This is a guest editorial by Canadian professional hockey player and forward Josh Ho-Sang, who today is premiering his new song “Learning” on Audiomack.
My name is Josh Ho-Sang. I love playing hockey, and I’m lucky enough to play it professionally. I have spent time in the National Hockey League and am still trying to secure a permanent spot on the roster. There have been things both within and outside of my control that have me still working for that spot.
Along my journey, I have learned hard lessons from mistakes. One of the most public, and impactful, occurred when I arrived late on the first day of NHL training camp. I’m sure you can imagine the publicity this got in the hockey world. Since that day, to protect myself, I keep public comments on my Instagram turned off.
I had never experienced public ridicule like that. I was 19 and had no idea how to deal with the scrutiny from strangers concerning, what was to me, a traumatic experience. On the flip side, this event led me on a learning journey, and there have been many ups and downs along the way since then.
Wins and losses are a part of the game of hockey that I love. In life, those wins and losses are much harder to process. Over the past year, I made it a priority to reflect on each mistake or misstep, to find ways to learn from them and apply them going forward. I have learned how to approach the structured lifestyle that comes with being a professional athlete while still maintaining my sense of self. Throughout this learning process, I have struggled with the roller coaster ride of anxiety and depression.
While I have always been told growing up that what happens in your life doesn’t define you, it wasn’t until I committed to working through the chaos of these emotions and behaviors that I was able to fully understand and believe it.
I am not defined by any one moment in time. I am defined by the commitments I make and people that I love. I am more defined by the decision to work on my mental health in the same way I work on hockey, than anything that has happened in my career. I am more than an incident. Going through this, I know that I am a stronger human being than I was before.
The past few months have been world-changing. Our world has shifted. A pandemic, unlike anything we have ever seen, has impacted everyone. At the same time, people are standing up for justice, equality, unity, and integrity. In doing so, they share their perspectives and experiences to help others and shine a light on the issues affecting us. It inspired me. I am committed to doing my part, sharing publicly some of the things I have dealt with, and finding a way to use music to give back. Since music has been so crucial in my journey and helped me grow, especially mentally, I felt it was the best way to share my thoughts and emotions.
I am nervous to show you this side of me. I have been challenged many times for not staying within a structure and for speaking frankly. For a long time, I have felt as though I have not been able to be myself and use my voice with power. I have been down the road of being challenged and ridiculed publicly, yet I believe it has made me stronger. I learned so many valuable lessons. These challenges allowed me to dive into art and music, inspired me to create, and have shown me that some are more afraid than I am and do not have this opportunity to step forward.
Releasing “Learning” is important. Not only to own my voice and its power but to use my voice authentically and be heard as me: Josh. It is also important to me that others hear that they too can be themselves. I hope that I can inspire just one person to be more of themselves and find the power to use their voice for their growth.
Why music? I started making music for fun when I was young. Over the past four years I've gone through a personal journey and used it as an outlet to express myself. Struggles I face, hurdles I jump, problems I see, dreams I have—all of it has been given a voice through music. I hope people realize how important it is to find something you can do without judgement, where you can just be you. The music always has your back, it doesn’t want anything from you, it just is.
What caused this change? Hockey is my lifelong love. When I was little, I used it as my escape. My love for hockey has only grown throughout my life, but I have learned from this journey that with the opportunity to be a professional—in any field—comes a whole new set of expectations and responsibilities. It is a job and one that is challenging when you are different. It can be heartbreaking, stressful, and cause anxiety and also be incredibly rewarding, just like other jobs. Finding an outlet that enabled me to follow my dreams of playing in the NHL while still finding a way to express myself was critical. Music is a major reason why I am as mentally strong as I have become.
Why now? It's the right time to speak up. It was difficult for me to acknowledge that I needed to get help for my depression and anxiety. I know that there are many other people out there like myself. I found it emblematic to the movement taking place around the world. We are speaking out on deeply-rooted societal issues. It is not comfortable to acknowledge these issues, but we have to. This is the reason why sharing my story felt like something I had to do now.
We have to acknowledge all issues that need to be fixed, internally and externally, locally and globally if we want to change for the better. Masking a problem with something unproductive will make things worse, pretending it is not a problem will make things worse, and failing to take any action will make things worse. We all have the power to act and be part of the change.
I hope my story can help or inspire people. This song has some of my innermost thoughts. It's personal and it means very much to me, yet I had risk to share it. I believe it is a win-win opportunity for people to hear me for me and for people to know without a doubt that they also have what it takes to be heard as who they are.
Doing my part. I am thankful to have partnered with Audiomack in donating to Ice Hockey in Harlem. Ice Hockey in Harlem has been a pillar in growing the game of hockey for decades.
Some of my greatest growth as a human being took place in New York. To be given the opportunity to give back to the city and the youth hockey community in a space that is very important to me is a tremendous gift. Hockey has done so much for me, in so many different aspects of my life, and I know that it can do the same for many others.
Thank you to Chris Gallinaent and Stuck Studios for countless hours, talks, and unwavering support in this musical journey. Stuck Studios mixed and engineered this song, staying true to the idea in my head when I wrote it. The beat was made by eeryskies and Chad Fields, p/k/a producer chad.
Photo Credit: Icon Sportswire via Getty Images