I’ve sat for hours and hours trying to figure out how I should start this, what I should say, what my words will convey. Part of the reason this process is difficult is because I’m not usually one to talk about myself… ever! I love to listen to others’ thoughts – about their lives, their feelings and problems; sort of like a mama bear (as a lot of my friends and teammates would say). I guess I have my Mom to thank for that.
From a very early age, my Mom taught me how to be selfless; she always put others before herself. Her strength is what I admired most about her most, even when she was sick. What’s crazy is that I didn’t even know she was sick at first because, like always, she put me, my feelings (and my birthday) over what was more important (to me if I had known) at the time.
Losing my best friend, my Mom, has been the hardest thing I’ve ever had to deal with in my life. We had so much more to do, fun to have, love to give, together. But in what seems like such a short time together, I’ve learned so much from her. The two things that stuck with me the most are those two words previously stated, strength and selflessness.
As a college athlete, you know that your family away from home are your teammates. You see them more than you do your own family. You eat, sleep, cry, party, and fight together. There’s nothing like it. You also know that it doesn’t matter how much you lift in the weight room or sweat in practice, you can still be outworked on the court. It is more than just pure strength. When I was physically at my strongest and in the best shape I’ve ever been in as an athlete, I was emotionally and spiritually weak. I was lost, scared, angry, depressed. I didn’t have the strength to go to class, go to practice, or speak to anyone about how I was feeling, but my teammates saw right through it. They were my strength when I couldn’t find it in myself; they also showed me that it’s OK to allow someone else to be your strength when you’re weak and to prioritize your self, which is different than being selfish, especially when it relates to your own mental stability. There are really no words that can express my admiration, respect and gratitude for my teammates – my sisters, my family for life – and if they don’t understand the magnitude of what they’ve done for me, I hope this helps.
With loss, things are truly put in perspective. My whole life I’ve done things to help please others and make them happy. I never took risks, tackled my fears or found the courage or strength to do what I thought was right for myself. TRUE strength… the kind that can’t be matched, comes from within. From your mind. I’ve learned that your circumstances ARE meant to define you. Your circumstances and how you handle them are what makes you, YOU. I had to learn that the hard way. When you are truly strong, you know that obstacles don’t always have to throw you off track, but can help keep you grounded. They give you perspective and hopefully, eventually acceptance for what you cannot change.
I’m still working on me – learning, growing, and making mistakes. But for once, after 3 knee surgeries, dealing with not being able to play basketball competitively again, and losing my best friend, I can say proudly, boldly and with all of the strength that I feel like I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be. Where I need to be. In my hometown, around the ones I love, helping those who need me most through the game that gave so much to me.
Hopefully this makes sense and flows somewhat coherently. I hope this helps someone, somewhere going through something, which seems to be more people than we may think.
This felt good to do though.
I just hope I’m making my mama proud.
A woman in the making.
Written by: Di’anna Thomas-Palmer, Hofstra University Class of 2016, PYB HoopHers (Girl Empowerment) Program Leader.