Whoever said chasing their dreams was easy either didn’t dream big enough or didn’t try hard enough. Playing professional soccer has been my dream since I was a little girl. Could you guess that it started with watching Mia Hamm and her teammates in the 1999 World Cup? Watching such strong women defy everyone’s expectations of them was so empowering. Even at a young age, I couldn’t help but know exactly where I wanted to go with soccer because of those females I grew up watching.
My rookie season in the WPS didn’t exactly go according to my dreams, but since when do plans ever work out anyway? Last year I was put in an environment that was completely out of my comfort zone, and I’ll be the first to tell you that it is hard to get me out of my comfort zone. When faced with hardships, the first thing I turn to is usually soccer. Between those white lines are my safety net, my peace, and my home. Soccer was not going well for me in South Florida. The environment I was in was not a healthy one, and it was really starting to take a toll on me both physically and mentally. Aside from all that, I wasn’t being exposed to the playing opportunities and coaching that I was initially hoping for, and I was frustrated beyond belief. For the first time in my life that summer, I was at a point where I could no longer turn to the one thing that had been my escape for so long. Where do you go when your escape becomes your troubles?
Soccer has been a big part of my identity my whole life. When I thought it could be lost, I started to lose myself. After finding comfort with a group of my teammates, I decided to work on my relationship with God. Our relationship is still a work in progress, but He helped guide me to finally finding peace within myself. It is amazing how empowering it is to be at peace with who you are: when you are finally at a point in your life where the uncontrollable events surrounding you can’t shake you, no matter how monumental.
This whole “inner peace” concept was put to the test shortly after I had it figured out. After being released, I came back with a completely new focus and even more drive than before. I returned to Florida State University to finish my last semester of school so I could graduate in December, and while I was there I re-evaluated my goals and trained harder than ever. With my faith resting in God and an incredible support system with my family and agent, I signed with Sky Blue FC for the 2012 season. I could not have been more excited to not only be playing near my home in New York, but to be in a healthy playing environment with an amazing coaching staff who I believed could make me a better player. When the league announced its suspension for the 2012 season, I was naturally heart broken. I couldn’t understand how things could be going so well and then go wrong so quickly. What would I do? Where would I play? Overseas is the obvious option, but with so many players flooding the international market, where would that leave me? Should I apply for a job at Starbucks? I bet I could get great employee discounts there…So many questions took over my mind quicker than I had time to have them answered.
Then, as I thought I couldn’t receive any more bad news, I was diagnosed with Bells Palsy. For those of you who are unaware, Bells Palsy is a temporary neurological disorder that paralyzes one side of your face. It is completely spontaneous and occurs without much notice. One day I woke up, walked to my bathroom, splashed some water over my tired eyes, looked into the mirror and….WHOA, WHO IS THAT? I swear I thought someone was peering over my shoulder, because the person I saw in the mirror was not myself. Having to deal with Bells Palsy was a definite struggle. My eye couldn’t close on its own, I couldn’t chew food or drink without spilling it on myself, I spoke out of the side of my mouth which was hard to comprehend, and I couldn’t even move my mouth enough to smile (and I smile A LOT). Each day of Bells Palsy taught me something different about my life. Soccer is so important to me, but what about everything else? Here I am sitting in the dark because my right eye can’t blink on its own (and wearing sunglasses indoors is frowned upon), the WPS has just been suspended, I have nowhere to play soccer, and I can’t move my face. Wow. That was a lot to take in!
However, what about the bigger problems in the world? I have been so consumed and preoccupied with my own soccer woes that I had been blind to the world surrounding me. I thought every day about the people who wake up with so much worse news than the news I had been given. My palsy would go away with time, yet I was the one feeling sorry for myself. Who was I to be sitting around feeling sorry for myself at a time like this?
So where am I going with this…
Even though things have not gone according to my “plan”, I sit here today wanting to make my soccer dreams become a reality more than ever before. It appears to be an easy time to just throw in the towel and hang up my boots, right? Ha! Never! Not only is my desire to make soccer work out even stronger, but my desire to be a better person is stronger as well. It has been my dream to play soccer professionally and continue playing it for as long as I can. When your dreams and your passions are tested and you still can’t give them up; that is just an added reminder of how badly you want them.
Inner peace. There are so many components to it! It is empowering, liberating, and it allows you to be genuinely happy in your own skin, (even when you wake up and your skin doesn’t look like your own). I challenge you all to find it within yourselves. I am not saying I have solved world hunger or that I even have this crazy thing called life figured out; but I am figuring myself out, which has been quite the journey so far. So please, while en route to your big dreams, don’t forget about all the little things along the way. It’s easy to have such tunnel vision that you let life lessons and opportunities pass you by, and then it takes a punch in the face (or paralysis of the face), to put things in perspective. Don’t worry, I am still chasing my soccer dream in full force: I just have some other ones now too!
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