I go back all the time. I go back to the moment the doctor told me it was over, and then I go back to the moment I told him no. I remember the determination that would make my nights uneasy and my mornings aggressive. And I remember the days I felt like laying on the couch, and they make me want to cringe.
I wish there would soon come a day where it didn't feel like part of me died with the sport that left my everyday life. It's truly amazing how much impact one physical activity and one team can have on a lifetime of looking back and wishing things had turned out differently. I wish that I could tell every single youth athlete how tough letting go would be once that day comes.
The end of my days playing a sport were inevitable, I know that. And I want to believe so badly that there was nothing I could have done to change the way things turned out. But I don't. I don't believe that this happened for a reason, and I don't believe that there was another plan for me. If that was the case, I would look back without regrets and without doubt in my efforts. But there were days when I didn't feel like going to physical therapy, and there were nights that I stayed out late which lead to a morning wasted. There was more that could have been done, and in the moment, I had no idea how negatively those temporary pleasures would impact me.
I know that beating a dead horse is pointless. But on my worst days when I miss the game and my teammates the most, all I want to do is spread the word. I want every athlete out there to appreciate every single moment of health and talent. I want them to feel a fire of determination that refuses to go out. The only thing that stops us from achieving our goals is ourselves. And as much as I want to blame doctors, opposing players and "bad luck," my fate is entirely on me. I chose this, and I truly pay for it every day.
I have memories now which will make me smile in pride. But I would trade memories for the real thing any day. There is nothing like hearing the whistle blow and being overcome with an intense paradox of relaxation and nerves. The nerves meant I was passionate and ached for the competition and the relaxation meant that there was nowhere else in the world that I was supposed to be in that moment. It was like no other feeling in the world and there is no duplicating it.
For any athletes out there who have experienced setbacks or lackadaisical moments, remember how temporary and insignificant these things are. If there is an injury, know that there are ways to overcome it. Take control of the recovery process and work every day to make your dreams a reality. Focus and remember that there is so much time in life to sleep in and choose a party over practice. Our athletic days come with an expiration date. But whether that day is near or far is up to you.