One sheet of paper changed my life. Everyone else, everyone I had played with, competed against, and bonded with, everyone was on that piece of paper. I wasn’t.
The paper with its black squiggles wrapped around my heart and squeezed my joy away.Making the soccer team had long been my dream. I loved everything about soccer; the competition, the camaraderie, the feeling of the crisp fall air and the sting of the cold raindrops on my skin as I sped down the field. Soccer had been part of my being for as long as I could remember. I spent many hours juggling and practicing in my front yard as I dreamt of making the team. In a moment, that piece of paper ripped away my dream and fractured my confidence in the world and myself.Embarrassment and shame overwhelmed me as I stood watching my friends hug and congratulate one another.
In that moment, the foundation of a wall was built between us, brick by brick. Those friends, my former teammates, didn’t know how to acknowledge my loss as I forcibly congratulated each one of them with a hug and smile. A disconnect was already happening, I was no longer one of them. My days would not revolve around carpool, practice and late night study sessions. There would be no more team bonding or sleepovers. That single sheet of paper had changed everything.It didn’t happen all at once.
The wall was built slowly. Looking back, it was just as much my doing as it was theirs. My strong self-confidence was replaced with self-doubt. I felt awkward and conspicuous in their presence as they chatted about the practice schedule or what uniform to wear. The sense of isolation and alienation was palpable; I needed to find a new place to belong.Questioning how my happiness was so tightly wrapped up in one activity, I decided to venture down new avenues in pursuit of finding a passion that could take the place of soccer. I tried out for the lacrosse team and started as a varsity player.
I was accepted as a community youth board member and auditioned for school theater productions. In each new endeavor, I made new connections that grew into friendships; friendships that were based upon more than a common interest, but on similar values and views. I found hidden talents and strengths I did not know existed. Rumblings of joy began to grow in my heart and a sense of purpose was restored.My life was so carefully controlled and I had succeeded at everything I tried until that sheet of paper was posted. Failure and rejection were distant thoughts that I did not entertain, but it is through failure and rejection that I found a true sense of self. It was in clearing these hurdles that I learned that I can overcome disappointment, stand alone and find new ways to succeed.
Sparking new interests and expanding on those interests gives me a thrill. I no longer define myself by my failures or successes, but by how they stretch and challenge me to venture from the safety of what I think my life should be and embrace the paths that carry me to new uncharted places. I know I will continue to have struggles, but they will not diminish my self worth, they will inspire me to try new things. These moments will connect like points on a dot-to-dot, revealing the big picture of my life, each being a necessary point shaping and connecting past moments to those that lead to my future.
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