November 14, 2013
The Day I Lost My Identity
When I was younger and much much fitter, I played soccer. Not the kind of soccer that kids play in the church yard, I was a very serious and competitive soccer player. I was blessed enough to have the unique opportunity to go to school for free and play for my university. I have the distinction of being a former Division I athlete. It's an awesome accomplishment and I can honestly say I am proud of the commitment, drive and dedication that was necessary to get to that level.
I loved playing soccer. I was good, but not great. I was never the best player on the field but I loved being out there. I loved playing for a team. I loved winning after months of strict and gruesome practice - sometimes two or even three times a day. I loved sore muscles and playing in all weather conditions. I just loved it all.
I identified myself as a soccer player and it was a pivotal part of my everyday life.
I returned to the field after two separate and invasive knee surgeries - I had to love it to go through all the rehab, physical therapy and lets be honest, all that pain and tears. It was incredibly difficult to get back into the condition necessary to compete with my teammates. While I sat back rehabing my knee the girls I competed against continued to refine their skills. The gap between myself and my teammates was growing each day I sat on the sidelines.
After my first injury I'm not ashamed to say that I was nervous about the possibility of additional injuries, but my desire to play always outweighed the fear. After my first year in college the pain in my knees grew to be almost unbearable. I spent several hours each week just trying to get the pain in my knee to go away but it never faded. After months of tears I consulted my doctor who recommended that I get my knee scoped so that they could find and fix the root of the problem.
When I woke up from that surgery I was informed that I would never play again. The news literally took my breathe away. What would I do after class each day if I didn't go to practice? Who would I hang out with if it wasn't my teammates? What in the world would I do with my weekends if I wasn't going to travel for a game or tournament? More importantly, who was I if I wasn't "Brittany the soccer player?"
I struggled for months, maybe years, trying to sort our my identity outside of soccer. It's strange to say that one activity could have such a strong impact on my life but finding out that I couldn't play really changed how I thought about myself. I always found so much of my value on the field and I was forced to reevaluate many different aspects of my life.
I found a lot of comfort in a bible verse that my mom posted on my door when I was in high school and as I recalled it time and time again in college it gave me some much needed hope. "Yes, be bold and strong, banish fear and doubt for remember the Lord your God is with you wherever you may go." Joshua 1:9.
Looking back now I realize that some people will think it's silly that I put so much stock in being an athlete, and maybe that's the case. I feel like I was able to utilize the capable body I was blessed to fill my soul with joy even if I didn't get to play as long as I wanted. The Lord ended my soccer career so that I could take a different path. I struggled for a longtime to find my non-soccer identity and in the process I found that I am so much more than just a soccer player.