I have been thinking recently about some tough times in high school. I never really fit in; I never really understood why. I was tortured by it really. I never spoke about it. I just tried to keep busy. I sang in choirs and bands and played a lot of sports. I never knew why I didn’t fit in; I just didn’t. Now I realize why but back then I didn’t know. I had friends but I was really shy and just wasn’t on the same level as most of the other kids.
I was always worried and scared and well just different. My interests didn’t jive with anyone else or any of my friends and that felt like a lonely place. If it wasn’t for sports I don’t think I would have done as well as I had. Well, I take that back, I know I wouldn’t have.
Especially Soccer. I was good at it. I never even played soccer until freshman year in high school. Me and some friends kind of joined on a whim to get in shape for basketball. I ended up doing better in soccer. We were a brand new team. Our town didn’t have soccer teams when we were coming up so it was all new to us. No one wanted to play goalie and I said, shit, I’ll do it. I mean I already knew how to catch and I knew I could jump and dive. I just had to learn about the game and the angles. Goal keeping is all about cutting down those Angles. Since our team was so new and a lot of the teams in the wealthier surrounding towns had been playing for a while we got our asses kicked. Great for me because I saw a lot of action in the goal and I got good. It was a soccer for dummies crash course. I mean we would lose 20 – 0 and I still had like 120 saves. I was beaten and bruised; so much so that I got called down to the counselors office because they thought I was being beaten. I was like no …I’m just on the soccer team.
My general practitioner would examine me and after seeing my bruises he didn’t let his own daughter play soccer in school. I tried to explain it was unusual circumstances, I was a goalie on a very young team. I had bruises that were as big as my whole shin. Literally people would try to take me out or break my leg. We were undefeated on my college team and that was no joke. There was all sorts of under-handed stuff that happened out there. Some teams were classy. Others .. not so much. I was always in pain but it was ok.
There was something about soccer, I liked it a lot. I loved basketball too but I wasn’t as successful at that. It made me take my mind off my problems. It got me thru. I would be running around , kicking, diving on that soccer field and it made things feel possible again.
I was really happy when I decided to play soccer in college and found a school that wanted me. I found a few actually. I even got into UMASS and they were NO. 1 in the country in womans soccer but I chose to go to a smaller school. Looking back I probably made the wrong decision but UMASS was so big and scary to me back them. In college I was on a completely different kind of team than high-school. They were undefeated and they were very good and I might only have one shot and one save the whole game. That was a mental warfare. It takes tenacity and Mental stamina to be a goalie. You had to stay focused and you had to save that one shot because if you didn’t you could lose and that was not an option. I felt alive in that goal. I felt alive as soon as I put those goalie gloves on. I can tell you that going to college didn’t change anything about feeling different. I always felt like I didn’t fit in but soccer was everything for me at the time and somehow it got me feeling more centered like maybe I could finally fit in.
When we would practice we would do this thing where the team would just take continuous shots at me one after the other. That was pure adrenaline. Diving, getting up, diving again. It was great. I remember one practice we were doing that and I just started sobbing in the middle of the drill. I just stood there crying and my team-mates were just looking at me. They thought I was hurt. I wasn’t, not the way they thought.. I just told them to give me a minute.
They all looked so confused as I sat there and sobbed; my coach was like what’s wrong? Sometimes that happens. A wave of emotion comes over you and you can’t submerge it, it comes unexpected; deep pit in your stomach, moves up to your throat and then … there it is. Without any warning.
Dark feelings, depression, learning problems and social problems would overwhelm me at times and I didn’t know what to do about it. That soccer field was my saving grace. After games I would run around the field or late at night I would go out there and run three or four miles. I didn’t run as much as my team-mates being the goalie so many times I would run after practice or after games; whatever. I felt like a bad -ass queen when I was in that goal. I loved that game. I loved that field. During the day in between classes I would go to the field and get some sun. Listen to some music. Put some Robert Cray on the boom box and chill. I got some dark tans in New Hampshire on that field. Because I was on the soccer team I got to be in a apartment building that was really for upper classman but I got in because I was a soccer player so my apartment was like 10 feet from the soccer field and everything else you needed. There were some perks for being a soccer player.
When I got out of college I said to my self, what am I going to do without my soccer team and my soccer field. What am I going to do? I knew that soccer helped me with whatever was going on with me. With that deep depression and I was worried because I knew it would get worse and it did. I didn’t know a lot about my feelings back then but I knew enough to know that.
After college I would go to the gym and do other activities but nothing compared to running on that grass and kicking and diving and running and competing in such a way that made me feel alive. At that time when I was on that field in that goal with my team I felt like I finally fit in. I was the captain of my ship. For three hours I felt like there is where I am supposed to be and all was ok. I was part of a team and I loved them. When I was thinking about that game I didn’t have time for intrusive thoughts and if they did come they didn’t stay as long. After we won and we always did …that adrenaline kept me RIGHT until the next practice or game.
Whenever I would lose my way and I still do at times; I would think of that soccer field and the sun on my face and the fresh air and think how can I find that again. The feeling of being alive and in the moment of competition; focused on my team mates and that game. Damn I miss that.
I dream of soccer still, sometimes I wake up and my heart is racing and it’s another soccer dream. As life changes and we grow and get older things change and adult stuff happens. Sometimes staying balanced can get difficult. It’s easy to lose our way.
As long as I can always find “my field” it helps me thru, what’s your field?
Love and Happiness,