ValleyScare

I can still remember every single detail of the day when my college hockey career ended. I can still feel every pain of that day, every fear I had for the future. I remember feeling like my life of isolation would now begin, since I would never again be a part of a competitive college team. Then, ValleyScare came along.

I had always wanted to work in a haunted house. A huge Halloween junkie, every year I would go to haunted houses, coming out each time speculating with whoever I was with how much fun it would be to have such a job. So last summer, I applied to ValleyScare on a whim, hoping I would get hired, but knowing I wouldn’t be disappointed if I wasn’t. Little did I know, ValleyScare was desperate for haunted house actors.

Freshly hired, I attended the first required “casting call,” where we ended the meeting by deciding what kind of a monster we wanted to be, “crazy” or “creepy.” I had such a hard time deciding, since I thought I would be best fit in an insane asylum using all of the crazy voices and impersonations I had created over time, but ultimately decided on “creepy.” Every time I had visited ValleyScare, I distinctly remember going through the vampire house and wanting desperately to work there of all the houses, which is what I chose. That decision marked my birth into the Chateau Du Dam, and to being a newborn vampire.

The first “house training” we were required to attend allowed us to meet our fellow co-workers and to learn the nooks and crannies of our new home. We became acclimated to each other, and got to practice scaring towards the end. I remember being nervous to give a good impression and slightly embarrassed by my unpolished scaring techniques, yet overly excited to become a vampire and comfortable with my new home.

Then the first night of Haunt, the other name for ValleyScare, was finally here. Each night consisted of the same ritual. I would get to the park, pick up my costume, get ready for the night, go to Rally (which is where all the monsters meet and party until the park opens), get my makeup done, and then get settled into my place in my haunted house. I knew immediately this is where I belonged.

I spent my first half of the Valleyscare season under our dining room’s table, where I would pop out and scream, which I found was one of the best hiding places. The very first night, I scared someone so bad, they jumped back and kicked a chair into my face, hitting me right in the face. I continued my scares until everyone had exited the room, nursed my pain, and got right back under the table. Based on that reaction, I knew I was doing something right.

I spent the second half of the ValleyScare season in our house’s throne room, which has a massive throne and pedestal that someone can stand on. I was getting to know everyone more and more, and everyone was beyond welcoming, kind, and encouraging. I always had someone to complain to, to laugh with, and to help me think of better scares. I literally felt at home.

Fast-forward to the end of the season. At this point, ValleyScare was getting slightly unbearable. As Halloween grew closer, the guests became more unbelievably rude. My fellow vampires had been spit on, had their boobs grabbed, been called names, whistled at, concussed by a guest, harrassed, nearly puked on, and slapped. But those incidents actually brought us vampires closer. We would support each other, encourage each other, and make fun of the rude guests together. Those disrespectful guests made us protective of our home and of our “blood-sisters” and “blood-brothers,” as some of us conveniently called each other.

Even though I became worn-out as the season concluded, I couldn’t wait to do it all over again.

ValleyScare was everything I had hoped it would be and more. I made lifelong friends, unforgettable memories, created an alternate persona (calling myself Riss VonRouss), grew extremely close with my coven, learned so much about haunted houses, and even got to enjoy the park for a day. I instantly felt like a part of a team. It wouldn’t matter who you bumped into in the locker room, everyone was so kind and willing to help. If you couldn’t get your costume off or needed another makeup wipe, someone was always there to offer you another one. If you needed a piece of silicon taken off your face, someone was always there to help. Every night, the same girl in the costume department would zip my dress up for me without hesitation. I couldn’t believe how kind and excited everyone else was, and how much fun I had overall.

My coven literally lives in our house. One day I came in and sat down chatting with a fellow vampire, waiting for the night festivities to begin for a good hour. Every night we’d lay on the bed, climb on the ropes, chill in the throne room, sneak around the garden, and would skip through all of the secret doors and pathways to talk to each other. We knew each others’ scares, noises, hiding places, and would set each other up for great scares. Not to mention, our house is absolutely stunning inside.

As I write this post in mid-February, my skin is crawling waiting for the upcoming Haunt season. I would do anything to be able to walk through my Chateau right now, to sit on the throne, to see my fellow vampires, or to deliver a ridiculous scare. I miss losing my voice every night, leaving the park sounding like a scratchy cafe singer and telling my co-workers stories about rude guests or how we would direct guests into walls (haha!).

I  miss it all, and it’s unbelievable knowing I have a second family that loves and supports each other so much. There’s not one person I dislike in my coven, and there wasn’t a single night I didn’t want to be there. If you ever want to do something in life that you’re afraid of doing or aren’t sure if it’d be fun, my advice is to absolutely do it. I had no idea I’d have as much fun as I did, and I grew as a person and made so many friends from this experience. Don’t be afraid. Do what you want. Life is too short for maybes or next times. I did and I couldn’t imagine myself anywhere else than in the Chateau Du Dam.

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I Am So Done

“Be soft. Do not let the world make you hard. Do not let pain make you hate. Do not let the bitterness steal your sweetness.”

I remember captioning a picture on my Instagram with that quote a few weeks ago. Now, in my current mood, I laugh at it. Maybe it’s finals week, maybe it’s 2016, maybe it’s the incompetent, judgmental people I have to interact with daily. Maybe it’s all of the above. But I am so done with the following things.

I am so done with adults acting like children. If you pass someone you know, whether you like them or not, it’s common courtesy to say hi to them, not ignore them and look down as you pass. You just look stupid when you try to ignore the fact you know them. Grow up.

I am so done with political posts on social media. The election is over and we are still tearing each other apart. I have witnessed people who have been life-long friends break their friendships over political disagreements. Go protest for who you wanted elected. Stop tearing each other down on social media and actually do something about it. Or else, shut your mouth.

I am so done with being told to filter what I say. I was recently told “you don’t need to air your dirty laundry on social media.” Well guess what? I can if I want to and there’s nothing anyone can do about it. I’ve even been told to cover up the fact that my disgrace of an aunt-in-law stole over $50,000 from my disabled grandparents. Nope, not any more! It’s my life, my mouth, and I can say what I want.

I am so done with judgmental people. People can wear what they want, say what they want, and do what they want. Your judgment doesn’t make you any better. You don’t know their story, their life. And your judgment definitely won’t change what someone is wearing. Get over it.

I am so done with people underestimating my intelligence. I am one of the most observant, intelligent, in-tune people you will meet. When you slack off at work, lie to me, or text me with a hidden agenda, or simply do something you think I didn’t notice, I know exactly what you’re doing, and when the time comes, you’ll be exposed. I’m a silent threat, so stop taking me lightly and challenging my intelligence. It won’t end well for you.

I am so done with incompetent teachers/professors. The world does not revolve around your class or you, so the sooner you realize this, the quicker your students will actually start learning and respecting you.

And finally, I am so done with this year. 2016 has brought nothing but pain. My grandpa died during the summer, which still hurts. I had knee surgery. My sports careers ended. My aunt just recently had a stroke. Plenty of things could be said about the election. I’m over it. I have no capacity left in me to give time to judgmental, disrespectful people. People will make time for what they want to make time for. You are important, even if some people don’t see it. I have learned so much this year about myself and the people around me, but I am so done with everything and one thousand percent done with this year.

End rant.

 

 

 

The Day My College Hockey Career Ended

August 8th was the day I decided to end my college hockey career. Even though one door has shut, many more still remain open. I may be done playing in college, but hockey is a lifelong sport and thankfully Minnesota’s favorite winter past time….

It was the day of my “exit interview” for hockey, something nearly every college team does between the coaches and each player at the end of every season.

My 2015-16 year playing under Natalie Darwitz was beyond tough. I put in the most effort I ever had into every single practice, every single day and not once was rewarded. My endurance has never been the peak of my game, yet I suffered and pushed through every Monday “Senior Skate”, our team’s hardest practice of each week led by Coach Darwitz Senior. I did everything I possibly could to impress the coaches. I worked hard at every drill. I encouraged my teammates on the ice. I came to 7am practices that weren’t required so that I could get better, and that my coaches would see my commitment. For the first half of the year, I went out of my way to chat up teammates who were also sitting. I stickhandled aggressively in the locker rooms every game day, motivated to dress the next weekend. And the next weekend. And the next weekend. Then things began to get old.

I never got even close enough to the ice on game days to even smell the air. My coach dressed me for two games the entire season, never even looking my direction during game time. In fact, my coaches would rather play 4 defensemen than put me in, one with a basically shattered shoulder and another with a broken thumb. Yet every day I did my best to keep my mouth shut and to keep pushing harder. “This is the week” I’d tell myself after every practice. I am extremely hard on myself, so there weren’t many practices I’d feel confident about. In my mind, I’d replay each entire practice, dissecting every play I made. “I maybe missed that angle but my passes were great”, or “I wasn’t the fastest out there today but I scored on almost every shot” were some of the things I’d tell myself. I asked maybe three times throughout the whole year if my coaches could sit down with me, which they accepted, seemingly annoyed with me every time. I was always professional, asking if there were some things I can be focusing more on in practice, or if there were things they noticed I was doing that were keeping me out of the lineup. Each time it was a new excuse. The worst excuse I got was “you know, it is the first year of our program and we kept everybody. You are the 15th forward, and there’s not a whole lot you can do to fix it.” Why don’t you just rip my heart out.

Let me tell you a little bit about my hockey career up to this point. I started playing hockey at the age of five. I grew up playing in Brooklyn Park, moving over to Spring Lake Park for my second year of U10s. My last year of U12, I was an assistant captain, and set an association record for most goals scored in a single season, tallying 65. I had nine hat tricks that season. I then moved up to High School hockey for my eighth grade year, becoming a starting forward in playoffs. I played some defense my freshman year, and more forward my sophomore. I was drafted onto the Advanced 15s and Advanced 17s, only to tear my ACL a week before the 17s tournament the spring of my sophomore year. After an incorrect diagnosis from the doctor, I ended up playing hockey all summer, leaving me with a torn ACL, MCL, both Meniscuses, and Micro-fractures along the bottom of my femur. I didn’t find out until my high school coach wouldn’t let me play, saying I needed to get an MRI before I could start. My doctor decided I was to have surgery that December. I missed my Junior season of hockey, and my Sophomore and Junior seasons of lacrosse. I fought tirelessly in my physical therapy appointments to come back fighting for my Senior season. Despite not even playing my Junior season, I was voted captain. I ended up being the highest goal scorer and points leader, along with receiving an All-Conference award. I was recruited by Bethel University, where I was overjoyed to continue my hockey career into college.

At Bethel, it took some getting used to on the ice. College is a lot faster and more aggressive than high school. Nonetheless, I would get thrown onto different lines throughout my first season. Some games I’d be on first line as a forward, other games I’d be second or on the bench. The inconsistency was hard, but I knew I was blessed to still be playing, knowing my time would come.  Sophomore season came. I was tried at first line for a week, but understandably my endurance needed some work. I was then moved to fourth, and would eventually have a month long stint on third line before being back at the bottom. When that season ended, my coach had a sit-down meeting with me and told me to look other places if I wanted to keep playing. He said he had talent coming in that was going to exceed my potential. I disagreed, but took the news respectfully and immediately started looking at other options. With the motivation I had, I was not going to give up my dream so soon. I was also already looking at transferring anyways due to the inconsistent playing time I had been getting. Then along came Hamline. I thought since Bethel was top 4 in conference every season, joining Hamline, a generally low conference contender would get me the consistent playing time I was looking for.

After a promising meeting with the head Hamline hockey coach, I went through the entire pre-season festivities and try-out process with the Hamline team, only to be the last girl to be cut. I was told I was “third line material” and that he didn’t want to waste my time not getting the playing time I was looking for. I was shocked and so was my team. So I sat the year out. I took some time off, but then got back at it, training diligently in preparation for the next season. Then the news broke out immediately after the unsuccessful Hamline Women’s Hockey season ended that the coach was let go, and that Natalie Darwitz was coming in as head coach. The excitement I had was naïve and immense. “Finally a normal coach who knows what she’s doing!” I would tell myself. I scheduled a meeting with her right before summer was out to introduce myself and to explain my interest in joining her team. I told her about my career and asked her what she looked for in her players and how she wants to build her program. In the end, she expressed that she’d be happy to have me try out. Little did I know, the season of heartbreak would begin shortly.

Not only did I never play, but I was flabbergasted and how lackluster Natalie was in regards to social skills and interactions in social environments. She was short and seemingly uninterested in talking to people at team events. She never once asked me who I was or how my day was, something she’d ask her favorite players all the time. Instead, I was basically the benchwarmer, always in charge of equipment and water bottles. I would get in trouble if I didn’t have the doors open in time for the coaches coming in between periods of games. Multiple times I would overhear Natalie and the coaches vent about how bad our team was and how we had no skill, especially after tough periods or losses. I wasn’t eavesdropping, I was sitting in the locker room with the doors open, waiting for the team to come in. How discouraging is that. I worked my ass off day in and day out to overhear something like that. “If they’d only give me a chance”, I’d think. Fast forward to the very end of the season, which brings me back to the day of my exit interview.

Since I never got a sniff of ice time, I figured my meeting would be grim. She had us schedule our meetings in 15 minute increments. Mine lasted 20 seconds. We were asked to fill out a survey before the meetings about our experience on the team that year. I thought it was strange she had us write our names on it. Either way, I was honest yet respectful, since I really wanted to play next year. When I walked in, she said “how has your day been?” I answered jubilantly, trying to show them my personality that they never cared to get to know. Then she said, “well I hope you had a good year and a good time with the girls. Next year we have a lot of recruits coming in and we don’t see you being on this team next year. So from now on you will no longer be a part of the team, okay?” I had expected this type of answer from her and had prepared a speech where I would tell her I wasn’t taking no for an answer and was going to work my butt off to try out again, but nothing more came out of my mouth in the moment than “okay…”. She then opened the door and smiled, waiting for me to leave. Like I said, it lasted about 20 seconds.

I didn’t even care. I had prepared myself for that news. My head was onto the next thing, training hard and losing weight so I could try out again next year. I wanted to show up and be the best player out on that ice. I didn’t care if she cut me at try-outs, but I was sure as heck going to show up and try. Which is the plan I stuck to all summer.

Then, one day during my first recreational soccer game of the summer season, I heard a weird pop in my knee during a pivot while playing defense. My knee suddenly didn’t work. I couldn’t explain what had happened, but it felt like I was missing something in my knee and it was very painful. So I got off, went home, and scheduled an appointment with my doctor. I took it very seriously, since I was no stranger to knee injuries and the amount of time it takes to heal. After an MRI a week later, the results found that I had blown a chunk of cartilage off of my knee that was floating around, and that I had something called “femoral chondral cartilage defects”, a fancy term meaning I have small ridges and defects along the bottom of my femur, a somewhat typical product of previous ACL repairs. Shocked, I found out I was going to need another surgery. I scheduled it as soon as my doctor could do it, which was the beginning of June. I knew I was going to have a lot of work to do in order to get back in time for those try-outs, but I was up for the challenge.

Into surgery I went. A 4-6 week recovery is what they told me, which proved to be true. It was now the second week in July. I was at the highest weight I had ever been, with little to no endurance around the time of being cleared. I pushed myself to start running miles every day, which I successfully did. I told myself I would do two workouts a day, which began to stress me out, as most times I wouldn’t make it back in for a second workout. I would play pick-up hockey here and there, becoming frustrated with my now loppy stride, due to my under-strengthened surgical knee. By the time I began to realize how close season was, it was around the beginning of August.

It was now Monday, August 8th. I was playing pick-up hockey with some of my dad’s old teammates, many of whom were old or not very skilled. It became apparent to me how lopsided my stride had become. I would start out fine, but as I grew more tired throughout the game, my surgical leg would not be able to hold a sustained knee bend. I became extremely discouraged towards the end of the game, eventually getting off early because of my leg. I drove home that night telling myself it was over. Reality had sunk in. I was just not physically ready to come back. I held in my emotions all throughout dinner, but as my dad and I pulled into the parking lot of our nighttime job, I completely lost it. I cried the hardest I had in a long time.

I never cry in front of my dad. I think he could tell I was really hurting. I told him my college hockey career was over. Reality had hit me that I had not had enough time to make a full recovery from surgery. I was done fighting. I was not going to frantically stress myself out over workouts to possibly not even get a chance at trying out for Darwitz again. I had briefly thought about going back to Bethel for my Senior season, but I realized that just wasn’t in my cards. It was the worst night of my athletic life. The sport, the life I had had for 17 years was coming to a close. This door was shutting. I was afraid I was going to disappoint my family, but my dad assured me that was not the case. In a way, I felt like I was giving up. However, even on my very best day, I was never going to be enough for Natalie and her program. A few days after I made that decision, I came across a quote on my friend’s facebook that read “At your absolute best, you still won’t be good enough for the wrong person. At your worst, you’ll still be worth it to the right person.” Seeing that solidified my decision, as it seemed to ring through about Darwitz and her team. Even if I was the best hockey player in the world, I wasn’t going to mean anything to her.

Fast forward to now. Here I am at Hamline, a usual tri-sport athlete reduced to being a no-sport athlete. I am no longer able to play lacrosse, and have chosen to focus on healing and my education rather than to fight tirelessly to play hockey for an unfair coach. It still stings to see the new hockey team in pictures or around campus in their cliques, but ultimately I know I made the right decision. I feel like I listened so hard to God on this one, that it is just not in His plans for me.

It took me a long time to decide whether or not I wanted to share this beyond emotional story with the world, let alone anyone. I ultimately decided that people need to hear it. Someone out there somewhere is probably going through or has already gone through the same thing, and can find comfort in knowing they aren’t alone. Lots of high school athletes don’t go on to play in college. And I am now learning that it’s okay. It’s okay to not be the all conference go-to player anymore. It’s okay to know the difference between giving up and choosing to move on. One can only suffer so much.

I feel like there are so many components to this post. Some parts deal with coaching and how unfair coaches can be. Other parts of my story talk about the transition so many athletes go through when deciding to no longer pursue their sport. Either way, I know some will be offended with my post, and others may find understanding and acceptance in it. Ultimately, I decided that life is too short to care about what people think anymore. I’m done filtering my content so that certain people won’t be offended. If people acted better, there’d be better things to say.

In conclusion, August 8th was the day I CHOSE to end my college hockey career. I listened to God and to what He was calling me to do. I know it probably sounds silly being emotional about a sport, but this sport was my life for 17 years. The beauty about athletics is that even though I am no longer a college athlete, I can still play hockey until the day I die. There are so many opportunities out there, like leagues, pick-up games, coaching and even reffing. It’s going to be a tough journey at first, but I know I made the right decision.

“Don’t Forget To Live”

The other day, I found myself giving my boyfriend a serious pep-talk. He was overwhelmed with school, work, illness, and never having enough time for anything. I’m sure many of us can relate. Saddened and disheartened from hearing about his trials, I found myself emotionally breaking down, giving him a pep-talk on how to make the best of life when things aren’t going as planned. Since this talk, I haven’t stopped hearing the echo of my own words in my head, “don’t forget to live.” I think it’s important for all of us to take a second to breathe, and process what I am about to tell you.

Your creator did not put you on this planet to simply suffer and die. Whether you are being overwhelmed with school, money, work, family life, friendships, relationships, whatever it is, you can overcome it.

If you are a student in high school, college, or trade school, undergraduate or graduate, you need to know that no matter how hard you work, you are not defined by your grades. You are much more than a student, you are a person who lives and breathes. Your creator did not put you on this earth for the sole purpose of studying and being miserable. If you’re in school, chances are your creator got you there, and is trying to present you with an opportunity to have a big future. Do your homework and take your exams, but if you turn in something late or get a low grade on a test, it’s not the end of the world. There is life outside of school, and five years from now, it’s really not going to matter what grade you got, so there’s no reason to stress yourself out. Do your best and settle, because you can’t do more than your best.

If you are someone working way too many hours than you feel capable of working, just know that it gets easier. You may feel burnt out, exhausted, and emotional, but every single morning is a chance to start over and begin again. Try to lower your hours, keep a journal, eat a good breakfast, make time for yourself. No matter how busy you may feel, you can’t forget to live.

If you are having trouble with relationships, you needn’t worry. Almost every piece of advice I can give relates to some silly cliche, but they are all too true. If someone loves you enough, they will understand. If you let someone go and it’s meant to be, they’ll come back. You can’t worry about what the other person or party is thinking or doing, all you can do is manage yourself. Do what you think is right, and if they love you enough, they will understand.

Something I heard from a friend was that in the midst of everything, you need to make time for yourself. It’s like those directions they give on airplanes before take-off. In case of cabin pressure failure, the oxygen masks fall down. They always tell you to put yours on first, because you can’t help others if you yourself aren’t getting enough oxygen. This applies to nearly everything in life. Take time to recuperate, recharge, slow down. If you don’t, you won’t be at your best, and you won’t be able to help other people. I stand true to this point still to this day. It doesn’t matter what it looks like in your life, you do what you need to do. People might judge, get mad, or not understand, but it doesn’t matter, it’s not their life, not their mental health. Take a day off work, take a day off school, go for a walk, call up an old friend, lay in bed and watch a movie, get fresh air. Take care of yourself so you can take care of others.

Not taking care of yourself is a vicious cycle. Forgetting to live is the biggest mistake you could make. If you don’t remember to slow down, you’ll eventually end up in a world where everything is a blur, and you won’t remember the journey. Take your time and breathe. Life is worth living, but it’s not worth being stressed over insignificant, unimportant, trivial things. Whatever you are going through, I know you can do it. I know you will find a way, and I ask that you don’t forget to take care of yourself along your journey. I’m telling you that of all things to remember, please don’t forget to live.

 

 

 

 

Anxiety

I will never forget that night.

It was one of my first nights as a freshman at Bethel University. I was exuberant, liberated by my new freedom. I was no longer a measly high school student being forced to conform to long schedules and nitpicky dress codes. During Welcome Week, every freshman was placed in small groups, each lead by a “new student mentor”.  On this night, it was the campus wide scavenger hunt. Each group member was supposed to adhere to a different role, a few staying inside to decode clues and direct the scavengers while the others to go out and hunt for the objects. I was having so much fun with my group members, making jokes, getting to know them, laughing at our wrong guesses and the scavengers’ light hearted missteps, and letting loose from the nervous ambiance every freshman radiated. That’s when it hit me.

My chest tightened so hard, as if a Sumo wrestler had sat on my chest. My heart raced faster than I’d ever felt during my hardest hockey game. I began sweating and breathing funny. I could feel adrenaline beginning to drown my body. I had to leave. I didn’t know where I needed to go but I couldn’t stay sitting. I told my group members I had to go to the bathroom and left.

I locked myself into the handicap stall. I legitimately thought I was going to die on the bathroom floor. This is how it’s going to end, this is how I die, I thought to myself, leaning on the wall, sinking to the floor. No other thought came to my mind other than breathing. I didn’t think to call my mom, I didn’t think to yell for help. Finally, after a few minutes, my adrenaline ceased, and my chest lightened up. My heart was slowing down, but still beating quickly. I was absolutely terrified, and finally walked out of the stall to call my mom. I told her I thought I had just had a heart attack and need to get to a hospital. She got ahold of my aunt (who is a nurse), and she explained I might be having something called a panic attack. I didn’t believe her, and through my tears, demanded to be picked up. My mom picked me up and  took me home. She said sleeping in my own bed might help. I was surprised I made it through the night, but I nonetheless awoke.

Everything was okay for a few days. Once the initial terror subsided, it was back to the freshmen festivities. A few days later, the same thing happened. This time, I went in to the Emergency Room. I was all hooked up to heart monitors, had to pee in a cup, was poked and prodded, and after all tests came back perfectly fine, I was diagnosed with having panic attacks and anxiety. I was given medications to take in case another panic attack arose. Irritated, I left the hospital. There was no way what I had felt was nothing other than a “panic attack.” But, it was.

Concerned floor mates and classmates asked what happened and if everything was okay. To my classmates, I made up some flu-type story, afraid of their judgment. I was much more comfortable with my floor mates, and was honest about the panic attacks. To my bewilderment, other girls on my floor had also experienced panic attacks and anxiety! They said it was more common than one might think, and that there was nothing to be ashamed about. I was surprised that this was a common occurrence, but relieved that they understood.

To this day, I still tear up when I talk about my story. It is something I deal with continuously, even after three years. I have learned ways to calm myself down, ways to communicate to loved ones when it happens, and how to avoid situations that generally cause my anxiety levels to rise. While I can’t always avoid it, it is mostly under control.

People with mental illnesses, disorders, or anxieties are not crazy. What they are going through and feeling is real. I thought I was genuinely having a heart attack when I experienced my first panic attack. A “panic attack” is when your body initiates your “fight or flight” system for no apparent reason, and with no way to stop it. Your body cannot maintain that system for long periods of time, eventually allowing the attack to pass. This affects 1 in every 75 people in the world (American Psychological Association).

It is absolutely wrong and uncalled for to belittle someone’s anxiety or panic attack symptoms. While the onset may be psychological, your body is initiating a physical response that can be paralyzing, and can sometimes lead people to commit suicide. Anxiety is absolutely real, and is not something to joke about, use as an excuse, or to not take seriously. Listen to my story and be conscious that while it may not impact you personally, it may impact someone around you or someone you love, and they might not be brave enough to tell you.

 

*If you are someone who struggles with debilitating anxiety or suicidal thoughts, please call:

the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline

1 (800) 273-8255

A Coach’s Perspective: An Open Letter to the Parents

Dear parent in the crowd,

I am beyond pleased your child decided to join this sport. As a former athlete, nothing makes me smile more than seeing a child on the field or in the arena discovering their love for the game. Even if they decide they don’t like it or it’s not for them, it will still be a learning experience, and I’m happy to walk your child through that journey. Before this season takes off, there are some things I’d like you to know.

The first thing you should know is that I am volunteering. That means I will be scheduling practices and games, getting to know and care for every player on our team, watching players’ skills and fundamentals, and managing a group of exuberant kids, all while keeping an eye on injuries, behaviors, hydration levels, time, and equipment without any pay. If you think being a coach starts and stops on the field or in the arena, you are wrong. I go about my entire day excitedly brainstorming new drills and activities to use in our practice, and reflect nightly on how successful the drills were. I do all of this in addition to going to school and working two jobs, leaving me with little time to wind down. If you ask me why, I can quickly tell you no other job in this world offers me a better pay-off than seeing young people grow as not only players, but develop life skills and teamwork qualities that can carry them throughout life.

The second thing you should know is that coaching isn’t easy. I am not only teaching young people the game, but I am also managing parents and dealing with referees. Sometimes I will give your child a suggestion on how to do a skill differently, only to have to repeat myself dozens of times in order to see a remote change. Sometimes I explain a team strategy, only to see players forget or do the opposite. Parents see the game from the stands, but they don’t always see or hear what I am demonstrating in practice or reiterating during games. Often times, referees will mess up a call, which sometimes affects the entire outcome of the game. Sometimes, our team will work unbelievably hard and make vast improvements all week, only to lose the following game. Sometimes parents don’t agree on playing time or positions, and we always hear about it. I promise I am making my best judgments on who to put where, and try to play all kids equally. Again, we are all here because we love the game, not because of politics or personal opinions. Coaching is a difficult task, and we ask you respect that.

The last thing you should know is that coaches are human. We make mistakes. In fact, I’m sure every coach regardless of the sport has made a mistake and has bettered their coaching style because of it. Yes, I may have forgotten to email you back. Yes, I may have lost track of time and kept your child over a few minutes. Yes, I sometimes forgot your name. As a human, perfection is rarely achieved in any form. How are coaches any different? I’m sure you’ve left the oven on once. I’m sure you’ve been late to work or to a meeting. I’m sure you’ve forgotten to call someone back after a long day. I don’t expect you to be perfect, so please be respectful and empathetic if I do make a mistake. As I’ve said already, coaching is the art of multi-tasking, and is a difficult task, and I am bound to make a mistake or two.

It’s not always easy being a parent in the stands. Many times the only tool you have to use is your voice and your hands. This makes vocalizing comments or cheers pure instinct. While it is important to cheer the team on, and I would hope you’d do so, when something doesn’t go our way and you want to holler, just remember this letter. Remember what coaches go through in order to give your child the best experience possible. Remember who we are and where we are coming from. Put yourself in our shoes and see the multitude of things we orchestrate every practice and game. It’s okay to think critically about our coaching styles, the flow of the game, and your child’s enjoyment, but remember, after everything, this is just a game and we are all here for the same reasons: to experience the joy of the sport.

Sincerely,

Your volunteer coach.

 

 

 

7 Truths for Those Who Never Get Things Handed to Them

If you’re anything like me, you’ve never once had anything ever “handed” to you. In more plain English, you’ve never gotten a reward without earning it. After rowing my entire life in this boat, I started to fish and caught on to some consistencies.

1.You’ve had to work for every single thing in your life

Even though it’s already been stated, whether it’s in sports, relationships, schooling, or business related, you’ve always had to grind in order to even just survive in these settings. Sure, you might have won the occasional raffle ticket drawing at a fundraiser or found a quarter on the ground, but you’ve always had to work for the bigger, more important things in life.

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2. Most times, your efforts aren’t good enough

This is not meant to be a complaint, but rather a truth. Most times, you watch people around you give a less than 100% effort and be successful and rewarded. Meanwhile, you find yourself giving everything you have and then some, just to be told you aren’t doing enough. Doesn’t mean we can’t rise to the challenge, it just means our normal efforts are generally not enough.

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3. You secretly despise people who get things handed to them

It’s hard watching someone slack off or not even try reap all the benefits. Even worse, it’s irritating to see people who are cocky and unappreciative of what they got, especially when they didn’t earn it. You probably don’t say it often or even out loud, but we secretly despise these people.

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4. You’re used to working hard

Since we know that all of our successes have come from excruciating hours of work and effort, we know that whatever we are trying to achieve, we are going to have to work for it. We know that whatever it is we are trying to accomplish, we are going to have to work harder than everyone else even if we are finally earning our rewards, because the minute we start slacking, we are back to square one of being told we’re underachieving.

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5. At some point, you’ve questioned yourself

We’ve all done it. At some point or another, you start to question your worth, skillset, and confidence, eventually asking yourself things like, “do I have more to give?”, “do I belong here?”, “why am I the one being punished?”, “why me?”. It’s the same concept as a group of cars speeding on a highway, when a cop decides to pull only one over, and it happens to be you. You could tell the cop that the others were speeding as well and you were just trying to follow traffic, but you know the cop has heard that excuse before. The lesson you take away is you are one of the less fortunate people who must do everything right in this life in order to go far and be successful (and to avoid a ticket).

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6. You refuse to accept things you didn’t earn

We would absolutely love if someone handed us a trophy for doing nothing, but since we work our tails off 24/7, accepting the trophy doesn’t feel right. Sometimes this annoys people, but since we are wired to work and compete hard for pretty much everything, it’s just not in our mechanics to accept unearned material.

7. In the end, you’re fine with working hard

While working hard isn’t always fun, it’s necessary for you, and you’re okay with it. Water is going to taste a lot better for a runner who just finished a five mile race than to someone who sat on the couch all day watching Netflix.

If you find yourself relating to this post, then you and I have a lot in common. Just remember, good things will come to those who work. It might take days, weeks, years, or even decades, but if you keep fighting, you’ll finally catch what you’ve been chasing. Remember, “it’s hard to beat a person who never gives up.”

 

Manners: A Dead Language

If you ever watch an old movie, take a movie that took place in the 1950’s for example, you can observe people holding doors open for those coming in and out of a shop. You can witness young men at dances gently approaching young women and politely asking if they could “have this dance.” You would see two people collide on a sidewalk, one dropping their belongings, and the other stops to help them gather their things. When insults arose, even those generally sounded proper. While I acknowledge that real life in the 50’s wasn’t nearly as colorful as the movies portrayed, it opened my eyes to this dead language we call manners.

How many times can you remember yourself looking down at your phone pretending to text when you were about to pass someone you didn’t want to talk to? How many times have you entered a building realizing someone was close behind you, only to shove the door open and try to walk through it quick enough that you didn’t have to hold it for the person behind you? How many times have your friends vented to you while you were enthralled by your phone, only to have to ask them to repeat what they said because you missed it?

It’s okay, we all do it. Not one person on this Earth can say they haven’t done at least one of those things at some point in their life. I often see people using their cellphones as a crutch for countless things. I’ve heard of breakups being done through text messages instead of face-to-face or over the phone. I see men at dance clubs shoving themselves onto young women and grinding on them until they are pushed off. I’ve witnessed someone struggling to hold something they were carrying while numerous people noticed but kept walking on to wherever they were headed. I’ve even noticed a woman in an ice cream shop drop $10 unknowingly while the man behind her bent down and tried to pocket the cash.

When did this become okay? When did society decide it was socially acceptable to become so obnoxious, ignorant, and mannerless? Call my family old fashioned but I was raised with a different set of expectations. While I am definitely guilty of forgetting manners, I was taught that if someone is right behind you, you hold the door open for them. I was taught that if something is important or urgent, a text will not suffice; A phone call is expected. I was taught that if someone you know is passing by, you say hello no matter what mood you’re in, whether you like them or not. I was taught that if I’m having a guest over at the house, they get first choice of what we do, and it’s my job to make sure they’re comfortable and welcomed.

Again, I am in no way perfect, and neither are you. I can openly admit I’ve been that person who walks by the stumbling person in need of a hand. It happens, and sometimes we don’t know how to react. However, I do my best to keep manners alive in a world where common courtesy and humility can many times be nonexistent. I hope reflecting on these instances opens your eyes as much as it opens mine. I hope the next time you’re uncomfortable or see someone you don’t want to talk to, that you put your phone down and say hello anyways. Hold that door open for the person behind you. Say your please and thank you’s. Always remember, holding a door doesn’t take more than ten seconds, and a smile is free.

Game Day: A Pine-Rider’s Perspective

Endless amounts of instagram pictures and facebook posts of action photos litter my feed every Friday and Saturday morning, reminding me that today is the two dreaded words, “game day.” This day is not “dreaded” because I hate the team, I’m not dressing, or anything along those lines (which are all beyond false). Game day is dreadful for a pine rider because this day consists of a large spectrum of emotion. We must sit and watch our team play the sport we’ve loved since we were little girls, while we contain the anger, happiness, anxiety, fear, and eagerness that we are flooded with.

I would be lying to you if I said we weren’t angry when we didn’t dress. If we were satisfied with watching our friends play the sport we love while sitting out, we would be poor athletes. We’re happy because we love the sport, and can’t wait to see the outcome of all the hard work our team has put in all week. We are eager to see what happens throughout the game, keeping injuries, goals, penalties, and our team’s overall performance in mind. We watch like hawks for any opportunity that may arise for us to play. While we want the team to be successful, we also hope the success includes us being in the lineup. We feel anxiety and fear because we are afraid of being in someone’s way or not doing something we have been asked to do correctly, which brings me to my next point: all the things we do for the team.

While my teammates warm-up, tape their sticks, listen to their iPods, play soccer, and sing out blurbs of rap songs that come on in the locker room, we are busy doing all the dirty work that the sport entails. We are grabbing 50 hockey sticks by the arm-full and carrying them to the bench, which may or may not be all the way across the rink. We then organize each stick into numerical order, which isn’t always a speedy task. We then fill up all 12 water bottles with the best quality water we can find, and must carry them around to the bench and into the locker room, only to have to refill them a half hour later. We must make sure the whiteboard for drawing plays is in the right spot on the bench. We must make sure the medical kit is somewhere easily accessible. All before the game.

Finally, we get time to rest. As a group, we talk about what we think the outcome of the game will be, and how we have been looking as a team in practice. We ask each other how we’re holding up, giving each other emotional pep-talks to keep each other going for the next three hours. Maybe if we’re lucky, we can sneak in a quick book read or juggle with the soccer ball. After what seems like an eternity, it’s finally game time.

Now, we must record the game, our hands ice bricks by the end of the period. One of us must rush down to lock and unlock the locker rooms in time for the team to come in. Most times, we will pat each player on the shoulder as she walks by, sometimes getting the occasional sour face and “not now” comment, depending on how the period went. In between periods, we often get the “can you get me a…” comment, which we rush off to get before it’s time to hit the ice again. Then, there’s the team meal.

Each away game, we are asked to meet the caterer at the door, grab the food, and place it on the bus. Doing so results in us missing a portion of the game, just our luck always happening to be the most eventful parts. When the game is over, we have to round up 25 sticks, inhalers, water bottles, the board, and anything else that was left on the bench. We then dump the water out and round up ice bags for the athletes in need. These tasks may not seem terrible, which they generally aren’t, but it’s an entirely different experience for the team pine riders.

Sometimes, flustered teammates take their emotions out on us. Sometimes coaches lecture us about a mistake we made in regards to one of our assigned jobs. Sometimes, we aren’t quick enough to get the items teammates need and hear about it. We are floating in a subliminal exile, since we don’t get to wear the sweater we dreamt all week about wearing. Sometimes our comments to the team in between periods are contested, even though we have the best view in the house. Every single game, we are given blank stares by parents, condescending looks from the other team, and are laughed at by cocky college boys. This makes our lives even harder while we try to hide all the powerful emotions we are feeling.

You have no idea how amazing it feels when a teammate thanks us for something on game day, no matter how small the task was. It makes us feel reconnected with the team, and reinspires us to keep helping. It makes us feel respected on a day where we are just bystanders at a hockey game. After all, we are your biggest supporters and loudest fans.

I think every player should have to sit one game to understand how privileged they are to pull the sweater over their head every game day. Those who do find it humbling to see what we see and do what we do. We fight all week through the sweat, tears, and internal frustration only to reap no reward. Try sitting for one game, two games, eight games. It only gets harder. It takes a hard shelled, mentally tough, irrationally supportive, strong person to be a pine rider, and only the toughest survive.