Cal Track: Tianna Bee's Blog Serves as `Socially Acceptable Outlet for Rage'

Jeff Faraudo

Two-time Olympic track star Tianna Bartoletta always has known what she wanted to be when she grew up.

A writer.

“I’ve been a writer longer than I’ve been an athlete,” she says.

As a young girl growing up in Ohio, she would share her latest “book” with her family. “A couple pages stapled together.”

But Bartoletta also used writing as a coping mechanism, penning letters to her parents and slipping them under their bedroom door rather than initiated conversations about sensitive issues.

Bartoletta continues to slide those messages under the door, now through a blog on her website tiannabee.com. Her writing style is accessible and approach is usually unvarnished.

In recent months, she has been even more prolific, addressing the hot topics in a turbulent world.

“I am operating at a much higher baseline of anxiety and almost like simmering rage. It’s not always manageable,” Bartoletta says. “I think that is where writing has really benefitted me because, first of all, writing is a socially acceptable outlet for rage. And I think we’re all feeling so much that it’s just important to get it out.”

Here are a few examples:

-- “American Pie dissects complicated issues of racism, describing her exhaustion at having to justify that she matters. She explores the same topic from a different angle in “House Rules.”

-- And in Run For It,” she writes about how close to home the Trayvon Martin killing felt when she was living in Florida at the time.

-- In Solve For X,” she details her response to the Bay Area’s shelter-in-place order after the pandemic hit.

-- Bartoletta shares the experience of her recent health crisis in “Malignantly Benign: A Fibroid Story.”

-- In “The Games We Play,” she writes about hypocrisy in the Olympic movement.

-- “The Journey to the Journal” describes Bartoletta’s embrace of yoga, which landed her on the cover of the July/August edition of Yoga Journal magazine.

-- In “To Live and Die in LA,” she writes about a largely unhappy time in Los Angeles and how the experience relates to 2020.

-- “Death Before Dishonor?” is a frank discussion of an uncomfortable topic: rape.

“I needed a way to make all of this yuckiness matter,” she explains, referring to not only current events but episodes from throughout her life.

“There has to be a reason for all of that. I’ve decided what that reason is that once I get to the other side of that I can share that story and perhaps help someone else get through it, or help someone avoid it altogether because I’ve already done it and learned all the lessons and done all the mistakes. So maybe you can just skip over that part and move on to your own mistakes.”

The blog allows Bartoletta to gets stuff off her chest, but she knows from the response she gets that others are feeling the same emotions. So sharing is important right now because social distancing makes the usual personal connections so difficult.

“That’s kind of where I am now, especially with racial tensions erupting. I am both a Black female but also very comfortable talking about what I need in this moment,” she says. “Or talking about race in a way that can reach across demographics.

“I just want to make sure there’s space for me and all of my emotions and how I’m processing all of these things. But also to create the space for other people.”

Bartoletta provides important perspective about life in the time of the COVID-19 pandemic in “Lucky You.” Here is a piece that writing:

As athletes we have complicated relationships with time.

Being out of it. Needing or wanting more of it.

Trying to shed it.

Trying to increase it.

Trying to freeze it.

And we really aren’t all that successful manipulating it to our will are we? And maybe this pandemic has made everything about sports participation murky and complicated and difficult…

If you’re lucky.

Because thousands and thousands of our fellow global citizens have contracted this disease. Hundreds upon hundreds have died.

Figuring out how to hang around for a potential windfall of global championships in 2021, 2022, 2023, and 2024…

Is going to be difficult for a lot of coaches, and athletes.

Because we’ll be older.

If we’re lucky.

.

Follow Jeff Faraudo of Cal Sports Report on Twitter: @jefffaraudo

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