It is late. It is so, so late. I am not prepared for class tomorrow, I am exhausted. It has literally taken me at least 7 minutes and 2 million attempts to try and remember my blog password. And then another 10 minutes to figure out how to work wordpress again.
And here I am, writing. Because I cannot sleep and for once, it is because I finally feel like I have something to contribute to the world that isn’t work related. And over the last two weeks, I finally feel like I have something to write about. Something other than the obvious. Something other than my grief. Something other than my work and my students. Something other than how it is a daily struggle for me to understand the world I live in.
Over the past few months, I have asked questions and sought out advice from many trusted sources in my life. Why do I work all the time? Will I ever feel pure joy again? Why do I feel so behind in life? How can I remember that I have a killer career and shouldn’t feel behind in life? I have asked myself these questions, over and over. I have many amazing resources and people in my life to which I am forever grateful for, yet I have needed something I couldn’t quite put my finger on. After months of change, months of not taking care of myself, I needed something close to my soul that made me feel like myself again. Not something new. Not something life-changing. Something familiar…and man, did it take me awhile to realize this. And honestly, I have learned that you can have all of these amazing resources and people in your life, but sometimes, you have to suck it up and take the initiative to just figure out what in the heck you need yourself. On your own. To make yourself happy. As ridiculously impatient as I am, I’ve trusted that when the time is right, I would be ready to find it and I think…I have found a starting “something”.
A couple weeks ago, I finally took the initiative to pursue tennis at an indoor tennis facility. Because over the past few months, I have had no motivation to drag my ass to the gym, but I have had the motivation to eat a lot of chocolate and drink a lot of delicious craft beer, which is cool and all but has led to undesirable changes AKA none of my pants fit. Our physical health is tightly connected to emotional and mental health. I knew deep down that in order to start taking care of myself physically, I had to start somewhere where the work didn’t feel like “physical activity” and I was not suffering. This left 2 options: tennis or ultimate frisbee. It is winter so ultimate was out and tennis it was.
While the price for a winter membership is more than I can afford, I learned that there is a weekly “adult skills session”, where they essentially run a division 3 college tennis practice– for adults. Ummm, what? Sign.Me.Up. This took care of the fear that I wouldn’t have competition because I would just be hitting balls from a feeder and could shake off the rust. I went the first week, nervous as a college freshman I once was, and I almost cried like four times because I was so, so happy. For as many shots as I hit in the net from rust, I hit that many winners and it was like riding a bike. As a plus, there are tennis GAMES at these sessions, just like practice. We still haven’t played Space Invaders, but it is in my arsenal of suggestions. I honestly haven’t played tennis regularly since college and I have missed the high-level competition, camaraderie with teammates, and having a coach tell me what to do so I don’t have to think up my own workout. Over the past few years, I’ve been concerned that here in the community I lived that I wouldn’t be able to find a group to be competitive with and that I would lose this part of me. The past few weeks have proved to me that in that perspective I am a) cocky as hell because there is um, competition everywhere if you seek it out and b) if I keep playing tennis I have a lot to look forward to in my 40’s and 50’s.
Participating in the adult skills sessions has helped me shake off the rust, but also given me confidence because I am still really pretty damn good at tennis. And for 2 hours each week, I don’t have to be asking for help on how to lead a class discussion, or prepping for class on a topic I’m not an expert on. I get to do something that is natural to me. That I’m successful at. And better yet, that I still am challenged. Holy crap. I’ve been practicing with men and women older than me and they are SO GOOD! It is so awesome. It is is competitive and I love, love it. I mean, I don’t even mind losing points to these people at times, that is how good it feels to be challenged in something I love, yet still succeeding. Other people have noticed and even asked me to play in their leagues. REAL MATCHES, KIDS. I am so proud of myself for taking that initiative to participate in tennis again, no matter how hard it was to garner the motivation, it was making that first step that mattered.
I believe the way we best grow, develop, and learn about ourselves is very individual. Some people, it’s through going to school. Or through their job. Others, it is learning through relationships with others. I used to think I learned best about myself was through travel, but I think I was wrong. I’m beginning to learn that maybe I learn best about myself when I’m competing. I haven’t dated many people…I’ve gone to school for a long time and learned how to work hard/how important it is to work in a field you love…I’ve traveled and learned to appreciate food and other cultures. But learning about myself? I think I learn best through competition. Through practice. My dad, a longtime coach, never came right out and said this, but I know it was important for him to see us participate in sports growing up because of the life lessons we learn. He could have cared less about the matches my sister and I won, or the points we scored…he and my mom cared that we prepared well, put our best foot forward in competition, and learned from the outcome. God, that is just why I miss him so damn much, but am so thankful of the skills he and my mom have given my sister and I to succeed.
From overcoming adversity, to having to practice, to working hard, to playing opponents who we don’t have a chance against, to being gracious to others when we win. To just better ourselves. It all applied to so many other areas of life growing up and influenced who I was. And now, years later, I see the benefits of competition in a whole different light…it’s giving me the confidence I need to experience joy again doing something I love, its reminding me how to graciously deal with a loss when I make an error or lose a game, and I’m remembering how critical it is to be active for my happiness.
Life is funny. Funny how the things we stray the furthest from, the things that are so near and dear to our heart we overlook and forget about, are the ones that maybe, at least in my case, give us a much needed short break from our brains and let us just be ourselves.
Because over the past month, while I still have struggled, and still have many commitments, I’ve gotten to spend about 2 hours a week doing something that I am damn good at. And it has been special because it is something I can intrinsically rely on myself to do and not have to feel guilty about relying on others. It is one of the few things I’ve been able to do where I’ve been able to think clearly,forget about things that make me sad, forget about work, forget about comparing myself to others, and have been able to gain the confidence I’ve needed. And to just be happy.
And really, to just be.
There is this cheesy quote that I have always loved. “We lose ourselves in the things we love. We find ourselves there, too”.
Yeah. I think I’m finding myself here, too.
PS- Coach, if you read this, please send me some new grips, Imma need ’em and I’m still a cheapskate.