The day my doctor signed my medical release forms was first day in 15 years that I didn’t know where my life was going. I always had a plan.
In elementary and middle school, my plan was to make my area’s best travel team.
In high school, my plan was to get a scholarship.
And in college, my plan was to work my way to a starting position as a freshman.
But suddenly, when my plans didn’t involve soccer, I was lost.
It broke my heart. Knowing that after surgery I would wake up having nothing to work toward sent me into a spiraling depression. I wasn’t motivated to do anything. I could barely get myself to go to physical therapy, let alone taking the time to do any at-home exercises. I didn’t care about bettering myself at all because at the time, my variation of “betterment” was proving that I could play after multiple ACL reconstructions.
I wish I knew how wrong I’d end up being.
Yes, I miss the game more than anything in this world. I miss my teammates, my school, and my coaches so much that sometimes it physically hurts. But, over time (and trust me, it took a while), I realized that there is so much life after an athletic death.
My first semester back home at my local college was like starting as a freshman again. I only knew a handful of people, I had no idea where any of my classes were, and I felt like I had “does not belong here" written across my forehead. I was now a regular college kid, which felt so weird, and I had no clue what to do with myself. So, I threw myself into the only other thing I knew I was good at-
I applied for my school’s local Odyssey sector and began putting all of my extra emotion and efforts into my writing. I wrote about everything from soccer to controversial topics, and let me tell you- it was the best decision I’ve ever made. A few of my articles had some pretty amazing responses, I gained a couple hundred followers on my channel, and I started to create a name for myself as a writer. I finally had something new to be passionate about, and suddenly, I had a plan again.
I know that after spending your life doing the same thing every day, and working toward the same goal every day, that even fathoming doing something else can seem impossible. Trust me, I was in that state of mind for a long time. But I promise, it can happen. The key is not to force yourself. Let your mind understand and accept the situation before trying to throw yourself into something new. Honestly, treat It like your toughest break up-sounds ridiculous, I know but hear me out.
Let your emotions evolve.
First, it’s anger. And that’s natural. I was so angry with my doctor for releasing me from the sport, but deep down, I knew it was for the better.
Second, it’s sadness. This was my depression. I was so heartbroken after my last surgery that I truly didn’t think I would ever be motivated to do anything else.
But then came acceptance and this is when I decided to start writing. Let yourself be angry and let yourself be sad. If you try to heal too quickly, you’ll regress. If you give yourself the time, however, to grieve naturally, you’ll find the light at the end of the tunnel sooner than later.
This is where you’ll find passions that you never even considered. You’ll start to make new plans for yourself, and realize that there is a whole world outside of athletics that’s just waiting for you to take advantage of.
Try new things and put yourself out there. It’s scary, I know. Having no clue what to do with your life when it’s been filled with something else for so long can be incredibly intimating. But you can do it.
You go on because you have to. You move forward so that life doesn’t pass you by. You’re allowed to be mad and upset, no one will ever take that from you. But eventually, you have to pick yourself up. You are more than just a sport.
You have so much potential and odds are, you haven’t discovered the half of it. The most important part of the process is to keep an open mind. It’s like the old saying, don’t knock it ‘till ya try it. Who knows, maybe you have a hidden artistic talent, or a passion for business. But you’ll never find a hunger for something new unless you look for it.
Find solace in that you’ll always have your sport. While you may not be able to play every day, or even at all, you have the memories and can appreciate all that it gave to you. No injury will ever take that away. So don’t let it.
Take it from someone who knows, there is so much out there for you. You will find something that you love, there is no doubt about it. You just have to pick yourself up, and put in the effort. The rest will come on its own.
You will find that your sport will always be a part of your life, but it was never meant to be your life. And that’s okay.