everyone else's. I was 'recovered', I had made it through to the other side. That's a pretty story. Perfectly packaged and presented with a bow on top. Here's a gold star for me.
There is always so much focus on the success story, the triumph. It allows people to brush off the uncomfortable and sit with the happy ending. The before and the after, with this huge gaping hole where the real story goes.
The week before I flew out to Bird Camp, I was knee deep in the middle of a relapse. Injury + stress + emotional baggage + just being a 22 year old girl/woman makes for a heavy dose of 'Holy shit, how the hell do I just deal'. I was at a point where I didn't even want to make the trip up to Leavenworth because I was in such a tough place mentally. I didn't want to get out from under the warm duvet (Fleshman, thanks for that one).
I am so glad that I got on that plane. I can't even begin to describe the impact that this trip has had on me. Being embraced by this flock and hearing all of the stories shared by the incredible women of Oiselle (ALL the women) touched me. It really did. I felt layer after layer of anxiety and restlessness, doubt, guilt and shame fall away. And all that was left was love.
That's what sparked this reflection. I actually started writing it during our session where Sally talked about the new Volée.
It wasn't fair to these women- our women, ALL women to keep hiding behind the 'success story', to keep setting goals that were not my own or to try to fit myself into a box because 'this is what a professional athlete looks/thinks/acts like'. In my eyes, the hardest part of being a professional athlete is just that. The box.
I still struggle with this expectation that because I chose to continue my career, I must be training for the Olympics, to be a world record holder, to do this or to do that. In college, I thrived off of the notion that 'if you don't want to be the best at what you're doing, why do it?' I still believe that but my perspective has changed. I want to be the best at what I. Am. Doing.
Truth be told, my goal has never been to be an Olympian or a World Champion, a gold medalist or anything like that. I want to be a change maker and a beacon. I want to go as fast as I can and as far as I fucking can because that's what I want to do. For me. Because I want to see what I am truly capable of, in any venue, in any career. If I make it to the Olympics next year, will I be bowled over and so grateful and proud and happy and overwhelmed? Of course. But, if all the shit hits the fan, if I never make it, if if if if, will I still be bowled over and so grateful and proud and happy and overwhelmed to have been able to take advantage of these experiences? Absolutely yes. Because to me, grace is not conditional. And my success is not dependent on one factor. Because I believe that nothing is the end-all-be-all.
I chose to be a professional athlete because I can. Period. No explanation needed.
Bird Camp has reminded that whatever I choose, whatever my goals may be, is okay. It reminded me what I love about running and that my self-worth is not defined by what I do on the track or by my 'failure' to live up to anyone else's expectation of me.
It's not about ticking off boxes on someone else's checklist.
It's about what I want, nothing more and nothing less.
I'm ready for 2016.
Thank you all so much for this gift.