Seven straight days without watching TV. Seven straight days with no playoffs games or conversations about sports. Seven days with very little time spent on social media. Blissfully unaware and didn’t care for the first time in more than a decade. Honestly, I didn’t even know that was possible for me, but my recent jaunt to Southern California was more than just a vacation. It was another big step toward making my personal life a priority in 2014. It’s my number one goal this year, no matter how strange or odd it seems.
For most of my adult life, everything personal has remained firmly on the back burner. Of course, nothing’s more important than family and close friends, and I drop everything when they need me. When I have downtime, I spend a lot of it visiting, calling, texting, emailing, keeping in touch with and praying for the people I love. But in order to succeed in this career of mine, it’s required the very best of me: mind, body, soul, and spirit as well as all the time I could devote to it. That’s meant working long hours, odd schedules, nights, weekends, holidays…and juggling multiple jobs at once. I’ve navigated months with only a single day off, and I’ve stayed awake 30-plus hours more times than I can count. My record is a 46-hour stretch of nothing but working, driving, working, and driving. Little scary. Only by the grace of God.
Despite all the twists and turns, missteps and mistakes, I know I’m right where I’m supposed to be. I don’t harbor any regrets. I wouldn’t go back and change it if I could. BUT I also know it’s the right time to make personal my top priority. More than a year after joining CBS Sports Radio, my career is no longer incubating. I don’t need to “mother it” the same way. And for the sake of long-term health, sanity, and balance, I’m rearranging in 2014. We all know tweaking and pruning can be difficult, especially when it’s established mindsets and patterns that require attention. For months, I’ve kept two major steps in mind, and I recently took them both.
After six years as the radio play-by-play voice of the Hartford women’s basketball team, I’ve given up that job. Talk about a tough step to make! Of all the cool opportunities I’ve had in my career, basketball play-by-play is my favorite, hands down. It’s my niche, my comfort zone, my happy place, my adrenaline rush. No matter how tired or stressed out, the second I launch into play-by-play, all the distractions and noise in my brain fade into the background. It takes me back to those nights as a teenager when I listened to radio broadcasts of the Celtics and fell in love with the idea of describing games with such precision and skill that fans don’t feel like they’re missing anything simply because they can’t see the action with their own eyes. Giving up my Hartford gig was painful. It’s hard to imagine not being on the sidelines when next season tips off. It’s also been more than a decade since I didn’t have play-by-play locked into my winter schedule. But commuting four hours to home games and putting more than a thousand miles a week on my car in addition to my full-time job got to be too much. I never commit to anything halfway; I always give it my whole heart. So sleep, exercise, and healthy eating habits all took a backseat to maintain that schedule from early November to mid-March. Any kind of personal life was virtually non-existent. As hard as it is, I know this is a necessary step for my future. I also know sometimes you have to close one door before you can find the next open door with its new opportunities. I loved every second with the Hartford Hawks, on and off the court. It was a privilege to represent the university and head coach Jennifer Rizzotti and work with some amazing young women. I had the chance to call conference championships, NCAA tournament action, 20 straight victories, upsets over undefeated Duke and other ranked opponents, buzzer beaters, games from Cancun, and broadcasts inside packed arenas where you could barely hear yourself think. All priceless experiences! Not only did those six years make me a better play-by-play announcer, but I gained some lifelong friendships. I’m so thankful for those people who root for me as I move onto the next stage in my career. What a blessing!
The second major step (at least for me) in making my personal life a priority was taking a vacation from sports which is decidedly different than just getting out of town and not working for a week. To travel cross-country and visit friends I rarely get to see was amazing. To REALLY leave sports behind without being anxious over what I was missing? A whole new level for me. I didn’t watch one second of playoff action or the NFL Draft and didn’t flip on the TV for a full week. Even more impressive, I didn’t tweet about sports at all. Ha! Believe it or not, it wasn’t difficult. After the first couple days, I forgot to wonder what was happening in the sports world…almost like a huge cleansing breath for that part of my brain. Maybe I thought I couldn’t afford to take the time away and still be credible on the air. Maybe I wasn’t confident enough in myself or my job security to put sports aside for that long…until now. Despite the doubts of some on social media, I enjoyed a vacation full of everything BUT sports: eating and laughing with friends, traipsing around the San Diego Zoo for eight hours, hiking, running, walking, exploring the top of a mountain, taking pictures, swimming, sleeping, and relaxing. Maybe it shouldn’t have taken me so long to get there, but it was well worth the wait. (Thanks, Brittany and Beth!)
I’ll admit there’s a part of me that wonders if I’ve lost the ability to make my personal life a priority. What if I waited too long? Or worse yet, what if I stink at it? What if I’m only really good at working? But I know I have to try. I’m a firm believer that it’s never too late to change your course and try something new. And so with all the faith I can muster, I take this new personal fork in my road, full of anticipation for what’s on the horizon.