It always hurts to leave the people you love.  Even after holidays marked with the infamous occasional family bickering, I still didn’t want to leave.  This might be because something exciting usually awaits my departure and overwhelms any sad feelings.  This time I’m leaving to have my torn ACL replaced with part of my hamstring (and despite the fact that I have the best surgeon EVER, it still isn’t awesome).  

Ashley Caldwell Handstands 
 My teammates showing off in China

The original holiday plan had me on a flight to China bright and early December 30th.  I have still yet to make the legendary first World Cup of the year.  In 2010, I didn’t qualify for the trip, in 2011 my coaches said it would be more productive to stay home and train, in 2012 I tore my right ACL and as you know the 2013 trip was cancelled due to tearing my left ACL.  

The trip is long.  It takes three days to get there, it’s really, really cold, and your diet usually consists only of rice, or so I’ve been told.  Despite some of the negative press the first competition of the season gets, I was excited to go this year.  A new culture, a new air site, and a chance to compete!  I was coming up on the two-year mark since I had last competed and I was itching to get back.  But just as I wrote, it was a ‘chance’ to compete and unfortunately the odds didn’t fall in my favor.   Now I’ll have to wait three years to compete.

I’m sure the additional time will only increase my excitement and dedication to get back on the hill to compete.  I usually don’t agree when people say that the longer you wait the better things will be.  I think you should get what you want when you want it!  That’s the determination and competitiveness inside of me.  Well, sort of.  Normally I have to ask my coach first, he usually says I’m not ready, and then I’ve got to prove that I am.  So, I guess I should rephrase, you should get what you want when you are ready!  It’s the ‘ready’ part that gets most people, including me currently.  I think the phrase should be changed to, “The more work you put into preparing the better things will be.”  Waiting doesn’t’ do much.  You have to make it happen.

Ashley caldwell handstands 
 My teammates hanging out in China

While I’m still determined and competitive, injuries have the tendency to make an athlete mature a little.  Not necessarily in the way that you would normally think.  I still want to eat cookie dough for dinner sometimes, stay up late and try stupid new tricks.  But now when something doesn’t go my way or I have to wait two weeks to walk without crutches and two months to run even though I feel like I can do it now and I want to do it now, I don’t.  I understand that to get what I want, sometimes you have to do things you don’t want.  By doing what I want now and running, I’m not going to get what I want in six months, which is to jump again!  It’s not the waiting that makes getting back to competition that much sweeter, it’s the payoff of doing things you don’t want to do, in order to do the things you do want to do.  And while I thought I learned that lesson last time around, it looks like I’m going to learn it again!  And maybe in the process get a few new pieces to the mental puzzle of being a professional athlete.

You can also follow my journey on Twitter: @AshleySkis.