by Brandon Reiter
Ashleigh Barty won her 3rd grand-slam title when she captured her home-country trophy at the Australian Open this past January. At just 25-years-old, it may seem foolish for such a dominate player to retire at a young age, in the height of their prime, with so much more potential earnings and championships left on the court. But as Ash put it, she was simply “spent’, and is fulfilled with what she has been able to accomplish as a tennis player.
It’s very hard for us common-folk to pity celebrity athletes, especially those that dominate their sports and rake in millions of dollars on an annual basis. Barty herself has made approximately $30 Million in her short career, placing her in the top-15 females to ever play the sport. But when you think of the work and time spent to reach such extraordinary levels of magnitude and dominance, it is truly hard to empathize with the toll that takes on any human’s psyche and mental health.
Tennis is also pretty unique from most sports in the sense that it’s season is essentially 10 months long and takes place all over the world. Constant training, traveling, and performance can leave anyone, celebrity or not, feeling very alone and constantly exhausted. I played tennis for 45 minutes the other week and I’m still sore..
When discussing her retirement in an interview, Barty said she had other life goals that she wanted to chase and they “don’t necessarily involve traveling the world, being away from my family, being away from my home which is where I’ve always wanted to be.”
Barty is not unlike most people currently in there mid-twenties, questioning their career path, in what some may like to dub as a “quarter-life crisis”. Personally, I don’t like that terminology because realizing you dislike your job or want to try something new is not really a “crisis”. It would be a crisis to solely rely on the career opinion of your17-year-old self to never reevaluate your happiness as you mature and gain more experience, just to stay miserable in your field because you don’t feel like your “allowed” to try something else. For Barty, she knew that what it took to achieve her goals on the court no longer provided the happiness she sought. She won a few of the most coveted trophies the sport has to offer and understood what it took to earn them. “This is not how I want to continue spending the next phase of my life,” she said.
Barty also clarified, “There was this perspective shift in me in this second phase of my career that my happiness wasn’t dependent on the results, and success for me is knowing that I’ve given absolutely everything I can.” If you think of winning Wimbledon or the Australian Open as pursuing a job title or promotion, while you may think that once you achieve it your life will be fulfilled, once you reach it you just may feel that it’s not entirely as you envisioned it. It’s okay to have been wrong in your thought process, but it’s also okay to admit that you want to pursue something else. For Barty, she was no longer gaining happiness from winning tournaments, she measured her success by putting in her maximum effort and now she wants to apply that same mentality towards something that can allow her to be around her home and the people she loves.
Barty was fortunate enough to reach extreme heights in her career at such a young age and we probably don’t have that same possibility, but that doesn’t mean you can’t stop to ask yourself along your pursuit if your goal is something that will truly make you happy, or if it is just something your younger self convinced you it will.
You can take it from me too. While I wasn’t winning Wimbledon in my early twenties I bounced around 4 different jobs before finding something that truly made me happy. But happiness doesn’t just have to come from your career. It can be a hobby or simply spending more time with your loved ones, but if your career prevents you from doing those things, perhaps it is time for a change.
As a Barty fan, I am sad to see her and her beautiful backhand leave the sport early, but I am happy for her: for not caring what the world would think of her, but for teaching us all a lesson when it comes to evaluating how you truly want to be spending the only life you have to live.
Cheers, Ash! Congratulations on an amazing career, and good luck in your future endeavors. Sky’s the limit!