I think there are a lot of meaningful articles (full of clichés) written about things you wish you could tell a younger version of yourself. In most of those articles, the same things are rinsed, washed, and repeated.
I don't believe I am so unique that I will provide an entirely new set of information, but I want to give a viewpoint of things I wish I could tell myself that would better prepare me for the tumultuous up and downs I've faced throughout my career as a strength and conditioning coach.
I hope that seeing the same clichés through a different lens may help one of you struggling from a career or personal perspective in whatever industry you're in, whether it's college athletics or not.
Late College to Early Career (circa 2012-2014)
I was going through a tough stretch in my life because of a much-known breakup (small school problems) and losing my granddad. I felt like I didn't matter and I forgot how to love anyone (especially me).
These feelings followed me into my career unbeknownst to me. I had very low self-confidence because I was entering uncharted territory, and my college career did not end as I anticipated.
I went into my internships, graduate assistant positions, and relationships with deep-rooted anger that would eventually become the mask of confidence that covered the large amounts of insecurity I had.
In my mind, nothing mattered. In turn, I hurt many people in my personal life and burnt many bridges. Surprisingly, I made some lifelong friends during this time, but there was more bad than good.
I wish I could go back and tell myself just two simple words, "You matter."
I think many people end up feeling the same way in their careers.
They're lost, feel hopeless, or insignificant.
I'm here to say that you matter.
Realizing this is like a life vest that will help you stay afloat in the ocean you're currently drowning in.
Find God, Prick
Mid Way Through My Career (2016-2018)
Insecurity can quickly become false confidence, cockiness, and arrogance. I was a raging fire at this point in my life. Oh, and my mistakes during this period of my life are well documented online by others.
There was no servanthood to show during this time period and no leadership to speak of.
I was a man fueled by insecurity and small successes—a bad person, boss, and a terrified, miserable human.
I didn't have a healthy way of easing my anxieties, and I did anything I could to cover my fear of being a failure. I hadn't transitioned to thinking I mattered, so I gravitated to letting others tell me I mattered.
I needed God, and he was searching for me, but I wasn't paying any attention because I was beyond blinded by ego and fear.
Sometimes success can defeat you. Pretending to be a winner for so long, you forget you're still a recovering loser. Giving my life over to God in a small sewer run-off in South Georgia and confessing myself to him in a small office in Nowhere, Georgia, was the greatest thing that ever happened to me. I let go of so much unwanted baggage, stress, hate, and fear that day.
I think there are a lot of times in our careers where we feel lost, or we are drowning in insecurity or false confidence or whatever it is. Sometimes having success is the worst thing for us. Having a balance or something to ground you in consistency is very important.
Praise and criticism are terrible things to listen to. I've learned to drown out both. It has made all the difference in my life and how I approach my job to keep me level-headed.
I do everything for the ultimate power: my wife and my family.
It's Okay to Stop Suffering
I've been betrayed, lied to, turned on, and stolen from. I've been subject to many outbursts and racial discrimination. And I've let that stuff weigh on me for a long time. I have recently begun to heal from all those things and realize it's all okay.
Repeat after me, "It's okay."
Let go and move on.
It's easy to stay in a state of suffering, especially if you don't truly love yourself. I say this now because someone I love very much said it to me not too long ago. And as much as it hurt to actualize that, it was something I needed to see and hear.
I have spent my life in a chaotic environment. I have hurt a lot of people, and I have made a lot of mistakes. But so have we all. I have allowed others to drown me without realizing I couldn't breathe. When I moved to Arizona, I spent the first six months outside myself. I didn't know I was even doing this. I was trying to recover from mass trauma in the only way a young black boy who was always brought up to be tough could.
When I was told, "You are being like this because you don't love yourself,"
it instantly pulled me back into the real world and out of the fantasy I was using as a coping mechanism for my trauma.
It's okay to suffer. In fact, I think all human emotions give us a good guiding compass to navigate through different parts of life. It's not okay to stay in a constant state of suffering. Looking back, I lived in a state of suffering for far too long when I didn't have to. I often felt I wasn't good enough and deserved to suffer.
Realize, you don't need outside criticism or praise to guide you. You don't need to suffer because of what others say about you. You should be your biggest critic and your biggest hype person. Please do not do what I did and let others force me to live outside myself. That's not a way to live. Be who you are meant to be and live the life you deserve. Don't let anyone tell you differently.
Donald Day is the Director of Olympic Sports at Murray State University. He joined the Racers after being Assistant Strength Coach at Arizona. Donald holds a CSCCA with the S.C.C.C (Strength Conditioning Coaches Certification), USAW, and Precision Nutrition certification. He and his wife Brianna reside in the western part of Kentucky with their dog Fritz.