When I was approached about writing an article for The Equalizer on a topic of my choice, my brain began to reflect on all the experiences this game has given to me. How is it possible to choose one moment, one goal, one game over my 16-year professional soccer career? It is impossible.
I have played this game for over three decades and it has taken me all over the world. My dream to play professional soccer has withstood the bankruptcies of two U.S. leagues and various stints overseas to come full circle. As a current midfielder for the Washington Spirit, I close out my career in the city I grew up in. The same city where this dream was originally born. So, this season, like this article, is about looking back with gratitude, embracing the present, and most importantly, looking forward with hope.
At 36, I am the oldest field player in the NWSL. Many ask how I’ve made it this long in a sport where being a professional comes with a nomadic existence, constant instability, zero job security, and minimal wages. I can guarantee you it is not because of the goals that I have scored; I haven’t scored many. I can guarantee you it is not because of the titles I have won; I have lost all three championship games I have been in. I can guarantee you it is not because of my injury-free career; I have had both back and ACL surgery. Nor is it because of all the minutes I have logged; I have sat through many games without even touching the field.
Looking back, it’s clear I’ve played this long because I get to go to work every single day and am adored for being 100 percent myself. I am out, I am proud, and I am celebrated for my authenticity and visibility. The truth is, I’m privileged in ways so many are not. Most go to work and have to play a certain part or wear a corporate hat. I get to chase a ball. On top of that, people pay to watch me chase this ball and cheer me on for it. My job is to play the beautiful game while being looked up to by fans all over the world. I often wonder who I have fooled to get this life — the life I dreamed of as a kid — and along with it, an incredible platform to make a difference.
Going into my 16th season, I play because every single day I get to show the world that love is love. That being comfortable in your own skin doesn’t mean you have to look like everyone else. That different doesn’t mean dangerous and that beauty comes in every color of the rainbow.
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Getting to this point has not been easy. There have been many occasions where I have bent my body and broken my soul to fit in the restrictive boxes society presents us as realistic options for identity. It took me a long time to admit to myself that I just wasn’t going to fit and I have spent my entire life exploring my identity and pushing boundaries to find the confidence to be…me.
I realize that with this confidence comes a responsibility to live honestly for those who are forced into silence — a responsibility to help others find their voice. I am convinced that fulfilling this responsibility is my life purpose.
While I believe that I’ve always existed with this purpose, the past five years have been an awakening to the power I have to make people feel very special. Harnessing this power, I can really inspire and impact on a deep level. I am also able to truly connect and bring out others’ real identities — their true selves. That can apply to anything — sexuality, gender, personal style. From my own experience, I know when people are unabashedly themselves and embraced for it, they feel beautiful and can thrive both professionally and personally.
Now, I have figured out a way to share my power with the world. Along with being a veteran player and positive presence in our young locker room, I have created my own online course called “Define Your Beauty.” This course is a compilation of the life-altering stories, quotes and research, along with my own curriculum that have helped to shape my identity. The purpose of the course is to inspire you to find comfort and joy in your own skin by expanding your view of beauty. You’ll discover, define, and ultimately love the qualities that make you unique, allowing you to bring that love to others and contribute to our global community in a way that only you can.
“Define Your Beauty” is the legacy I leave in the twilight of my career. It is my way of sharing what the sport has taught me — that we all deserve the opportunity to experience the brightness of our own beauty. I am so excited because, now, we can take this journey together — a journey of radical self-acceptance in which we look back with gratitude, embrace the present, and most importantly, look forward with hope.
To EVERYONE who has supported me over this crazy career – know you have made my rainbow life that much brighter and we’re keeping this dream alive. So, you won’t want to miss any Washington Spirit games this season. Check out our schedule and when you make it out, please say hello!
For more info on this dope course and all things Jo Lohman:
Course registration link – For a limited time ONLY get the course for under $100 (Offering this especially to my soccer community so be sure to register prior to March 24 at midnight ET)
Joanna Lohman is a midfielder for the Washington Spirit. Follow her on Twitter @JoannaLohman, on Instagram @joannalohman15 and on Facebook.
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