Hoop Dreams & Happy Hunches

kristina leonardi
7 min readDec 15, 2023


Photo credit: Kristina Leonardi

If we’ve never met in person, you may not know that I’m a 6-footer, and have been since I was about 16.

Always one of the tallest in my grade, growing up I was often asked, “Do you play basketball?” I was even harassed by the dean of my high school to join the basketball or volleyball team, but I was adamant that just because I’m tall, it doesn’t mean I have to participate in those sports. (For the record, I did play intramural softball, batting cleanup and covering first base since I could catch anything within a 10-foot radius …)

However, in seventh grade I begrudgingly succumbed to the hoops pressure for one season; I was not very good but did receive a “most improved player” award. The next time I picked up a basketball was a few times my senior year in college with some housemates. I thought, Oh wow, I’m actually pretty decent at this, since besides having the height, I was both coordinated and had a good sense of timing (hello, I’m a dancer).

Photo credit: Kristina Leonardi

Fast-forward to a few weeks ago, when I found a slightly damaged but still-working basketball on the court in my neighborhood. As I bounced it around with a natural ease and amazed myself with many a swish, I realized that, in the immortal words of Marlon Brando in On the Waterfront, I coulda been a contender.

The Saturday before Halloween, I met a woman at a free outdoor concert and she invited me to a costume party at a local bar later that night. I didn’t know anyone or have any costume per se, but I threw something together from my closet and for the first time in years left my apartment at 10:45 p.m. to go out. I met some nice people and danced to old-school jams with a taco-man. It was fun!

The next Sunday I went to Brooklyn to hear some classical music at a church, but I found myself feeling unusually antsy and decided to leave at intermission. I then followed my instinct to walk around the neighborhood, which inadvertently led me to the Brooklyn Heights Promenade right at sunset — a stunning view that, despite having lived my entire adult life here, I am ashamed to admit I had never experienced and didn’t even know I was near until I stumbled upon it!

On my birthday a week later, I wanted to sit in a fancy place and have some tea. There are many swanky hotels around Fifth Avenue that I could have picked, but I followed my intuition and landed at one where I got to sit in a beautiful, elegant lounge punctuated by cool Keith Haring prints. And — get this –there was also a temporary art installation of the zodiac signs and phases of the moon! If you know me, you know that this was indeed the perfect place for me to celebrate my revolution around the sun. I could not have planned that if I tried.

Photo credit: Kristina Leonardi of art installation by Ivan Navarro

Over the past six-plus months, I’ve also talked to several “strangers” who, by the way, are no longer “strange” once you have a conversation. Some became acquaintances, friends or even potential partners, but all have opened my mind and heart a little more and mutually expanded our worlds, even for a brief moment of pleasant exchange, shared interest or a good laugh. This also applies to some of my existing relationships or those from the past; due to some out-of-the-norm interactions, they now have new dimensions to them.

I share all this to say that despite all the horrible happenings in the world and fears swirling around many things like the economy, all of the experiences I mentioned above cost me next to nothing in terms of money, and have enriched my life and expanded my faith in myself and in humanity at large.

We have more control and magic at our fingertips than we are led to believe or are told we can have when we tap into our own authority, listen to our hearts, and have the courage to step out of our comfort zones. It’s so easy to become creatures of habit or routines, or to get sucked into what is scrolled on our screens. Therefore, the more conscious you can be of “snapping out of it” and directing your own life from a deeper place, the more beautiful the gifts you can get out of it.

It’s also a reminder to consider: What talents, skills and joys have you hidden, repressed or denied that you can rediscover, unearth or express? What chip on your shoulder, stubbornness or box you put yourself in has kept you from meeting new people or excelling in a particular area that you can now resurrect or develop? How can you expand your horizons or social circle, or refresh your current ones? What new muscles, literal or figurative, can you stretch?

As we wrap up 2023 and start to think about how we want to be in 2024, these are good questions to reflect upon. What new vistas, inner and/or outer, do you want to explore?

I also want to say that in between all these fun experiences, there have been plenty of moments of anxiety, grief, uncertainty, disappointment and a host of other “unpleasant” emotions, but I don’t let them be the focus; I allow them come up, be felt and moved through, and inform me when necessary (a topic for another essay!). Just know that life is a mix of all the feels, and we are all subject to some intense ones these days … . I’m trying to highlight here what you might not see on the other side of them, and inspire you with some positive ways to move through these transformative times.

So let this be a call to get the cobwebs out, open yourself to new people and adventures right in your own backyard. How can you listen to your heart more? Where can you color outside your regular lines and break your own rules? Even with this essay, I chose myself over rushing to post it according to my usual deadline. Instead, I waited for the right time, when I could do it justice.

Need some help with what all that could look like for you, with examining where you might be stuck, and/or with how to experience more fulfillment and joy in your career and life in general? Consider working with me as a coach (or perhaps give some clarity, balance and direction as a gift …) by visiting my website here and check out my new rockin’ IG promo reel here.

Looking for a unique gift or stocking stuffer with positive vibes? Check out my book Say It To Make It: Affirmations to Empower Your Heart, Mind, Spirit and Soul. Grab a copy and add some color and positive energy to your daily routine! Hint: Great for those GenZers in your life :)


Kristina Leonardi is a nationally recognized career and life coach, speaker and author who for over 16 years has empowered individuals to make lasting professional and personal changes aligned with their true passions and talents while fulfilling their role in the world at large. With a holistic and personal growth-oriented approach, she has helped hundreds of men and women over the past decade improve their job performance, enter or re-enter the job force, change careers, better manage their time and stress, and live happier, more meaningful, balanced lives. Her specialty is working with people who feel stuck or are in transition and can help you clarify exactly what you want to do, identify blocks, issues, and patterns in your way, and offer proven ideas, resources, and action steps to get you there.



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kristina leonardi

Speaker,Coach,Writer.Very Tall. Expertise:People. All kinds, what makes 'em tick, how they fit into the world, how they can best connect to themselves + others.