The month of May was an incredible month. I honestly think I can say that it may have been the biggest month for me in my tennis career. After a brief stint in the UK, I ended up going to Qarshi, Uzbekistan. Let me guide you through my incredibly life-changing journey.
I arrived at the Tashkent Airport at 2:45 am Sunday where I quickly learned that the airline had lost my tennis bags. Not only was that the only flight into Uzbekistan that day, but the tournament site was 6 hours away from the airport and play began on Monday. With no choice but to head to the site, I gathered my travel bag and backpack and endured on a 6-hour taxi ride from Tashkent to Qarshi. My driver didn’t speak a word of English and even though there were pretty much no rules (and lots of potholes) on the roads there, he got me to my hotel safe and sound. I immediately dropped my stuff off and walked over to the tennis site to see if Lilya, the tournament director, could help me with my bags. The only languages spoken were Uzbek and Russian so I was hoping that she could find a way to help me locate my lost tennis bags. To say that Lilya runs the show over there is an understatement of the century. Not only did she move my match back to Tuesday, but she somehow got a hold of the airline and then sent someone 6 hours to get my bag and then 6 hours back. I couldn’t have done it without her.
Fortunately, my racquets arrived Monday morning around 11 am and I was able to get a light practice in. After 48 hours of incredible stress, I was finally able to breathe for a little bit. I had 18 hours to regroup and refocus on the task at hand. Unfortunately, I ended up losing my match 6-3, 7-6 but given the circumstances, I was pretty proud of how I competed.
After this whirlwind of emotions, I decided that I wanted to go back to the states and surprise my brother at his last match at Illinois as well as surprise my mom for Mother’s day. I embarked on a 39-hour journey home (TAS->SVO->JFK->ORD) including 9 hours on the floor in the Tashkent airport with no wifi and only two granola bars for dinner.
During this time I did a lot of self-reflection about who I am and where I see myself in the future. Since the beginning of the year, I felt that my values and identity have been compromised. I had begun taking my life for granted and had gotten away from the things that truly matter to me. I have not been as good of a fiancé, son, friend, brother, pupil, nor grandson as I had once been. So right then and there I decided that I was going to take a month off from competition to redefine who Jared Hiltzik is on and off the court. I decided to endure a crazy tough fitness training block as well as re-examine my values in order to become a better person.
Here I sit one month later not only as a physically stronger person but a better person as well. Being in Uzbekistan changed me and showed me how lucky I am to be here today. I have surrounded myself with amazing people and I could not be more thankful for having each and every one of you in my life, following me on this journey. I now have a new outlook on life and I cannot wait to show off who Jared Hiltzik really is.
A HUGE thank you to my coaches and the staff of #TeamUSA for guiding me through this 4-week training block and always pushing me to be my best.