Doing things differently has always been a constant part of my life. It isn’t because I want to stand out or because I think I am too good for anyone, it's just how my life has always gone.
I was home schooled after kindergarten because my parents didn't care for the teachers in grade school. Originally planning to try it out for only a year, I quickly settled into this new life. This was probably just as well, as I was a very independent kid but very shy in large groups of people. It was the perfect situation for me - I could focus on school in the morning and play sports in the afternoon with my friends.
Once I was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes at age ten, I became even more independent. I was forced at this young age to constantly stay on top of my blood sugars and manage my disease 24/7. I quickly learned that only you know what is best for you and only your family and closest friends have your best interests at heart. I had to fight with my doctor to let me switch to the tubeless, wearable Omnipod® System when I was a freshman in high school because they thought a tubed pump was the best option. This didn’t make sense, considering I was a track and field athlete that was quickly improving and becoming one of the best in the nation.
During high school, I planned my day-to-day schedule around my training, since I was home schooled. My dream was to become one of the best, and in my mind, that was the priority. I spent my days taking college classes, doing my track workouts in between classes, lifting with my trainer after class, and then attending my high school practice. They were busy days and I just smiled whenever someone would tell me that nothing could prepare me for the busy days I would have when I became a collegiate athlete. Because I was ready.
It wasn’t the busy schedule and time management that surprised me most by college. What surprised me was how those in charge of keeping me healthy, happy, and ready to perform at my best didn’t care that I was a Type 1 diabetic and had Celiac Disease. My freshman year, the team would get Panera delivered when we traveled to our competitions and I found myself just eating snacks that I had packed myself. I got in trouble for showing up too early for practice because I wanted to be able to eat a gluten free meal before the bus left. My doctor in college also had Type 1 Diabetes, but didn’t even ask to see my numbers during my appointments. They never got my supplies on time and I didn’t get my pods (with only one left) until the day before I left for the NCAA Championships.
Everyone always told me how great of a support system I would have at a big time Division One school, but I found that no one cared except for my teammates. When I was debating making a huge change for myself and leaving the NCAA altogether and going back to my high school coach to train, someone told me it’s all about perseverance. These words hit me hard because I’m all for perseverance, but only in the RIGHT situations. They were trying to tell me to stay and continue fighting for myself, over and over again. But the thing is, I was ready to fight the hardest I have ever fought in my life, but for my dream. My dream was the Olympics and I knew I would be sacrificing that dream if I stayed one more year.
The decision to leave collegiate athletics before my eligibility was up ended up being the right one. I left with no plans; no idea where I would finish my degree, if I would get any sponsors, if I could balance a part time job with my training. I left with practically no source of income,not knowing when or if this would change. But things quickly fell into place. Since leaving the NCAA a year and a half ago, I have become the indoor U.S. Champion in the long jump, now have amazing companies such as Insulet (the makers of my tubeless insulin pump, the Omnipod® System) sponsoring me, and have been consistently jumping far for the first time in my life. My body and mind is healthy, and my blood sugars have been much better since college. All of this change has been very good for my performance and my diabetes.
What’s next? 2020 will be the biggest year of my life so far. The Olympics are only a few short months away, but I know I’m ready and I know I’m where I'm supposed to be.
Everyone thought I was a little crazy for leaving an amazing track and field program early to go back to Maine to train. But again, I’ve always done things slightly differently without even realizing it’s not the “typical” path. I always thought I hated change, but my entire life has been full of it. Change is scary. But without change you can’t progress and learn from your experiences. This is true when it comes to dealing with type one every single day, hour, minute, and second of your life. It’s also true when it comes to every other aspect of your life as well. Don’t settle for just okay, strive to be the person you dream to be. It’s not easy and there will be multiple failures along the way, but every failure is a learning experience and will help you get to where you want to be.
-Kate Hall, Sponsored Podvocate