Have you ever had your identity stolen? Imagine the feeling of someone else thieving your power, your name, your privacy, & who you really are. What an awful, devastating, and hopeless experience. There is another form of identity theft that is even more detrimental to you… In order to avoid this type of theft, answer this question; who would you be if your label was taken away from you? I’m talking about the one thing that you relate with in the most personal way. The answer you usually give to the question, who are you & what do you do? Or the description used by others to define you?
Recently, I was faced with the threat of identity theft at my own hands. I had to make the tough decision to protect myself while making a major life change. So, I did what I had to do…
I broke up with my identity!
Sounds harsh right? I’ll admit it wasn’t easy. We had been together for 10 years! I went back-and-forth struggling with the decision. After all, my identity is what brought me attention and celebrity status. I enjoyed being with her. She was fun, she took me all over the country, and to some very exotic places. She helped me meet some of the most amazing people & create lifelong friendships. She also offered an immediate connection, and opened a lot of doors with others. Their eyes would light up at the mention of her. Several times, complete strangers would walk up to me and say “hello” as if we were old friends. Some would even ask for my autograph, all because of her. Wow! She was pretty freaking awesome! Not only that, but I’m the only one who could claim this particular title, so that means she was unique too. How cool is that? Then why the hell would I ever want to break up with her?
The concept of identity is something that has become a very important topic for me. Too often I see people wrap themselves up in what they do. They are the smart one, they are the basketball player, the football player, the coach, the executive, the leader, the trouble maker, the parent, or any of the thousands of other labels we put on ourselves. Worse yet are the tags we allow others to put on us. Those that infect our hearts and minds, and become our identification. You’re not smart enough, you’re not tall enough, you’re not fast enough, you’re not attractive, you’re damaged goods… you are not enough!
Whenever we allow what we do, (or what someone else says we are or are not), to determine our identity, we give away our power.
Giving away our power is one of the worst things we can do to ourselves. I know firsthand, because I did just that when I allowed myself to be known as “the basketball player”. While it may seem great at the time, it is devastating when that distinction ends. That is why, when I decided to end my role as the radio analyst for a D-I college basketball team, I thought twice about it. I was essentially breaking up with an identity that had been really good to me. It had brought me a lot of perks, attention, and recognition.
I prayed a lot about the decision, and I drew from my past experiences and lessons learned. Thankfully, what I learned is that my identity is not who I am to the public. It is not my career, it is not my past, nor my accomplishments. It is not my failures, it is not my relationships, nor is it what anyone else says I am.
I learned that only God has the power to determine who I am. Admittedly it was still difficult to let go of my radio analyst title. I even cried at the ending of such a beautiful & rewarding relationship. I also laughed at God’s sense of humor. There I was, passionate about helping others discover their true identity and purpose, and desiring to save others from the hurt that would inevitably come from giving away their power. It was as if God was standing there looking at me and saying “Well Shelley, now what are you going to do? The time has come to put your money where your mouth is.” Okay okay, I get it. You’re right God. I know I am not what I do. It has been a great ride and now it’s time to move on. Time to have faith… Time to embrace uncertainty with anticipation of God’s next role for me.
One thing is for certain. My identity & power are rooted in God, therefore, I will no longer be a victim of theft.
He is the vine & we are the branches. When we stay joined, then we will produce lots of fruit, but apart we can do nothing.
I recently gave a presentation on the importance of having a purpose, and more specifically, knowing your “why”, or as I like to say, “What is your November?”
How many of you woke up this morning with a purpose? Knowing why you are here, or what specifically you want to accomplish? Even more importantly, how many of you know what lights you up? Some people refer to this as knowing your “why”.
For me, my main “why” is to serve the Lord in anyway that I can, using the gifts and opportunities he has provided. One of those opportunities is through the game of basketball. If you are a basketball junkie like me, you know that November is almost as big as the anticipation of Christmas morning! There is an excitement in the air, and energy buzzing all around.
My love of basketball has also been transferred to my children. In fact, my daughter has also been blessed to play Division I college basketball. The day my daughter signed her national letter of intent, to play for the Iowa Hawkeyes, was an exciting day for all of us. I think the one person who may have been more excited than anyone, was my dad. He too shared our love for basketball, and was beaming with pride and joy over the fact that he was going to get to watch his granddaughter play for the Hawks. I don’t think he wore anything other than Hawkeye attire from that day forward. For him, watching his grandkids play sports was something that lit him up. It was one of his “whys”. He had worked extremely hard all of his life, and was finally to the point where he could do the things that he wanted to do.
In March, just 4 months after signing day, my dad was diagnosed with cancer. While we were all shocked and scared, the prognosis that was given seemed as though we would all manage to get through this together. He was told that surgery, followed by radiation treatment, typically allowed for a 10 year remission period. So, we proceeded with his treatments, and drove him 170 miles round trip every day for his radiation.
Sometimes my entire family would hop in the car, and other times my two sisters, mom, and I would take turns. On a day that was my turn to go solo, we were sitting in the exam room anxiously awaiting the doctor to come in and explain to us why my father’s neck, where he had the tumors removed, was so swollen.
The doctor entered the room and proceeded to inform us that the tumors had returned and they were much more aggressive than anything typically seen with this type of cancer. She began to explain the treatment options, which included adding chemotherapy concurrently with his radiation treatments. She was very quick to point out that anything they did would be for palliative care. I remember the look of confusion on dad’s face. I’m sure he didn’t even know what the word palliative meant. As the doctor continued to discuss technical terms, treatment options, and other services, she finally stopped to ask dad if he had any questions. After all of that information the only question he had for her was, “Can you get me to November”? All he cared about was being able to see his granddaughter play in her Iowa Hawkeye jersey.
The doctor looked at him, somewhat perplexed, and shook her head no, then said he didn’t have that much time.
Dad’s head dropped down to the floor. In that moment, his spirit was destroyed, his reason to fight, his purpose, his why, was gone.
Less than a month later, on May 14th, my dad lost his battle with cancer. Sadly, he never got to experience the joy of seeing his granddaughter take the floor as an Iowa Hawkeye.
Although I cannot scientifically prove it, I believe that without something meaningful enough for him to look forward to, my dad’s spirit died the day the doctor said he wouldn’t make it to November.
As I ended my talk to this large group of influential people, I challenged them to be very clear about their purpose. Your purpose matters. Your purpose is what guides you and motivates you to get up and live life to the fullest no matter what challenges or obstacles come your way.
So, I ask you…
What is your November?
In a world of media frenzied stories about super star athletes, sport scandals, & multi-million dollar contracts, most people have no idea where Division III Mount St. Joseph college is located, nor have they ever heard of Lauren Hill.
Well on this day, Lauren Hill made her voice heard across the land as she accomplished her dream of starting in her first collegiate women’s basketball game, and making her first official basket; a layup from the left side block.
But the game was secondary. For those who haven’t heard the story, Lauren Hill was diagnosed with DIPG (diffuse intrinsic potine glioma), a terminal cancer of the brainstem that primarily affects children.
Earlier in the year she petitioned the NCAA to move up the first scheduled game so she could fulfill her dream and step on the court before this awful disease takes away her ability to play, and ultimately takes her life. The NCAA granted her wish, and the nation took notice too. Within 45 minutes 10,000 tickets were sold for this division III women’s basketball game.
Her mission is to promote awareness and funding for research to find a home run cure for cancer in collaboration with the Cure Starts Now Foundation. (www.thecurestartsnow.org)
As Lauren said, “DIPG is the most complicated brain tumor. I may not be around to see it, but I think there is a cure to cancer. I hope this isn’t it (referring to the support of today)… I hope people keep donating to find a cure.”
How do you explain her never give up attitude?
In Lauren’s own words, “I’ve always had a never give up attitude. I decided to face this challenge, I’m not going to let it stop me from doing what I love… From playing basketball or working hard in college & trying to get good grades, or from spending time with my family and loved ones. This is who I’ve always been. I’ve always had a never give up attitude.”
I wept as I watched this young 19 year old woman filled with courage, determination, and zest for life. A life that she knows will end soon.
Her attitude to live life on her terms is an inspiration. It would be so easy for her to be bitter or sad, and to say I’m too tired to play basketball or go to college, and all of us would understand. Not Lauren, instead she chose to focus on the positive, and to use her time to live life on her terms. To do the things she loves, and to make a positive impact with the time she’s been given. As play by play announcer, Brad Johansen, referred to this as her last game, she replied, “Let’s not call it my last game, let’s call it my first collegiate game!”
Talk about a never give up attitude!
So, Lauren Hill, I thank you for inspiring the NCAA to grant you the opportunity to play this game today, for bringing awareness to this horrible disease, for creating positive change to continue the awareness and fund-raising for DIPG. And most of all, I thank you for inspiring all of us to live life with a never give up attitude.
I also want to personally thank you for inspiring me to call this MY first official blog post! Your courage has inspired me to write this today. It may seem trivial, but this is something that I’ve wanted to do for a very long time, and have always found an excuse not to, or been too afraid to “put it out there”.
Ironically, my personal story is also inspired by basketball and cancer, but that will be shared next time.
This one is all about Lauren Hill!
Until then, to support Lauren Hill’s mission to cure cancer, please go to: