Jan 10, 2012

As much as I hate the word blog, I’ve been meaning to start one for a long time.  I’m not sure why the idea seemed so intimidating, but I guess at some point you have to just jump right in.  I should probably begin with how I got here before I delve into where I am.  For a year and a half now I’ve been training and traveling the world playing professional tennis tournaments.  I’d like to say that for the last year and a half I’ve been a professional tennis player, and I could certainly make an argument that I have, but I’ve always felt a bit awkward wearing the label.  It implies an arrogance I don’t feel and as much as I would call myself that, it isn’t a true definition of how I’ve really gone about my career.  I’ve always made travel and planning decisions based on the experience I want to have rather than the most strategic ways to accrue the most points and rise in the ATP ranks.  And while I don’t use this as an excuse for not having been more successful or whatnot, it has definitely made for a more atypical “professional” career based on some standards.  I used to think that my discomfort came from not living up to what I thought the title represented, namely making money and having the glamour of being a successful professional athlete.  But I’ve since come to realize, or rather decided that the distinction is not a failure but rather a choice to make the process what’s important so that the means can always justify the end, no matter if that’s 100 in the world, 1,000 in the world or nothing at all.  You constantly hear coaches advise that winning cant be all that’s important and it really is true, especially on the professional tour (just for the record my highest ranking so far was 1,420 in the world, although it expired last October).

There are just so many talented and hardworking players that it is too hard to make the results of competing with all of them what are important.  I’ve seen so many guys tear themselves apart over how they’re doing—I’ve certainly been there myself at times—and it does not seem like the way to enjoy the last years and months of your career.  At twenty-four I am realistic with what I’m capable of, knowing that if I was ever going to be on TV playing at Wimbledon it would probably have happened by now.  But I’ve played this game and had this dream since the day I could walk, and I want to milk every last drop I can get out of it, in whatever form that means.  For that reason, although I work hard and strive to improve every day, I say I travel to professional tournaments and attempt to rest easy in that being the end I want.  In any case though, I have in fact spent my recent past actively pursuing my childhood dream of being, or better, becoming a professional tennis player, whether I’ve officially made it or not. Thankfully the pursuance of this dream has made for a great and interesting time.

I’ve traveled far and wide playing the game that I love and to which I have devoted so much of my life.  From the hustle and heat of LA, where great players seem to grow on trees, to the ice and snow of a Montreal winter that forces you to adapt to crazy indoor courts, and all the way to small, secluded towns I cant even remember the names of in Laos and Thailand where nobody’s even heard of tennis—I’ve found my way on buses and planes and trains.  While I can’t say this pursuit has been the most economically lucrative, it has been exciting and definitely important.  It’s given me a reason to travel and see places I would never have thought to visit, as well as a purpose that has been both empowering and at times a burden.

Cruising the streets of Laos, Racquets in hand

Sometimes I wonder if it would be better or simpler to just travel and be a tourist, since the tournaments don’t always take you to the places you want to go, and even if they do they don’t always leave you with the time and energy to really explore as much as you’d like.  But there is something energizing and gratifying about being taken to strange places for the sport, job, hobby—call it whatever you want—that you love and have chosen to pursue.  I don’t really know how to describe it but its fun.  I understand that reasonable people look at me walking around with tennis racquets in places like Carracas, Venezuela, known more as the kidnapping capital of the world than as a tourist destination, and wonder why I would go there to play tennis and pay good money for the privelage. Frankly, the answer is I don’t really know.  But I do.  And I’m glad that I have, as crazy as it seems.  For as often as I am forced to concede the ridiculousness of my existence to people—which is pretty often and in many different countries and languages—I also get to revel in the fact that I am experiencing cultures and places that few outsiders get to see.  Whether these turn out to be good experiences or bad, and places I liked or for which I didn’t particularly care, the important part is that I got to see it and know it and it catalog it away with everything that shapes me and my view of the world.  Besides the fact that I am pursuing a dream and I care deeply about my tennis, I wouldn’t trade the experiences and perspectives that tennis and this vagabond existence has given me for…for…well I cant really think of anything so certainly not for much.

The past year has been a learning experience, and while it has been amazing to travel the world as I’ve described, it has also been trying at times and I’ve had to realize that there will always be things to deal with no matter where you are and what you’re doing.  I’ve gotten a bit off topic but the point of all this was to say that I’ve had a crazy year traveling to a lot of cool places. Although for one reason or another I didn’t pull it together to chronicle my adventures thus far, now, as I’m starting the next leg and likely last 8 months of this experience, I hope to keep a record of what I see, do, and learn while I continue to pursue my dream.  Perhaps at some point I’ll go back and try to recall a few specific episodes that stand out from my last year of traveling but that’s for another time.  I’ve described how I got here, and now I can finally begin to explain where I am.

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