Wednesday, April 16, 2014

You don't always get what you want


The summer before my junior year of high school, there was nothing I wanted more than to be on the varsity soccer team.

And who wouldn't?  They had it all.  They were the league champions; every teacher and student knew their names. They had brand new Under Armour uniforms and brand new Under Armour bags.  They were all tan and lean and blonde and their farts probably smelled like lavender.  I knew that if I could just be on that team, life would be awesome.  I'd have everything.

Plus there was the fact that I had played soccer since I was five.  It wasn't just a fall sport for me; it was fall tournaments, indoor soccer arenas that smelled like hot dogs, spring leagues, and summer training.  I didn't really know how to exist as anything other than a soccer player.

So that summer before junior year, making that team was my only thought.  I did unspeakable things, going to high school tracks to practice for the infamous varsity timed mile, sweating out every snow-cone of my past 17 years at summer camps.  I thought if I tried hard enough, if I wanted it bad enough, I'd get it.

And even during those three grueling weeks of try-outs, when I should have been noticing the warning signs, that maybe in fact I shouldn't be wanting this, I never stopped trying.  Looking back on it, I was miserable: the girls weren't particularly friendly, I wasn't particularly good, and the coach kept yelling at me because I wasn't doing my push-ups right.

But still, I knew that if I stuck it out and kept fighting, I'd come out on the other end happy and with bigger biceps.

After the very last practice scrimmage before the season officially started, literally the last day that the team could make cuts, the assistant coach pulled me aside and said, "Sorry, but you didn't make it."  He said it like I just missed my bus, or just didn't make the movie I was trying to catch.  No big deal, happens all the time.  You can probably still make Happy Feet if you hurry.

I didn't even stay for the post-game huddle.  I hardly even held in my tears long enough to leave the field.  It was one of those times that I'm sure my dad doesn't realize how much I needed him there, but I can't imagine how I would have endured a bus ride back to school.

I cried all the way back to my dad's truck, dramatic tears of teenage anguish.  I was angry, upset, grief stricken, but most of all, shocked.  What do you mean my soccer career is done?  I've never done anything but play soccer.  I can't do anything but play soccer.  This is what I wanted!  What about the Little Engine That Could, for God's sake?

Like every crisis in a teenage girl's life, I thought this was it.  The big one.  The most insurmountable obstacle that I could never overcome.  I didn't even want to overcome it.  What was the point of life if I didn't have an Under Armour soccer bag?

What I didn't know was that after this earth-shattering grief, I would eventually move on.  Granted, it took a little push from my dad and friends, but eventually they convinced me to try a different fall sport.  (Cross country, in case you haven't been paying attention around here.)

As I shed my smelly shin guards and flung them across my dad's front seat in anguish, I had no idea that this was actually the first in a series of events that would change my life.  I'd join a team of girls I actually liked.  I'd be good at running, so good that someone would pay for my college education so I could do it.  It would give me the opportunity to literally travel across the country and see places I'd probably never see otherwise.  I'd meet my best friends because of it, arguably get a job thanks to it.

I'd become a runner, which I can say without a doubt has changed who I am as a person.

And there I was, crying because I didn't get that Under Armour duffel bag.

Happy Hump Day.
Too bad there's no real life valedictorian; this kind of sap is farewell speech gold, right?



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