* If you’re not familiar with the acronym GOAT, it stands for “Greatest Of All Time” and is reserved for athletes who have in fact demonstrated they are the most accomplished and excellent in their sport in their contemporary era but also in the eras which came before them.
So, Simone Biles. Legend.
As you are probably aware by now, Ms. Biles recently excused herself from the Olympic games currently underway in Tokyo in order to care for her own mental health. Some completely useless pundits and politicians ragged on her for it, calling her ugly names and generally disregarding the emotional intelligence of her choice, thereby demonstrating they have no emotional intelligence themselves.
Seriously, you guys? Shut up.
Neither I nor they nor anyone else who isn’t an Olympic athlete has any lived-experience context or understanding of what Ms. Biles has accomplished or gone through or what it took to get her to this point. Neither I nor they nor anyone else who isn’t Ms. Biles has the right to insist what is necessary for her own mental health.
She was already a total icon for her numerous past successes, including four gold medals (and one bronze) in the 2016 Olympics. That in itself — including the extraordinary dedication, drive, and skill needed to reach such an achievement — is impressive enough for anyone, full stop. But now, she has also demonstrated the courage and smarts to say, You know what? I’m maybe putting myself at serious risk** if I don’t take a step back for a moment and CARE FOR MYSELF, too.
And that bravery and clarity is ALSO worthy of our respect, compassion, and admiration. We live in a culture that glorifies running ourselves ragged for bragging rights about nothing good. How often have you heard people humblebrag about how little sleep they got or how crazy-busy they are or how much work they have to do? These are not things to be proud of.
Simone Biles is an icon, a legend, a GOAT, and also a really smart woman. Not only for her medals, but also for her recent (and probably temporary) step back to enact some much-needed self-care.
I hope all of us are able to choose self-care with such grace and intelligence. (This is very much on my mind as I begin another school year in about a week and as my beloved state, governed apparently by abject imbeciles, rages headlong into a Darwinian fourth surge of collateral-claiming proportions.)
And in case you still want further guidance on how to think about Simone Biles’ recent actions, see this helpful decision tree by Carlos Greaves posted over at McSweeney’s. (And if you don’t still need that guidance, go read Greaves’ piece anyway, just for the laughs.)
And also? This goes for all other athletes (or anyone else) who have the presence of mind to take care of themselves. Like Naomi Osaka, who recently made news and got flak for her good choices, and all the others.