Life is a process. It is full of ups and dips. Every day we face new challenges, experiences, and lessons. Some days are better than others. The other day, I played field hockey for the first time in five years. After that night, I attempted to recall my last game before my hiatus, and I could not. I struggled with on and off again injuries such as tendon issues in both ankles, knee pains, and shin splints all in my senior year of college. Despite these injuries, I worked with my athletic trainer to make it to the end of season, which was a very big challenge since simple tasks like walking irritated my injuries preventing them to heal as quickly. I had come to grips that I would be retiring from the sport and become, what other athletic peers called, a NARP: a non-athletic regular person. I was okay with retiring, but I wished I had done more to be less injured, so I could have played a stronger final season. With a team of people around me, I accepted the end of my field hockey career. I knew my career and professional aspirations were next, and that was my continued focus.
In order to come to terms with ending a sport, one must prepare and have a support system in place to aid in transitioning. I had all of this, but reflecting on it five years later, I’m not sure that I fully healed from ending my passion. I believe at the time I shifted focus on other important aspects of my life such as finishing classes, figuring out which grad school to attend, and continuing to heal injuries instead of allowing myself to grieve my loss, my passion, and my sport. Instead, I moved on from it like it was a distant memory.
I worked with an athlete who had a career ending injury in her second competition of her senior year of college. She had a job lined up after graduation, knew that her career was coming to an end, but hadn’t expected the end to come so quickly. We sat down to talk about it soon after she returned to school, and she was very upset. She had goals that she wished to accomplish in her final season of competition, and that was taken from her. We talked about a grieving process that would be beneficial for her to experience. She needed to recover, to feel these emotions, and properly heal (mentally) from this injury before fully transitioning. As a team captain, she knew her role was to continue to support her team from the sidelines, and knew that she needed to address her feelings and emotions first.
Recovery isn’t a constant ascent. There are always ups and dips; that’s what makes it a process, a learning experience, and an accomplishment.
Enter the concept of Impermanence, a Buddhist concept that describes that everything is always changing. Even on a cellular level in our bodies, we are constantly changing. There are some things that are constant to who we are, but aspects of our personality, our character, and who we are change even if we’re unaware of it. One of my tattoos is a broken infinity loop to constantly remind myself of this beautiful piece of Buddhism. By it being a broken loop, it reminds me that I am always changing, and I am accepting of these changes, good or bad. Either we ride the surf and allow the change to accompany us or we resist it and become battered by the waves.
If you ride the surf and allow change, how different would your life be? Would you be more accepting? Would you cope in different ways? If we are more open to change, would that help our grieving processes? Even in times of grieving, I remind myself and others of three things: it is temporary, it gets better, and it’s part of the process.