You know which one you are. I know that I’ve have had more coaches in the last 10 years than I have fingers, but you know who you are. I still call you coach even though you haven’t been my coach since 2006, and it is honestly sometimes weird to call you by your name without the “Coach” title in front of it. It’s a sign of respect, and out of all of my coaches, you are one of the few that still command my respect today.
You gave me a writing prompt a few months ago that has been giving me some trouble. I don’t want to approach it in an obvious manner; I hate predictability in writing. Actually, in media I hate predictability. It is annoying to be watching a movie or show and be able to predict exactly what is going to happen next. I blame my degree; I can’t enjoy many things with blissful ignorance anymore. So I’m working hard not to be predictable with your prompts. It’s proving to be harder than it looks, but I don’t doubt you intended it to be that way. You always treated me a bit different from the other kids on the team, as if you expected more from me; demanded more from me. I wasn’t ignorant, green maybe, but far from ignorant.
I loved going to practice my freshman year of college because of you. You are the reason I didn’t quit my first year, and are part of the reason I didn’t quit the subsequent years. I kept pushing myself harder and harder because I had you in my ear, telling me that I had more inside of me. I won’t lie that my heart broke the day you told us that you and Coach were leaving, but I refused to let you down. I kept pushing, even at the point where I think even you would have told me to stop, but I developed a stubborn streak. I had to. Everyone else had given up on me.
Seeing you last summer was one of the highlights of my summer. Just spending 3 days just reminiscing, relaxing, and just existing outside of the Coach/Athlete dynamic, was really awesome. I’m glad you trusted me enough to tell me about what happened to you during the years we lost touch; I know re-telling the past can be hard for anyone. Then again, you and I were always a bit different. The rest of my teammates had gravitated towards Coach, whereas I responded the best to you. It showed. It was the only year that I wasn’t sidelined for more than a week due to injuries. You listened to me, and knew when I was just bullshitting my pain, and when I really meant it. Remember the trip back from my first indoor championship. You sat in the seat next to me, helping me nurse a full-blown fever because I had competed with a severe case of the flu. All day you just pumped Tylenol and Gatorade into me, and did everything you could to keep me standing.
I have no idea how you did it. I just remember placing second after twisting my knee, picking you up and spinning you around (which I regretted when I put you down because of the white-hot pain that shot through my head)…and then the bus ride; being wrapped in blankets because I was so cold even though I had a high fever.
I am blessed you know? I don’t know how spiritual you are, but I know I am blessed. Every major point in my life that I have come across, I have been met with a mentor. I’ve been met with someone who helps me maintain balance when my feet start to slip, and who picks me up when I finally let myself stumble and fall. Freshman year was a whirlwind of craziness, of peer pressure, uncertainty…fear, and I was blessed because you helped me survive it all just by being patient, kind, and stern when I needed it. You weren’t a replacement mom, but an actual mentor that I could look up too, and it helped me more than I can begin to describe.
So what prompted the letter? It’s almost been a year since I moved across the country. Almost a year since you and I plowed our way through the Chicago Aquarium trying to escape the heat that had me cursing my weight. A year since you slipped your gift into my new journal, the one that made me cry the night I arrived in Iowa because your generosity blew me away.
You knew I wouldn’t take it any other way, which makes me laugh. You know me so well.
My last day with you, you took me to the beach, and we talked as I enjoyed the water; remember? We had gone because I told you how much water means to me, and how much I disliked that I had decided to move to a landlocked state. You told me that you felt this move was going to be good for me; that I was going to do a lot this year. That I was going to learn a lot this year. You were right. I did. I learned how to fight on my own (and fail hehe), and I learned how to succeed (and fail) on my own, and I learned how to sacrifice to survive in the real world. But this year marked my life with a lot of failures, something I never had experienced much of before, and I couldn’t help but think back to our conversations about what you felt about me going on this adventure. I had grand ideas about what I would be doing in AmeriCorps, but I think you had a more down-to-earth perspective. You just knew, and whenever I felt like packing up my bags and running back to New York, I remembered our conversations and I stayed.
Although, I do plan on getting out of this state; I mean, it is a beautiful place, beautiful land, and filled with good people, but it isn’t home. Do you get what I mean? I’m thinking of doing a really big project; something that will kick my ass and make me wish for the easy days of freshman year. I don’t want to really talk about it yet, but I wanted to let you know you inspired me to do it. I’m learning more about my shortcomings since moving out here, and I’m pushing myself further and further each day. I’m just re-learning how to breathe…wouldn’t be the first time right? Just this time I don’t have someone jogging next to me. Everyone is waiting at the finish line.
I hope you had a blast at your wedding; I’m so happy for you and your new hubby. I know it was touch and go for a while with the craziness of life, but I had my fingers crossed for you both. I love your new beau, he’s a sweetheart and you have the greatest smile when you look at him.
I also wanted you to know that every once in a while people look at me like I’m nuts…
They’re just jealous that they didn’t know that Jesus made the beluga whales.