I've always had a strong character, always had a strange idea in my head, and the determination to see it through.
To witness what happens when you truly make it happen.
I've always been independent, perhaps too much so.
Eager from the start to express myself, to show how different I was from others, for better or for worse.
When I took my first steps as a child, my mother found me standing on the table. How I got there, no one knows, but upon closer inspection, it seems like the perfect image to describe the woman I would become.
I remember my childhood in full colors, full of sunshine.
I remember it in a meadow, riding a bike without pedals, having to use my feet to stay balanced. With my grandmother watching me affectionately.
Yet I know, I know for certain, I wasn't an easy child.
I wasn't the little princess all parents dream of.
Rock & roll from the beginning.
You almost had to chase me for my attention because I minded my own business, unconcerned about the rest.
I was the guardian of the treehouse, the mistress of my world.
I was also the youngest at home, and that surely had an impact.
My sister is four years older than me, and my brother is four years older than her, which made us quite distant, at least on paper.
They were already grown-ups when I wasn't yet.
They made choices and decisions when I couldn't.
Perhaps that's precisely why I developed a temperament entirely different from theirs.
Good and kind were they.
Troublesome and noisy was I.
Well, we didn't exactly hit it off right away.
I truly began to appreciate my brother only when I had to go to the other side of Poland to play volleyball, and I started to recognize the influence his example had on me.
Soccer, running, long jump: I had tried every sport, but none was like volleyball. Volleyball was different.
Year after year.
Volleyball had a unique taste.
And, of course, it was also his discipline.
With the desire to forge my own path and not repeat that of others, but also aware that inspiration must have come from somewhere, as soon as I was old enough, I tried to face the world.
I tried to harness the fire I felt inside and see where it would lead me.
Starting from the first transfer, at a delicate age, as it happened to many athletes before and after me.
I remember my parents' words of encouragement.
I remember the clear feeling of having a motive, a profound reason to go so far. It all made sense to me from the day I packed my bags.
It wasn't easy, not at all.
I cried often at the beginning, but I always did it in secret because I didn't want others to see me, I didn't want them to think less of me.
As soon as I arrived in the new city, I cut my hair, which I had always worn very long, almost as if it were a sign of rebellion, a break from the past.
As if I were challenging myself to do something new.
When I returned home for the first Christmas, and my mom saw it, she was very upset. "They were also my hair," she said, she who had always taken care of them for me.
Those were strange years, difficult and exhilarating, between 15 and 18, where all I did was sleep, eat, study, and train, just like everyone else, in an environment designed solely and exclusively to focus on sports.
We didn't even attend a regular school; we had a private one just for us, to avoid distractions and wasting time.
Living like that never weighed on me, even though later, when I left and went to play "real" volleyball, I realized there's more outside the sports hall.
Discovering what it means to go shopping, or attend a party, or even just return after 10 in the evening can be exhilarating at that age, even if excessive freedom has the power to make you falter. I've seen many girls it happened to.
In the early locker rooms, I instinctively bonded with older, more mature girls, those I admired in sports as well. And that protected me.
I wasn't really "me" yet.
My entire character didn't emerge, but I took advantage of their presence to learn as much as possible, to understand what it took to become truly strong.
And yet, even as you grow and become an important player, doubts still linger.
If anything, they're the core of the sporting experience, of the building of your professional future. A future where you'd never want to sit down.
When I arrived in Conegliano, I was stressed about what others expected from me. I wasn't even sure if I deserved the call-up. I didn't think I was up to the level of the Italian championship.
To be able to assert myself.
I needed to understand myself better, to comprehend how I function, even under pressure, before truly figuring out where I wanted to go.
Despite so much time passing since my debut in Italy, and despite winning always being a big help, I feel there's still a long way to go.
Both for myself and for the team.
And very often, these journeys thrive on the power of certain moments.
Things you can't plan.
Only after COVID and after experiencing the lockdown did I truly start to feel like an adult. An adult through and through.
Discovering that volleyball isn't everything, in some ways, made me pay more attention to it. A greater attention to detail.
Precisely because it isn't everything, because there's more outside in my life that's worth living for, precisely for that reason, when I step into the gym, nothing can be wasted.
Not even a minute.
Not even a ball.
I don't know what the future holds for me.
On the one hand, there are dreams of greatness, like the desire to play the tournament of my life, in Paris 2024, with the national team, or the desire to win again in Europe with Conegliano, my second home.
And on the other hand, there's me, with an eye on time passing by, and with all the complexities that maturity brings.
The understanding that I can't play forever, and when that day comes, I'll have to start over. The desire to pass something on to others, especially the young ones, of what I've learned over all these years.
Because the strong character remains as it always has.
However, new pieces of me have blossomed around it, embracing and crowning it, recognizing the essence of who I really am, but with the tenderness of someone who has learned to love themselves and appreciate the time they have.
Sometimes, spending it alone, in the treehouse.
Other times, right in the center of the world, with the ball in my hands and the crowd cheering.