A Dream Gone Wrong

Ladies and gentleman, please welcome to the ice, representing the United States of America, Miss Valerie Hearon. And the crowd goes wild.

I had thought of, dreamed of, and imagined that day since I was six years old. I had practiced, prepared, and trained over 36,000 hours for that moment.

You know what moment I hadn’t practiced, prepared, or trained for? The moment I sat in a bland, beige room and the doctor (who was just as bland) walked in carrying a folder. He said, “I think we can put you back together. But it is my professional opinion that you never skate again.

Wait, what? What the eff did you just say? My mind was swirling. The tears fell easily. I even, girl-cried. Like that incomprehensible — only dogs should be able to hear you — cry. And I hobbled out of the room on my crutches. My whole life, all my hard work, all my dreams and aspirations…GONE. The trajectory of my life…CHANGED. My heart…BROKEN.

What about you? Have you ever had your dreams crushed? Have you ever given up everything for something that ended up not panning out? Have you spent thousands of hours for something that didn’t materialize?

I bet some of you out there know exactly what I’m talking about. Maybe not the same, but similar. The heartbreak. The disappoint. The sadness and hopelessness. What did you do?

Well, to be quite honest, I floundered for a long time. I struggled. And I didn’t have good coping skills. I under-age drank. I started making myself throw up. Which turned into full blown bulimia.

But I kept taking teeny, tiny steps forward. It was weird and awkward. I enrolled in college. What? That was never on the docket. I wasn’t a bad student, but a scholar, I was not. Let’s be honest, I did enough work to get good enough grades so that I could skate. School wasn’t really my thing. But I was doing it. One tiny step forward.

Then I found cheerleading. The jumping, tumbling and being thrown in the air. Oh, I loved it. It was so much fun. And I got to be on a team! Not just by myself. Now this, was fun. Another tiny step forward.

I’ll spare you the little details of my life. But at college I met this boy. I loved him. We’ve been married for 26 years now. We have two children. A girl and a boy. They say that is a “rich man’s family.” I guess the government gets to keep that money.

In 2007, I found CrossFit. Ooh, 3, 2, 1…GO! And the timer starts. My competitor inside me was reignited. I loved it. I found another sport where I felt at home. Not skating. But a close second. Sure, there were things I couldn’t do because of my prior injuries, but who cares. That is where scaling and substituting comes in.

And then, I got into coaching. It was so much fun to see other people succeed. To see them do the thing that just six months ago, they swore they could never do. I realized very quickly that I couldn’t just train the athlete, I had to train the human. So I got more into the personal development and psychology of training. Things were all coming together. All for me to arrive at this moment in time.

Here’s what I’ve learned. When facing a setback, identifying the obstacle is the first step. Sometimes the setback is quite obvious — as in the case of my blown out knee. Sometimes it isn’t as obvious — like what happens in between the six inches of our ears. Our thoughts. It isn’t what happens to us in life, it is the stories we tell ourselves about those events.

I love Tony Robbins. I do. He always says, “Take massive action.” An no offense Tony, but sometimes, that is too overwhelming. Sometimes taking a teeny, tiny step, REPEATEDLY, is the way to go. Tiny steps still add up to a mile. But stepping up and getting done what is in front of you right now can lead to huge changes.

And lastly, never give up. Trust me when I tell you, I know what pain, heartbreak and disappointment feel like. I have sat in rooms and received news that crushed my soul. I could have chosen to stay there. It would have been so easy. No one would judge me or question me. Or even blame me. And you know what? It would have been easy. Just stay in that place. But I chose to get up. It was hard. It was ugly. Here’s a dirty little secret — nowhere does it say it has to look pretty! I know. I see Instagram, Facebook, and the such. Those are fake. Those are highlight reels. Those are photoshopped. Real is laying on the bathroom floor because you are in so much pain you are throwing up. Real is crying so hard, snot is just running down your face. Real is sitting next to your Dad’s grave not wanting to leave because you know once he goes in the ground, you won’t ever see him again.

But I digress. As much hurt and sadness I have experienced, and you may have experienced. There is joy. A baby’s laugh, a super yummy meal, a look with your significant other from across the room, etc. Realizing that life can be happy and joyful, is a key ingredient to moving forward. Acknowledging that it will be a different kind of happy.

I had a dream. My dream was to compete as a figure skater in the Olympics for my country. Now, I’m not trying to bible-thump you. But God, the Universe, or whatever you believe in, has a plan. Maybe that was never the plan for me. God is just using my skating experience in a way that at age 18, I couldn’t have even fathomed. And it is so much bigger than I could have imagined.

So, I decided for myself…what this a dream gone wrong? Or maybe, just maybe, it was a dream that has a different, much better ending.

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Val Jones

I am a professional figure skater turned peak performance expert/speaker/author. I help individuals/organizations reach their peak performance and income goals.