In 2011, I started my professional career with a contract deal that surely wasn't the best, but was something that could make anyone say "dreams come true". That was immediately followed by an array of legal accusations that quickly dissolved every cent the contracts had to offer, as well as my image I supposedly worked hard to put out for myself. I was quickly labeled as a criminal without any reproach. I had acquaintances who adored me, quickly turn into random bodies, as they walked right by me as if I were a ghost. I felt I disappointed the whole world.
At the time, I was fairly into God, but not as deep as we all want or think we want to be, so this was a very trying period. I'm quite introverted in nature, and this was a moment that certainly pressed that characteristic. I essentially vanished from the face of the earth, logging off social media, not responding to calls/texts, just in my own world. The media labeled me a monster, and I thought I was such, so I hid like Quasimodo in the Hunchback of Notre Dame.
It became even more easy to hide as a condition I had, suddenly worsened. I was diagnosed with Hydrocephalus my first year in college, while I was at the University of Arkansas. At the time, it was minuscule, not worthy of much attention, but it rose out of its ashes and quickly consumed me, putting me in the hospital on a daily basis.
I still practiced and competed, first grabbing a bronze medal at the Pan American Games, then qualifying for 2012 Olympic Games. It seemed like running was all I had, so that is why I went against doctor's "recommendations" and continued on. I never told anyone of my condition, because it seemed like everyone was judging me off the legal situations. I just still wanted to be invisible, proving so by coaching myself, and doing workouts late night with my brother in the snow at times.
However, it was impossible to be invisible. For some reason, it was a miracle I would even walk, nonetheless, run. The condition generally paralyzes patients, compromising motor functions. I was a Neurophysiology major, so I knew all about it. It always had me wonder how someone with such condition could be ranked top 10 in the United States. I wondered about it, because I wonder what God was up to.
So here I am now, continuing the journey towards the next Olympic Games in 2016. Still, without a contract, but now with a coaching staff! "Why didn't you just give up running and get a real job or finish Law School," is a question I am often asked. I do not know why I am still running, but I do know the little signs I do get, are enough to trust that God's got me, and knows exactly what He's doing. It is not about me and my life, but about the many I may inspire. It sucks to still work part time jobs and be considered one of the top sprinters in the world, but I know the process I am going through is giving me characteristics I could have never gained if it would have happened any other way. The end result WILL be great, something I know. I am a better person because of it, constantly growing as the minutes go by.
"The way you know God is speaking to you, is simply through experience."
(This is a snip of what a great friend of mine wrote on my behalf. Thought this could be my first blog ever, haha. I know that's cheating, but it's my blog, and I do what I want, sometimes..)
I walk in faith everyday, whether on the track or in life, having the goal to make the podium in 2016 at the Olympic Games in Rio De Janiero. Having first competed on the international stage as a high school athlete at 2004 World Junior Championships in Grosseto, Italy, the stage was set for the passion I wanted to endure. Since then, I went on to qualifying for every World Championships since, including 2008 Beijing Olympic Games as well as the recent 2012 London Olympic Games. However, more than just going to compete, I am looking to be the main competitor in my current pursuit.
A true Denver native, I look to always be a respectable representation of not only myself, but of the community around me. Currently holding almost every Colorado sprint record, from high school, collegiate, and onto the professional ranks, I use those as a mark to attain for the young athletes I currently coach and mentor, having recently coached a high school girls team to their second state title! I was a five time All-American at the University of Colorado, where I not only excelled at athletics, but in academics, having graduated with Bachelor degrees in Neurophysiology, Economics, and Sociology. I continued on to begin my JurisDoctorate at the Colorado School of Law, which is now on hold in order to focus on my athletic pursuits.
While training for the 2012 Olympic Games, doctors discovered Arachnoid Tumors in my cerebral tissue, which caused a life-threatening medical condition called Hydrocephalus. In order to keep running and training, I opted out of cerebral shunts, and started experimental chemotherapy and radiation trials. The condition itself can cause slow or restricted movement and gait instability, enough to end my track career just from the symptoms alone. The treatment and condition are both life threatening but I persevered through it and grew tremendously in my faith.
On top of medical strife, I had to endure a very public and painful ending to a relationship that ended up in legal suits and humiliation, which is all cleared and placed in the past. It was in that time, paired with health problems, legal issues, family concerns, that I was forced to coach myself. While still competing, a handful of athletes from high school athletic directors, professional runners, and a Paralympic athlete contacted me to coach. It was then that I discovered a new passion to inspire, but knew I was neglecting my true potential over those few years. Even though they got a Bronze medal at 2014 USA Championships, set new American Records in Paralympic Championships, received Division 1 athletic scholarships, I knew I was limited in what I really wanted to give to them, because I was coaching myself.
So this year, I was granted a full acceptance to work with prestigious Olympic coaches at the World Athletics Center in Phoenix, AZ. From the new move, I hope to reach new heights in my professional career so that I will be able to open even more doors in order that I could do more for the individuals that I come in contact with.
I believe success is having motivated as many people as possible by simply doing what you’ve been blessed to do. Nothing can prevent me from succeeding in the future. Through these previous tough years of “struggling”, it has been a time of slowing myself down, and perfecting my faith and even my sight as to the path I should be taking for my life.
Do you have your own story of life you want to share? I want to hear
Jeremy Dodson is a Track & Field Olympian who struggles with the idea of perfection, hoping to break the barrier we place on ourselves so that genuine living can take place for everyone.