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Expectations Vs. Standards

Adversity - the common denominator that I always seem to find when I meet someone new in the powerlifting community. We’ve all overcome our own forms of adversity to be where we are today. There aren’t many people that want to continuously break themselves down day after day under heavy ass weight that haven’t experienced some level of misfortune in their life. 

Who you were and how you deal with it leads you to who you are and will be. So, who am I?

I spent a lot of my time growing up alone. I had one parent who was too high on drugs to notice my existence and one parent who decided their time was best spent elsewhere. I was a child of divorce where neither parent wanted or could take full responsibility for me. My grandma took responsibility of my childhood until the age of 10 when she passed away on Christmas morning. I can still vividly remember going to Dairy Queen with her every Friday and watching movies in a fort in the living room and drawing “No Smoking” signs and putting them in every room she walked into in the hopes she’d quit. She was such a heavy influence on me from such a young age and I’ll never let those memories escape me.

So, what happens next? I managed. I got myself to school, I made it to every volleyball practice I had, I made myself food, and I learned how to be as self-sufficient as possible for a 10 year old. My grandma made sure I knew how to take care of myself almost as if she knew I would need to one day. 

If we fast forward a little bit and skip on things like being taken to court by my family over money, moving roughly 15 times in a matter of 6 years, being 12 years old and stashing drugs for a parent, and many nights of staying at friend’s houses because I couldn’t go home for one reason or another, we get to the high school years. Instead of learning how to be better than what I was around growing up, I made the choice to surround myself with people that made me start to turn into everything I hated. I spent more days skipping school than I did going. I drank, I did drugs, I stole, and I got in trouble with the law a lot. There was a time that I could’ve went on a full-ride scholarship to play volleyball, but I messed it all up and succumbed to what I thought I had to be because “that’s just how everyone in the family is”. I lowered my expectations for how I should be because I didn't think I could possibly be anything else. In psychology, there’s always the nature versus nurture debate. Are you pre-wired to be a certain way, or are you molded by your upbringing and your experiences? In my 17 year old brain, I thought there was no way I could be any better than my family before me. I was destined for the same bullshit they did day in and day out. Wrong. 

Let’s fast forward again. Who am I now? I’m strong, not just physically, but mentally too. It took a lot of years and mistakes to get here. I’m 25 years old with more life experience in those short amount of years than some people twice my age. I grew up hard and fast. Would I change anything about that? Absolutely not. If I look back on it, the years I spent alone at a young age living life every day showed me that I have the drive to do what I need to do to be successful. It wasn’t until I let people in that didn’t want me at my best that I strayed from that. It took me waking up in a different state trying to live a life that I thought was what I was supposed to be living to realize how unhappy I was. So, I took control and started living the way I wanted to.

Where does powerlifting fit into this? I found powerlifting at a time in my life where I still didn’t know who I was. I was still drifting in different cultures trying to see which one had the best fit for me. Until I put the barbell in my hand, everything else felt like fitting a square peg into a round hole. My childhood taught me how to do the work necessary to get where I need to be. When I could’ve easily bowed out, I didn’t. When I could’ve stopped trying because that was easier, I didn’t. I still have that same mentality now. For me, easy isn’t rewarding. I want a little bit of grit and a little bit of struggle. I want to know what I’m made of and to be better every day. 

Unlike those I surrounded myself with early on, the people I have around me now are a lot of my motivation. They make me want to push harder and be better. They aren’t afraid of my success and they help me when I start to doubt myself. A lot of who you are is who you choose to be closest to and what you’re willing to go through to get to what you want. We have the ability to choose who we surround ourselves with. Have you picked people that are making you want to level up in all aspects of life?

So, what will you do? Use the adversity as an excuse to live a life that’s “expected” of you, or will you use it as a motivator to be better than anyone thought you could be?

By: Riley Presnell

@rileypresnell