I hate uncomfortable situations. I appreciate having a secure environment and knowing my surroundings. . I have been playing hockey since age three. For the past fourteen years I’ve sacrificed time with my friends, time at school, and even time in my own home. Nine of these years I have played in the elite AAA hockey league. These experiences have taught me not only to manage time between school, friends, and hockey; but also forced me to become a “man” and deal with adult situations at a young age. Also, hockey involuntarily developed my love of being comfortable and secure. During my first two years of AAA hockey, I followed in my brother’s footsteps and played for the Chicago Young Americans. He played here for five years with great success and I was comfortable there because I always had to tag along to the rink. I followed my brother once again to a new organization, the Chicago Mission.
I played at Mission for six years. With a successful team during my tenure there, we won three state championships, two regional championships, and three trips to the National Tournament bringing home third place, second place, and a quarterfinal finish. Every thing was great for me at the Mission: great success, great coaches, and great teammates.
I always felt comfortable at the Mission. Six years under my belt, and I was nice and cozy. That was all turned on its ear when the new season rolled around. Finishing my sixth year with the organization, fourth as a captain, and fresh off a loss in the quarterfinals of the National Tournament, I was back on the ice playing spring hockey with the Mission. The spring ended with a talk at the end of the last practice. Coach Anders asked to speak to me. I was kind of nervous because I never had talked to him one on one. He bluntly told me there might not be room for me on this year’s squad, but there was still a good chance I’d be on the team. This was incredibly shocking. I slipped into a stupor of mixed feelings: disbelief that after my years of loyalty I might be ousted by someone new, fear that I might not have anywhere to play, and motivation to prove Anders and everyone else wrong. I trained as hard as I could for a month to prove to him that I deserved to be on the team. The week leading up to tryouts Coach Anders asked to speak to me at the end of the practice. Walking to his office after the skate was over my mind had divided into two camps: either I’m getting axed, or this is all my hard work paying off. He told me that indeed there was no room for me on this year’s team, and that I was “cut”. I was cut up inside. I was numb. I walked out of the office without saying anything. So many things were whirling around my head to say to Anders, but I just walked out because I couldn’t bring myself to speak. I walked to the locker room in the same stupor that I had felt the first time Anders had talked to me. I showered, avoiding all but my best friend on the team. I couldn’t even tell him, I just gave him a look that was impossible to mistake. It was over. The walk to my car was a literal walk out of my comfort zone. I was leaving behind the team that I loved and walking out into the unknown.
Once in the haven of my car, the floodgates opened. There were so many emotions flying through my head. I didn’t know which one to latch on to. The emotions that confused me a month ago returned in a magnified force, taunting my brain to even attempt to comprehend one of them. I was unemployed. Hockey is my livelihood. I no longer had a team. This all occurred three days before tryouts.
It started that night. My family rallied for me, frantically searching for an open spot on another team. AAA teams usually have their team picked before tryouts, which didn’t bode well for me. On the last Saturday of tryouts, skated at the three remaining AAA teams in Chicago. I started at my old organization, CYA, in the morning. They said they’d call me if something opened up. A polite way of saying, “thanks, but we’re all full”. Then it was on to Team Illinois. My rival team ever since I played AAA hockey. Everything about it felt wrong. I had always grown up wanting to beat TI, hating their colors of blue and white. I got on the ice and used everything I had left in the tank to compete and show the coaching staff that I wanted to play. Coach pulled me off the ice after 20 minutes of skating and told me there was a spot open for me if I wanted. Instead of jumping at the opportunity that would get me back into a comfortable situation, I requested time to gather my thoughts. Silently collecting my thoughts in the locker room as I stripped off my gear, I decided that I was taking the spot.
My uncomfortable situation was alleviated; the weight was gone from my shoulders. The entire situation was uncomfortable: discussing my shaky future with Anders, walking away from my friends and former team, frantically calling and looking for openings, even the walk into the new rink was horrible for me. The discomfort of this situation was far outweighed by the discomfort of not playing hockey for a year. I didn’t drown myself in self-sorrow once I got cut, but persevered and beat the situation, regaining my spot in a comfortable environment.
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