Grieving, Goals and Growth
Playing sports all through high school and college definitely played a major part in my life and helped me be a part of something bigger than myself. I was hooked on the culture, being a part of a team, and the routines and regimens that needed to happen in order to perform well and, frankly, that gave me some "normalcy."
Being an athlete gave me an outlet to release my frustrations and gave me the space I needed when I wanted break away from everything I was dealing with in my personal life. This was especially the case on the day I the lost my father 17 years ago. It was the day after Christmas in 2000. I went to basketball practice because it was the only place I could go without crying. My coach gave me a hoop to shoot at and let me participate when I wanted to. When my grandfather passed away a year later, I was looking forward to playing in the game after because I was so upset and didn't want to do anything else. But, we didn't have our game on the day of the funeral because it was cancelled for a different reason... It was 9/11/01.
In hindsight, I was constantly under pressure to perform and have all of my shit together, even though my life around me was chaotic. But, I used my own personal struggles as fuel to kick my own ass into high gear to be the best player I could be. More times than not, I was really hard on myself and didn't think I was good enough.
I finally realize that the loss of both my father and grandfather completely triggered me and I don't think that I've ever fully recovered from it. [NOTE: I am STILL working on this every single day... It's a marathon, not a sprint.] I became anxious and depressed but I was too proud and embarrassed to admit it to anyone, until now. I felt lost, but kept that smile on my face for the world because I had to pretend to be happy. Because of that, I started focusing my efforts on taking care of everyone else but myself and in turn, lost my identity in the process.
REALITY CAUGHT UP WITH ME.
During the summer of 2004, I finally received a reality check from the universe. I wasn't made of steel anymore. I can be broken, torn, and completely affected by change. I finally had to face life head on and there was nothing I could do about it.
I was playing field hockey in an adult summer league to prepare for my sophomore season in college when an older woman hit me directly on my left knee with her stick during a game while trying to go for a ball. I heard a loud snap and fell to the ground. Something wasn't right. I immediately crawled off of the turf and started crying. My worst nightmare was coming true... Luckily, one of my teammates was actually an Orthopedic Surgeon and she came rushing to my side. She checked my knee, wrote me a script for an MRI, and said that she believed that I had torn my ACL.
I went for the MRI the next day and my worst fears were confirmed. I called my coach and told her what happened and it honestly felt like my life was over.
I didn't know how to function without playing sports.
During the season, I would still wake up early, go to practice, participate in a few drills here and there (with little movement, of course) but I couldn't play in the games until I was cleared by a surgeon. But, of course I went against doctors orders and asked if I could try to help them win a game that went into overtime and eventually penalty shots (or strokes, as they call it). Little did I know that I would lose an entire year of eligibility if I put the uniform on and take one step in between the lines, but I wanted to help my team in any way that I could. I felt useless, otherwise. I needed to have surgery, recover and get back on the field ASAP. FOMO kicked in, big time.
I finally had surgery in December 2004 and luckily my recovery and rehab went very well and was able to ready to return to the team in August of the next year. It felt almost surreal because during pre-season, I scored the first goal of the first game we had. I can remember it like it was yesterday... the ball hitting the back of that net with a loud *bang* and me screaming, "I'm Back!!!!"
It felt like I was back in more ways than one... I felt alive again.
Fast forward to 2007. We lost in the first round of the tournament and I can remember just grabbing my things and sitting on the stroke line in the middle of the circle, just staring off into space. I couldn't do anything but cry. Man, that was a long bus ride home from Maine... Going back there as a coach the next year didn't change anything either. I cried walking back onto that field and couldn't do anything about it. The wound was still too fresh.
Once I hung up the cleats for good, I realized that I used sports as a way to define myself. I clearly felt like I lost my sense of identity when I couldn't play anymore and became really anxious and depressed. I didn't know what to do with myself because I actually had to be an adult and do adult things like go to work and move on with my life. But, it was so hard to let go...
It's honestly taken a lot for me to actually push the publish button on this post, but I feel like now is the right time for me to share this with the world. Playing sports was one of the biggest parts of my life and now I know that I've always had trouble talking about because I was in denial of fearing change for so long. I've come to terms with that part of my life and I express gratitude for the experiences that I've had and people that I met along the way.
Onto the next chapter...
I'd love to know how has your reality defined you. Comment below with your story and share your thoughts if you can relate.