Commitment & Sacrifice

Sacrifice (v): to surrender or give up, permit injury or disadvantage to, for the sake of something else

Commitment (n): the state or an instance of being obligated or emotionally impelled

Sacrifice and commitment.  Everyone deals with both on a daily basis.  In the most societal acceptable way, we sacrifice staying in bed every morning to go to work instead.  We commit to a job, maybe because we love it, or often times, because it’s a means to making money so that we can eat, and live.  For many people, their commitment to their job at one time or another, has kept them at work late, meaning sacrifice of time at home, time with loved ones, time spent doing other hobbies, or activities.  If we really took time to think about all that we sacrifice for our commitments, it may make us reconsider how committed we actually are to them, and how worth it those sacrifices are.  

If you know me, you know I’m a committed person.  For me, there’s not a lot of grey in terms of my passion and resolve for something- when I commit, I don’t show up half way.  This isn’t necessarily a bad trait- for the people in my life, who I love, there’s really not much I wouldn’t do for them.  I’m committed to supporting them and being there for them, even when that means sacrificing sleep, time, or money.  When I worked as a counselor, I was committed to my clients to a fault- when I came home at night, it was difficult for me to turn off, or to relax.  I was constantly thinking about better ways I could help them, or worrying about the situations they were in.  Eventually, the sacrifices I made in my commitment to that job- mainly my own mental health, were too great, and I knew it was time to move on.

As a weightlifter, my commitment is no different.  Four weeks out from Nationals, a week’s worth of meals are cooked, weighed, portioned, labeled and organized on Sunday nights.  I turn down friend’s invitations to go out to grab food, or to grab a drink.  I didn’t go on an out of town trip with friends this weekend, because I knew it’d be exhausting, would mess with my training, and also, frankly, know that I’m not a whole lot of fun to be around right now.  I train, I eat, I nap, I coach, I sleep.

In the thick of it, honestly, I wonder if the sacrifices are worth it.  Will I look back and wish that I had gone on a trip with my friend?  Will I miss that turned down night out with my friends?  Could I balance my training better with my life?  I’m not making money from lifting, I’m not Olympics bound.  I’m an average athlete who fell in love with a sport 10 years later than I needed to to be able to really make anything big out of it.  

Training can be grueling.  It can be disappointing.  And it can be lonely.  Really, really lonely, even when I’m blessed to have people in my life who understand my commitment, and continue to be in my life and plan around my meets and training.  But, pushing through my training, being strong, getting better, and having the privilege to share a platform with some of the best lifters in the country, has turned me into a better person.  It has given me amazing opportunities to travel, to actually believe in myself and my abilities, to not fear walking onto a platform alone, to feel deserving of where my hard work has taken me.  And that confidence on the platform has carried into my life, in ways I never imagined.  It’s allowed me to chase down bigger goals, to believe that I’m worthy of what I want- my confidence and strength has made facing challenges alone doable, and less scary.  It’s finally made me see my capabilities and my worth.

Today, someone who knows nothing about weightlifting was asking me about my training, and then Nationals, and asked “Well, what do you get if you win?”  Does there need to be anything  besides being National Champion?  I dream of becoming a National Champion and I dream of being able to compete internationally.  I think about what it would feel like to put double body weight over my head.  I fall asleep at night thinking of numbers I want to hit, and attempts I’ll take on a platform, and the pride and accomplishment I feel when I hit them.  And while I work incredibly hard, while I sacrifice a “normal” life, it’s possible I may never achieve what I dream of, because, there are amazing lifters in the US, who are working just as hard, and have been for YEARS before I found this sport.  But, when I decide that it’s finally time that the sacrifices I’m making aren’t worth my 110% commitment to this sport anymore, whenever that is, I want to know that I have done everything I can to improve myself and be the best I personally can- even if that never includes gold medals around my neck, or the privilege of competing in a USA singlet.

“In the end, it’s extra effort that separates a winner from second place. But winning takes a lot more that, too. It starts with complete command of the fundamentals. Then it takes desire, determination, discipline, and self-sacrifice. And finally, it takes a great deal of love, fairness and respect for your fellow man. Put all these together, and even if you don’t win, how can you lose?” -Jesse Owens

Joelle Emery