This week marks my one year mark of living in central Minnesota. I guess you could say that I have a love-hate relationship with this place. I’m starting to think though, maybe we have a love-hate relationship with most places we live?
I know I’ve talked about Ultimate Frisbee here before, but it once again, it comes back into my life and surprises me. This time in Minnesota. But let’s back up first…
When I first lived in Madison, I was not a fan.
GASP. I know. Looking back, I want to shake myself and say girrlllll, you have no idea what good things are coming to you and how much you’ll fall in love with this city.
Anyway, I wasn’t a fan of Madtown. I wasn’t a fan of my grad program. I didn’t have many friends. And I was having serious doubts on whether or not staying and completing my Ph.D. was the best path for me. I even had started looking into P.A. schools in Iowa.
The guys in my lab always talked about ultimate. Like, they were REALLY good and talked about it all the time. At first, I never thought I could play. At the time, I had just gained 40 lbs from my first year of grad school, was out of shape, and I knew that ultimate was…a ton of running (youtube it, for reals). But, I kept hearing about how much fun people in lab were having playing and how everyone was really good at accepting beginners. The fall of my 2nd year of grad school, my friend Sammie from lab and I signed up together. She had played before, I hadn’t. BUT, I felt so much better showing up to our first game with a friend! That first game I about DIED playing the first point…IT WAS SO MUCH RUNNING. I WAS SO SLOW. I DROPPED THE DISC. *Side note– EVERYONE DROPS THE DISC* But playing ultimate sparked something inside of me…for the first time since playing tennis competitively in college, I was COMPETING, as well as socializing doing something active. All of the players were nice and genuinely interested in helping me become better. They also were just really fun. I was hooked. I asked one of the guys in lab to help me learn the different throws and we spent the next couple months working on it. I got better.
That next summer, my long-time friend Matt, also a grad student at UW, asked me to play on his summer team. We played in a rec-league and mainly emphasized fun. I continued to work on my game and got better…I wasn’t great by any means, but I didn’t screw up all that often! But even better was that when I started playing on that team, I had no idea that the people on that team would become my best friends (even introducing me to more amazing people that didn’t play ultimate too!), and those friends would be by my side for what would be the worst year, then best year of my life.
Ultimate gave me something I hadn’t had in a long time: a new sport to learn + new friends. Quality friends. Hilarious friends. And a reason to be physically active and work out all my stress from the day. I worked hard to learn the different positions and playing was great physical activity…in addition to training for a half marathon it played a huge role in helping me lose weight and get back to my healthy pre grad school weight.
For the next 3 summers, our team played together and it was an absolute blast. I honestly can say I’ve never enjoyed anything more than playing ultimate and enjoying Great Dane Beers + Karoke with the friends I made in Madison. In the spring and the fall, I played on other random teams, and still had a blast. To sum it up: people who play ultimate are awesome. period.
Fortunately, I successfully defended my PhD last summer and got a killer job, but unfortunately that meant leaving my safety net of grad school and the amazing ultimate community/best friends I made I had made in Madison. It was hard. I was so torn between this amazing new future I had worked hard for, and leaving everything that had meant so much to me.
Although I miss the craft beer, restaurant scene, and old friends in Madison, I have met some incredible friends through the college here in Minnesota. I feel lucky to have made such great friends so quickly. This past year though, something from my life has felt missing. I realized this spring was that while I was working my ass of being a first year prof, I wasn’t killing 2 birds with one stone AKA socializing while being physically active like I was when I would play frisbee. This realization came as I started volunteering with the women’s frisbee team at the college I teach. I helped coach them as well as scrimmage with them…and just playing ultimate again made me really, really, happy.
Through that team, I was able to find a group of people to play ultimate with this summer, a “pickup league” as you would call it. While the teams are random and many of the players are way younger and faster than me, playing ultimate again has filled that void I’ve felt. With the age differences/life stage of all the other players, I don’t foresee myself forming the life-bond that I did with my ultimate friends in Madison. But I’ve realized that here, ultimate doesn’t need to do that for me. Getting to play ultimate is enough and has filled that void I have been missing. Getting up the confidence to go to ultimate each week on my own and having it be “my own” is enough. I’ve already started making friends in other areas of my life here that fulfill that part of my life. I love my job. It’s a puzzle that’s becoming more complete. The alignment of all of these things over the past couple weeks have led me to believe that for the first time since I moved here a year ago, I could possibly have a future here. Which is huge, considering about 6 months ago I was in “get me the eff out of here” mode.
This past spring, I was asked by several graduating seniors that I taught in Capstone if I had any advice about moving away/starting a new life, as I had just done so myself. I think I came up with a different answer for each of them, depending on how I felt that week, because I didn’t know the answer.
But I know the answer now, or at least, I’m closer to the answer than where I was.
My advice is this, find one thing that makes you happy– whether it be a hobby, a sport, etc.,– and make it a goal to do that one thing at least once a week. Even if you do it by yourself. Do that one thing and bring yourself a little joy. You’ll sleep better at night because of it. 🙂