DH: Hey guys! Welcome to Keep On Pushing Radio. I am your host Devon Harris and yeah, man, you know what we do here. We like to share ideas and insights that are going to challenge you and inspire you to live your best life. So if you’re interested in that, you know you’re in the right place. So again, welcome to Keep On Pushing radio. My guest today is a seven-time all American. She, while competing at the University of South Carolina back in 2003 was the only athlete from that university to be named SAC athlete of the week, twice in one year. Once during the indoor season, the other, obviously, during the outdoor season. While there, she also became the NCAA Champion in both the 100 and 200 meters, this was back in 2003 as well. As a junior athlete, she won titles at the CARIFTA games at the Central American and Caribbean Junior Games, as well as, the World Junior Championships. She has won a silver medal back in 2003 in the 200-meter event at the World Championships and has won multiple medals at the World Championships as part of the 4×100-meter relay team to include a gold in 2009. In 2009 at the world championships, she also won a bronze medal in the 100-meter event. She’s a two time Olympian, yep, representing her native Jamaica at the 2004 Athens Games, summer games in Greece, of course, and also in 2008 in Beijing, China. Back in 2004, she was a member of that 4×100-meter gold medal team, really impressive young lady. I am so pleased to be able to welcome Aleen Bailey to Keep On Pushing. Aleen, welcome.
AB: Thank you for having me. It’s a pleasure hanging out with a legend.
DH: As we say in Jamaica, your sweet mouth won’t get you anywhere but thank you so much. I have spent quite a bit of time watching you and cheering for you as well so it’s a pleasure. Okay, so one legend speaking to another legend, how is that?
AB: Sounds perfect.
DH: Alright, cool. So I’m going to start our conversation, Aleen, a little bit differently because when I was preparing for our talk today, I came across an old interview of yours where you revealed that your track career got started because of anger management, let’s say. So can you speak to us about that a little bit?
AB: Okay, so I think, yeah, when I was about 10, I was like a cool, chill little kid, but then I got sexually violated. So in Jamaica when stuff like that happens usually the victims get blamed so I was afraid to tell anybody. So I just got mad because I didn’t have anyone to talk to so I just got mad. If somebody touches me, looks at me the wrong way, especially male students, it was like, yeah, I had to fight. So my teacher, Ms. Campbell when I was in primary school she was like, you know what…….whenever she sensed that I was getting mad ,she was like, you know what? Go outside and cool off. Run around the field a little bit. It started like that and then sports day, she entered me in all the events and I ran and I won and then I used to do the longer stuff, but then I developed asthma so we cut it down to the shorter stuff and we had a PE teacher so I was getting better and better and he was like what? So they started entering me into every little competition in the parish and it got to the point where I was representing St. Mary at the parish championship, and I did well and yeah, so it was more, yeah, it started because I was an angry little kid. I was always fighting, yeah.
DH: I can imagine. Well, I think it’s such a great blessing to have had such a successful career being born out of such a tragic event. In recent times, women have been coming out and talking about their own experiences as people who have been sexually violated and in the process of doing that, in my mind, they have become victimized again because people are talking about or criticizing them for taking so long to come out and doubting them. What are your views on that?
AB: So, the thing is a lot of stuff happened and then like I said, if you notice, in Jamaica they protect the person that does the act. So the child is blamed and then the woman is also blamed. What were you wearing? Were you drunk? Yadda, yadda. So you get blamed, so you tend to like not want to talk about it because the fear of just being judged and you’re already going through something, you don’t want to add the fear of being judged or getting in trouble or for a 10-year old I was just worried about getting a beating. Beatings were deadly in Jamaica when your parents were doing it so, I didn’t want to get one. But like once I talked about it and my mom was like, why didn’t you come to me? I was like, well I wasn’t afraid of you, I was afraid of my dad because my dad was one of those people where he doesn’t think. If somebody comes and tells him that your daughter did this, he doesn’t have a conversation with you, you’re getting a spanking. So, I was just worried about that, so I didn’t, but my mom is a really strong woman, so I didn’t realize I could talk to her but now that I know, I talk to her a lot more about stuff.
DH: Yeah. So what do you say to young girls who have had similar experiences to you? The women who have been violated and are on the brink, want to come out but are afraid to come out, what would you say to them?
AB: I mean, I think all of us have that one person that we know we can talk to that’s not going to judge us. So, at least talk to that person or if you’re a person that writes, just write it out. Sometimes putting stuff on paper, getting it out will help you release it and then date it so people can’t say, oh, you just decided to come up with this stuff. Everything, record it, write it down, put a date, talk about how you feel and there’s always somebody you can talk to. If you go to church, there’s always somebody in the church that you can talk to and then it’s better now because there are different groups that represent that. There’s a phone number you can call, there’s an email address, you can email to. So just reach out to all the avenues that you have. It’s really hard to talk about something, especially when something that’s that traumatizing but if you are afraid to talk to somebody, just write it out. Video record it, tape voice recordings, just something just to get it out because if you hold it in, it tears you down inside and you might be mad and it will affect future relationships and we just have to figure out a way. It’s going to be hard but you just have to take baby steps, you know? Baby steps.
DH: I think there’s an important lesson from your experience as well for parents, that we need to be more understanding and allow our kids to come and tell us, especially the girls, when something untoward happens to them, they should not feel any intimidation coming and saying, mommy, daddy, such and such has happened.
AB: And sometimes it’s close family members ……
DH: Yes, yes. This is true. This is true and Kudos as well to Ms. Campbell for having the insight to recognize your pain. Did you ever divulge to her what had taken place?
AB: No, I didn’t because she died a couple of years ago, so I didn’t get to at least talk to her, tell her. I mean, she knew she was the one that got me to track, but she didn’t know why.
DH: Yeah, but she played a pivotal role. But you know, kudos to her for that insight and it just, I think reinforces the importance of teachers and adults in the lives of kids who care.
AB: Yeah, and the community that cares.
DH: So you mentioned St. Mary, you grew up in St Mary. Tell us about your upbringing? I know that some folks may not know that Clifton, Bailey III, dancehall and reggae fans know as Capleton or the Fire Man, was your brother or is your brother. Tell us about growing up with the Fire Man and your other siblings.
AB: So, I remember him for a little bit because I was younger when he was there, but then he moved to Kingston to pursue his music career.
DH: Is he the oldest one?
AB: No, I have an older brother, my mom had us. I have an older sister that’s older than him and I have an older brother than him so he’s like the third.
DH: Yeah. So are you the youngest of the lot then?
AB: I’m the youngest for my mom, not my dad.
DH: Okay. All right. Cool.
AB: I’m a momma’s girl.
DH: Yeah. So what was it like growing up in St. Mary?
AB: It was fun. It was fun. And I think growing up there helped me to own my athletic abilities because we grew up in a farming community so there were like fruits, you had to climb to get stuff, you had to walk everywhere, you have to grow your own food. To walk to school, sometimes you walk and if there’s like a fight, you have to run from the fight and then you’re never hungry so, food is always there. There’s like a fruit tree, you can go grab something to eat. And I help raise animals and if there was a sick animal, my older siblings would give it to me to take care of, because I was the nurturing little sister so I would take care of it. If they had a cut, I’d take care of it, bandage it, everything, all of that cool stuff. And then back growing up in Jamaica, you know ticks? That was the punishment, I was the designated ticks picker, but it was an amazing bonding experience for me and my siblings and my little friends that I played in the neighborhood with. So, you played, everything we were outside playing cricket, football. I was always playing with the boys and stuff, all of that.
DH: So you were a tomboy then?
AB: Yes, I was climbing and everything. So I was in a tree pretty much. And then my mom always told people I had a bag of books. So I had like a bag of books and I would just climb a tree and just read.
DH: Oh, awesome. So your track career got started as a result of therapy so to speak. At what stage did you realize, you know what? I have some talent here. I could probably do something with this thing.
AB: It was when all the high schools started to come to my primary school to talk to me. I was like what? And then I started watching stuff like, okay, let me get some information about this track thing and I started to research and then I looked into Merlene Ottey and I was like, ooh, she is so cool. I want to be just like her. I want to go to the same school, all of that stuff. So Vere Tech was one of the last school that visited, so I was dead set on going to Manchester High School and then Vere popped up and the first thing was that, yeah, Merlene Ottey is a past student. I was like what?! Definitely, I’m going there so, I ended up at Vere. So it was just realizing like what benefits track has because my parents weren’t rich, we were poor so to get a scholarship to go to school that will save them some costs, and then I get to leave the community so that was fun.
DH: Right, you get to fly the coop. So, Merlene Ottey was your idol growing up?
AB: She is. She was and still is. She’s an amazing woman. And then the first time I met her, oh, I was in heaven.
DH: When and where was this?
AB: I got to go to the 1997 World Championship’s and back then they used to bring like junior athletes that they saw could be the future of track and field, they used to bring them on the senior team. I got to go and I met her and she was, she was so amazing. When I got to go to the track and she made me carry her bag man and I was in heaven. She was like, I was like, what? Okay, I’m holding her bag. Don’t drop it. Don’t drop it. So that for me and she let me warm up with her…… getting prepared for her race. Like that year she was ready but then then she ran halfway down the track.
DH: Oh, yes. I remember that. That 200-meter race.
AB: Yeah, I was warming up with her. I knew she was ready, man.
DH: Yeah, she came off the bend and everybody was still at the starting blocks. That just speaks to the level of focus that she was bringing to that race though.
AB: She is next level with it. Her focus, the way she eats because I got to hang out with her and watch her routine and the way she eats like you see other athletes go towards the dessert table, she stayed within her routine to make sure she performed to the best of her ability.
DH: Absolutely. So, National High School Girl Champs, you are the 100 meter, 200-meter champion, which year was this?
AB: So I won every single year in high school, 1994 till 1999 when I graduated high school.
DH: So you are just Queen of the track, huh?
AB: I was.
DH: Awesome. So, champs as we call it, I see it as the proving ground for our young athletes, those who eventually break into the senior team and, and some make it to the Olympic Games. What was the Champs experience like for you? I mean, you were winning, but in terms of did it validate in your mind that you had a talent that could take you places? What was the mindset? Did you learn anything about mental toughness and goal setting and perseverance during that time?
AB: I mean, I was young, so I really wasn’t focused. I was just doing whatever. I was just doing it to do it but then I changed my focus when I turned 16. Joseph Holden’s is a clothing store in Jamaica and the CEO, Timothy Spencer and the owner Jimmy, they were sponsoring other kids but then they decided to sponsor me so my focus changed. So I was just doing like, I’m just doing it because I’m doing it but then my focus changed and then Dwight, he was like the electrician for the company. He explained all of the benefits to me. I could get a scholarship to college and I could go further because I’m that talented. I was like, oh, okay. So I started settling down and working hard and not being so lax and started actually focusing on my school work. I had a couple of my friends they made sure I stayed on track, like Kamika, Shelly, Saini, and Camille, they made sure I stayed on track because I’m not super smart but they’re like super smart, so they made sure I studied. Especially Saini, Saini was strict. I couldn’t get away with anything. I had to make sure I paid attention to school and did my very best but I was still angry in high school. I was getting into fights and stuff but then that group, that little group and then my principal, Ms. Brian who used to like twist….. she would get the muscle behind my arm right here and just twist it. She was like l”ittle girl, you have potential, you have potential. You need to focus and behave yourself”. And with so many people invested in me, I had to make a change. So I made the change. I started training, focusing, listening to my coach and my grades improved, I got a scholarship to go to college, but track in high school was fun. I made a bunch of friends. Elva Goulbourne was like my best friend on the track. We did everything together when we went on junior teams and when we ran the hundreds, we would be having conversations during the races, which was such fun.
DH: You guys were that dominant, but it’s great that you had such a supportive team around you, close friends and your principal and, of course, your coach as well. So, you’re having these discussions and you have people who are pushing you and so you get focused, what goals did you set for yourself then?
AB: So like, every time, when I was little, I’ve always taken care of animals. I wanted to be a vet so I was like, okay, I’m going to college, get to be a vet, come back and take care of all of the sick animals and stuff but then when I got to college, my focus changed. So I wanted to be more into the area where I can work with kids who’ve been through what I’ve been through. So I wanted to be able to work with kids to be able to be that voice, that somebody they can just talk to. So I switched from my pre-med to sociology/social work.
DH: Got you. An important lesson here, Aleen, because a lot of people resist setting goals because they feel that if they set a goal they’re going to be stuck in this one thing because that’s the goal.
AB: No, you can change it.
DH: Precisely! It’s your life, it’s your goals.
AB: wanted to be a vet. I was close to being a vet, I wanted to be a social worker but I changed it. I was a professional athlete until last year and now I’m reset so plans change. You just have to go. God guides you in the direction that you need to go at the time so you just have to go and you don’t have to have one goal. You can set many, but don’t try to accomplish all of them at once. Try one and if that fails you move to the next thing. You just keep moving.
DH: So you got a scholarship. Was that to Barton County Community College in Kansas?
DH: What was that transition like? I know you had gone overseas before, but now you had moved away from Jamaica, you were far away from Islington, St. Mary and Vere to Kansas.
AB: Okay so when I went to Barton, there were other Jamaicans there that I knew from, from high school and from running and then people from the Caribbean, like Trinidad, Bahamas, you know, so we had like a mix of everybody. So you see people from when you used to run at CARIFTA games and in high school, so you didn’t feel like out of place but the only reality check I got was the snow thing, yeah, rough.
DH: No, it’s fun.
AB: It was fun but yeah, my toes weren’t handling it very well. I was cold and coach used to shovel out lane one and we’d have run into the gym, stay warm, run out, run the rep, run back in the gym, the snow didn’t stop training. But it was fun and I got to see buffaloes. So right next to us was like a Buffalo farm so it was my first time. So that was a great experience because it gave me time to focus on what it is that I wanted to do. I spent two years there and I dominated for the two years…. won the double…won the 4 x 100 meters. My team won the national championships for all the years that I was there. So that was an amazing experience and I met a bunch of beautiful people that I still communicate with to this day. So you create all these different, different relationships with all these different, different people, which is good.
DH: Got you. And then from there on to the University of South Carolina?
AB: Yes, to the University of South Carolina which is an hour and a half away from me now so I came back home. So I went there. My first year at the national, NCAA was very rough because in the 100-meter they said I false-started, I knew I didn’t because I never get out of blocks. I don’t know what they saw so I cried like a baby. Like I lost my mind because I felt that I let my team down but my team captain Demetria, she went into mommy-mode and she just hugged on me and loved on me and my team just came and hugged me and loved on me. They’re like, “you have the 200, you have the 4×100, just go out there and just kill it.” So I wasn’t expected to place in the top two in the 200. So I went out there, I was running to win, but I got second, which gave us enough points. In the 4×100 meters relays, we weren’t expected to win. My teammates got me the stick I was like “I am not giving up this lead”. I extended it, we won. The women’s team won the first national title in the University of South Carolina school history so that was really good. And I was a part of such an amazing group and created history for the school.
DH: Indeed. So Aleen, talk to me about breakthroughs because, obviously, you have the talent, you settled down, started working hard, you’ve dominated at girls champs and CARIFTA, junior college but then you get to the University of South Carolina and you are doing incredibly well as well, by the way, was it while you’re at South Carolina, you’re then broke onto the senior team?
AB: Yes. So 2003 because I made the senior team like 1999, I was on the world championship team. We won a bronze medal that year. That was my first senior year competing and I was still in high school. But in 2003 I went to the world championship, finished seventh, then I ended up being sixth because a couple of people got disqualified but in the 200 I tore my hashing and that was another pivotal moment for me because I was in the same heat with Merlene and she saw that I got hurt and she finished her race, ran back down, and then the paramedic was taking too long to come get me who, I did not know she could snap, but I was crying, I was crying in pain, but then I started crying at the fact that she was going crazy at these people because they were taking too long to come to get me off the track and that for me was like wow. She is amazing.
DH: So, your hero was also playing mother to you, huh?
AB: Yeah, and then she knew a bunch of medics because she was on the pro-scene before so she knew all the right doctors and like within a few seconds I was hooked up with her doctor to check out my leg. We started therapy immediately and I came back to the U.S. And started training with my coach, Coach Frye at South Carolina and we got ready for the 2004 Olympics.
DH: Awesome. So, the question I was going to ask you before was this idea of breakthrough, what do you think it was in your mindset that got you from being really good at the junior level to getting through to the senior level on the world championship team and still holding your own? How does, Joe Smith in his regular job doing well, how does he get himself to the next level you think?
AB: I had a reason for what I was doing because my mom is always the reason for me to do something. So I wanted to make sure she was always proud and I wanted to make sure she was taken care of. So I was like, okay if I do well here, I’ll be able to take care of her. And then she’d be able to be proud and she’ll be able to brag to her little church friends that her little daughter is here running around and all that stuff. I see the joy that she has whenever she talks about me or whenever she’s talking with her little friends about me. So she was my reason for always wanting to be better or move forward because I watched her growing up like I remember sometime we barely had food but she created these meals. I did not know you could make callaloo soup. Yeah, that’s how good she was. That thing tasted so good.
DH: Got you. So, you’re saying that you latched onto a reason, a why, a purpose that drove you.
AB: Yes. I had a purpose and my purpose and my why was my mom and why am I doing it, why? And it’s my mom, my mom is the first thing and then my community and then my country, because the little community in Baccaswood, St. Mary, it’s like a little community, nobody really knows about it. You hear about Port Maria and Islington and all of them, nothing about there. So my community itself, because they’re like really proud that this community produced this person, two persons, my brother grew up there. So, we have a musician and we have a famous track athlete.
DH: From the same family go figure, right? That’s the first family of the community.
AB: Yeah and I can’t just go home and be like, I’m just going into my house. I have to make stops. I have to go through the entire neighborhood and check-in. So you just have to find why.
DH: You have to find your why, yeah. So, Aleen, I noticed that when you’re standing at the start you’re either dancing or you’re doing these boxing moves, what’s going on in your head then?
AB: So I used to be super nervous with stuff. Elva and I in high school we had the craziest stuff that we do…..Saini and I in high school, we had crazy stuff that we do. We used to do socks or we just play music but in college I started boxing and my teacher there…..one of the cross-country coaches….. I had a track meet and I was super nervous.
DH: When you say you started boxing, do you mean you went into the gym man and boxed? Boxing gym?
AB: Yeah, because at the University of South Carolina, they have different, different classes that you can take so I started doing that and then my coach, saw that I was so nervous at the track meet and he was like, “what do you love?” “I love music,” He was like, “okay,” But the other thing is like boxing. So he was like, “incorporate that, find a song that you love, listen to it and then find something that you like to do and do it.” So I used to listen to Bob Marley, “could you be loved?” And then there’s like a part that says “only the fittest of the fittest shall survive, stay alive.” So that was the song that was playing in my head all the time and then I was shadow boxing….. beating up all the nerves. You’ve got to beat them up. If you don’t beat them up they will take over the whole thing. So that’s how that started. So it’s like a little bit started from high school with the crazy socks because Elva and I used to wear one green, one yellow. Vere Tech was green and yellow, so we’d wear one green, one yellow. So we had that and music was a thing and music kept me calm and it still does and it kept me focused and it still does. So as an athlete or just a regular person, you have to find something that centers you and just work with it.
DH: Understood. So there’s so much competition, man, trying to make the Jamaican team. You have those people who are ahead of you, like when you’re just getting started, Merlene and her crew, then you have your peers who are all fighting to be a staple on the team and then you have the up and coming ones who are kind of nipping on your heels as it were, right? So how do you find your groove in such a crazy, challenging, competitive environment, Aleene? How do you find your groove and how would you advise, again, someone who is in a similar environment, not necessarily sports but they are trying to make their way forward?
AB: Just focus on you because if you focus on everything else, you lose track of what you need to do so you have to just focus on yourself. Because I realized like sometimes if I go into a race and I see somebody that’s like, for example, I go into the race and see Merlene I was like, oh my goodness, it’s her but then I lose focus and I don’t run my race. I’m more in awe of the person I’m running with, and that’s what I learned from Merlene. She has this tunnel vision. She’ll socialize and all that stuff and as soon as it starter says on your mark like all she’s hearing is the starter, you just have to focus. Sometimes you just have to be selfish and focus on yourself and just find something that will help you stay focused on your race at hand. You might be nervous and if you go into a race and somebody that’s there that you know is good, like in every instance, everything you do at that moment, even though they are good, you are the best at that moment…..you are the best at that moment and you have to tell yourself that “I am the best. I am in the race with the world record holder, but I still am the best. I’m gonna give it my all, I’m going to give it my best” because if you focus on that and give it your best, the world record holder might be having an off day and you beat them.
DH: It’s great advice as I think a lot of people as you rightly say and get sidetracked with the name, you know, man, that guy is a top athlete, girl is a top athlete, the best salesperson ever and you tend to forget that you have the same ability to get to that level, but…
AB: Yeah, but you’re at the same table with them.
DH: Yeah, exactly. So, it meant that you have something, right? And so if you’re not focusing on you, then you’re taking away your power, you’re giving away your power, in fact, and you’re losing out. So you spoke about like competing and false starting and pulling a hamstring and that kind of stuff, how do you deal with disappointments? And if I could bring one up. 2008, Jamaica is primed to win the gold. It’s like almost a done deal and we don’t even finish the race and you would have had your second gold medal so, yeah, so how do you deal with all the different ranges of disappointments?
AB: So I cry like a baby. I bawled….bawled. Nose running, everything. So you have to get it out of your system. Bawl, all of that stuff and then you refocus. It’s hard to refocus, but you have to find a way to refocus. So just get a good cry and get it out of your system and just refocus and make sure that the next time you’re not the one being taken off the relay team and then next time make sure you pay attention to your teammates to make sure they’re gelling. And if something is off, don’t be afraid to say something right then and there, because the slightest thing could throw something off just like that.
It’s not the end of the world. And I grew up in church, so my mom always says God has a reason for everything so I just trust that. Whenever something happened, God has a reason for everything and he has something bigger and greater in store for you because you can make plans, but it’s his plan and not yours and sometimes we are so focused on the wrong thing and he’ll show you where you need to go, but because you are so stuck on this, you said, no, I want to do this but He will show you, like He will give you like a sign, everything and you don’t follow the sign so it’s just trust. You bounce back by just trusting yourself, trusting your ability, trusting that God has something greater in store for you and just keep pushing. It might not be track, it might be something else.
DH: True. It’s kind of interesting because you mentioned the boxing and that you went in the boxing gym and I often use the analogy of a boxer as well, that a boxer will be in the ring and he is going to get hit or she’s going to get hit and she can’t pretend that she didn’t get hit. She has to…. he has to absorb that punch and then come out swinging, right?
AB: Yeah, shake it off and come back.
DH: Yeah, absolutely. So I’m sure that throughout your long storied career, Aleen, you have had naysayers, people who just for whatever reason did not believe in you. How do you deal with those criticisms?
AB: At first it was hard because I’m a people person. I’m a sweet person, I’m a caring person and I feel like everybody in the world should be kind, but they’re not so it hurts. Like it hurts that you’re going out there, sometimes you have to wake up five o’clock in the morning and go to practice and you get a little break then you come back at three in the evening and go to practice so you’re working hard all day. You’re putting all this stress and strain on your body. You do track stuff, you do yoga, you do pilates, , you cross-train, you do boxing….just to get your body to where you need it to go and then you have people, just computer bullies, that just come on and have all these things to say and that don’t have any idea what track is and what an athlete goes through physically and mentally and yeah, at first it hurt. It still hurts sometimes when I think of it because it’s not people from a different country that are bashing you it’s your own people. When it’s your own people, it hurts on a different level.
Because I’ve had people say I am fat, I am too old, I need to retire and make the young ones but I was like, if the young ones are not beating me, why should I retire? I had to work hard to overthrow the ones before me or compete with the ones before me so why? They didn’t give me a break, they didn’t retire just to give me a break to get it in. And I’m always nurturing and caring whenever there’s a young person on the team. I always welcome them with open arms because my first experience on the senior team wasn’t the best, which is why I wanted to make sure that the young ones, whenever they make the team they’re good. When people don’t know you and then they’re so mean and rude and I’m like, Jesus, who raised you? Where were you raised? Who hurt you like, why? I just get loved on by my friends and my family and then you have people that actually know about track and field that will always encourage and motivate me so I just hold onto those positive people. And your support system is very important. Like you have to have a strong support system and mine was just rock solid. Whenever I come home crying like, dude, they call me fat and they say I need to retire [unclear 00:39:32] who did that? And then my big brother’s like, yeah, who? Let me find them, I’ll get my gun. I was like, no, you don’t have to do that.
DH: Yeah. Well, maybe we shouldn’t. No, but you’re absolutely right. We’re all going to face criticisms and especially when you’re Jamaican and you compete and represent your country so passionately, I can imagine. And I know because I’ve had that, how it hurts when it’s your own that criticizes you. But you’re right, you do it because you love it and your support system gets you through that. So you have had a really stellar career though. Capping it off with an Olympic gold medal in Athens in the relays, which by the way is the first Olympic gold medal, relay gold medal, by the woman for Jamaica so kudos to you and your team.
AB: Thank you.
DH: Making more history. But you have also won individual medals at every level you have competed at, but you have never won that individual Olympic medal. So when you look back on your career, I mean, how do you feel about that? Does that feel or look like a blemish to you?
AB: It used to be, but as I get older I realize that it wasn’t meant to be and I do have a medal. I did accomplish a lot. I just have to focus on the good and what I have accomplished because there’s a lot of people that have trained and worked hard, but never been to an Olympics, been to the world championship, never got a medal. And my country is always proud of me and like it’s crazy. The other day I was in Publix here in Charleston and a mom, somebody from Jamaica recognized me so it came with a lot of different, different stuff. I still feel special like people know me and then the fact that I’m influencing somebody to work hard, be the best they can be because I didn’t have an individual medal like Shelly. Not everybody can be a Shelly or a Veronica. So you know they have hope that yeah, I can make a team, I can get a relay medal or something. I just have to keep working because an individual medal isn’t meant for everybody. Even though you work hard and it just wasn’t in the cards so you’re still just working hard because you never know if you’re not getting the Olympic medal then maybe you get it in something else. You might try a different event, try different sports and then you learn valuable life skills because when you get to be in the corporate world, like you have that mentality of like working hard, staying on task, you know you have that. So it will help you throughout life and even with your family. How to stay on task and balance your time, manage your time because you have to manage your time with track and field because you have to train, spend time with your family, do all this other stuff so it helps you in the long run.
DH: It’s true though and wise words. Thank you for that. Because people tend to……all of us tend to beat ourselves up for the one thing we didn’t do. I mean, we did 99 right and awesome and then, you know, we negate all of that accomplishment for the one thing that didn’t happen.
AB: Yeah, and the fact that I never gave up because I didn’t get a medal that will show a child that no matter what, I just have to keep pushing, not because something doesn’t work, I’m just going to give up like, no, just keep pushing.
DH: So, not enough people in my mind, Aleen, are introspective but you strike me as someone who is truly in touch with who they are, who would you say Aleen Bailey is?
AB: Jesus, I am just this little country girl from St. Mary who so happens to bump into track and field and I have a beautiful spirit, a kind heart, I want the best for others so I go above and beyond to help those in need because I feel that I got help, but, Aleen is just a regular country girl who just worked hard and accomplished her dreams and is still working hard to accomplish her dreams. Now, it might not be track and field but something different and yeah. I have this half-marathon at the end of the year.
DH: Wow. You’re going back to your original roots of doing the longer stuff.
AB: Yeah. So you see, it’s not how you started, it’s how you finish, man.
DH: Yeah, exactly. And the little country girl who followed her dreams and is inspiring others to do the same.
AB: Most definitely. So I just want to be an inspiration that it doesn’t matter where you’re from. If you’re from the country, you’re coming from the ghetto, where you’re born and raised doesn’t define who you are. So never allow anybody to put you in that box that oh, you come from the ghetto so all you’re going to do is this and that. No, you have doctors and lawyers, athletes. I mean, Shelly is from Waterhouse.
DH: So am I, by the way.
AB: Oh, nice. See? And you paved the way for like, we have like a women’s bobsled team. You paved the way for us and if the little idiot bobsled didn’t flip you’d have won.
DH: Probably, we’d like to think so.
AB: I know, I felt it. Yeah, just the idiot bobsled.
DH: I know. It’s the sleds fault, I know that but you know…
AB: You all were ready, you know. You were ready.
DH: You play the cards that life deals you, right?
AB: Definitely. And you guys did amazing.
DH: Thank you. It’s the black, green and gold you know, what can we say, you know what that feels like.
AB: I know what it feels like man, you can’t just give up, you can’t quit. Not in us.
DH: You have to keep on pushing. No, it’s not in us. So you mentioned earlier that you wanted to be a vet but then you switched focus, you switched your dreams to do sociology because you wanted to be able to impact lives. So now you’re a teacher, a substitute teacher and it really sounds like giving back is important to you. Can you tell us why, why is giving back so important to you?
AB: Because I was a lost child, so for kids to have somebody that’s been through what they’re probably going through throughout life, even as a teenager, to have somebody that can give you insight, advice on how to maneuver through life and that you’re going to fall in love and have a few broken hearts, you just have to like move past it and just teach you life skills on how to just be the best you and don’t allow anything or anyone to change your mind about anything because if I had allowed all those people that were saying I’m old and I’m fat and I need to retire, I mean 2009, I wouldn’t have had my world championship gold medal.
DH: Yeah. I don’t even know what they’re talking about you being old and fat because I’m looking at you right now. You don’t look old and you certainly don’t look fat. So maybe they’re seeing something completely different on their screens.
AB: And then I realized hurt people, hurt people. So they’re hurt and that’s why they’re trying to hurt you. They’re transferring their pain onto you. I just have to show them love.
DH: Yeah, important to remember. Hurt people, hurt people. I’ve never heard that one before but I’m going to have to borrow it from you. So, Aleen, as we wind down there are lots of young girls across the length and breadth of Jamaica, in fact, across the world who if they were watching you now, what piece of advice would you give to them?
AB: Follow your dreams. Never give up. Continue to work hard. See the beauty within yourself. Don’t let anybody say anything about you that’s negative that will change your concept of yourself and how you view yourself because how you view yourself will get you through anything. So you just have to love that little person that’s in you. And keep that inner child alive, have fun, enjoy everything that you do. Don’t make it a task because whenever you make it a task, it becomes just stress. And just have fun, enjoy yourself, work hard. Pray, pray without ceasing. Have a strong support system. Have people around you that are positive. Any negative friends that you have, get rid of them. Keep your circle close. In high school, I had a small circle and everyone was just pouring love into me. That’s what you need. Have people that just pour love into you, not negativity, just pure love because that will get you through any and everything.
DH: Indeed. Wise words from one of Jamaica’s legends, Ms. Aleen Bailey. You really epitomize Aleen, the keep on pushing spirit, the keep on pushing philosophy and that’s why I’m so excited to have you share your experience and your wisdom with myself, I’ve learned a lot from just chatting with you and, of course, the wider audience. Thank you so much for appearing on Keep On Pushing. Good luck with the marathon, the half-marathon coming up and with all your future endeavors.
AB: Thank you and I’m going to need it. I’m going to need to know how to get one of your shirts. I need to buy one.
DH: All right, cool. Well, we can work on that. You probably should wear it for the marathon because you’re going to need to keep on pushing.
AB: Yes, I’m going to need it so you need to get it to me by December, so let me know how.
DH: All right, cool. All right, we’ll talk soon. Thank you again for coming to Keep On Pushing.
AB: You’re welcome. Love and light to you.