To Those That Think I Need More Girl Friends, From the Girl Who Is Proud of Her Guy Friends

To Those That Think I Need More Girl Friends, From the Girl Who Is Proud of Her Guy Friends

I know. It's just not healthy for me to be friends with so many boys.
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It all started when I got to my college for the first night. I had one friend already (a girl I might add), and I set out to make a few more. My floor meeting brought me Nick, a cute guy who lived on my floor, and we wandered around together because my original friend was with some of her floormates.

We went to play Cards Against Humanity and I met Peter, Mario, and Tyvel. All four guys knew each other already, and I tagged along with them. My friend Alayna joined us eventually, and as the year passed we lost and added a few other members of the core friend group, but my point is, I’ve been surrounded by guys since the beginning.

I have yet to really come back from it. I have a couple of friends that are girls, and they are all amazing, beautiful women. But every now and again, someone will shame me. “Oh, your best friend is a boy? Didn’t your boyfriend mind?” (No. He did not.) “Aww. Bunch of boys, what do you talk about?” (Everything they’d talk about with each other, and shoes!)

I’m tired of silly questions, so I’m just going to answer as much as I can within this letter. My friends are guys, but that doesn’t mean they aren’t capable of talking to me.

Tyvel has walked across campus in the middle of the night because I was in tears over another guy.

Mario has threatened to fight anyone who gets in my way (well, anyone, but then again, he’s at Penn State).

Peter is my best friend, and he would talk to me about anything. We watch a lot of the same shows, the same movies. He listens to my music and screamed for Jesse McCartney with me even though he didn’t know who he was screaming at.

And those were just the guys I knew freshman year.

The guys that I have met through board game club are a group of guys I wouldn’t trade for anything else. Of course, there have been girls who I met there, who are amazing, funny, and so good at everything. But you’d be surprised how often I’m surrounded by 15 guys who all look at me like I have some kind of authority. They treat me with respect, and where some people I know think it’s weird that I am in a board game club and even more shocked when they learn I run it, it makes me so upset.

My guy friends were the reason I went to the first semester of that club. My first semester, besides Alayna coming every once in awhile, I was the only girl there. Now, there are about 40 people that come. Most of them are guys. Most of them I consider friends.

I’ve moved past the point of feeling self-conscious when I talk about Kevin and Joe and Rico Louis, Criswell (Mike) and Carney (Mike #2). My relatives no longer assume I am dating any of them or have a crush on any of them (most of the time).

There was a time when having a lot of guy friends would have been weird for me. I would have thought of them like I think of my brother and we would have had a barrier. But now, things are different. I’m not ashamed to say I’ve walked home from parties with my guy friends at 2 a.m. and I trust them despite the world we live in. I have watched movies and done a face mask with my roommate while my friends are sitting on my floor. I have gone to video game tournaments and tried to understand some sports, and I’ve kept my interests afloat while respecting theirs.

My guy friends have taught me that my worldview is not always the right one. They've made me think about issues from another side. They've shown me that girls can be just as mean to guys as guys can be to girls. I've seen my friends coping with problems with tears and anger and emotion and all those things men aren't supposed to have. They've hugged me and told me they're glad of my help, sometimes.

People seem to think that when you’re friends with mostly guys, you’re one of the guys. But I’d like to think being friends with guys just makes me a more personable person.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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To The Coach Who Ruined The Game For Me

We can't blame you completely, but no one has ever stood up to you before.
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I know you never gave it a second thought, the idea that you're the reason I and many others, never went any farther in our athletic careers.

I know you didn’t sincerely care about our mental health, as long as we were physically healthy and our bodies were working enough to play. It’s obvious your calling wasn’t coaching and you weren’t meant to work with young adults, some who look to you as a parent figure or a confidant.

I also know that if we were to express our concerns about the empty feeling we began to feel when we stepped onto the court, you wouldn’t have taken the conversation seriously because it wasn’t your problem.

I know we can't blame you completely, no one has ever stood up to you before. No one said anything when girls would spend their time in the locker room crying because of something that was said or when half the team considered quitting because it was just too much.

We can't get mad at the obvious favoritism because that’s how sports are played.

Politics plays a huge role and if you want playing time, you have to know who to befriend. We CAN get mad at the obvious mistreatment, the empty threats, the verbal abuse, “it's not what you say, its how you say it.”

We can get mad because a sport that we loved so deeply and had such passion for, was taken away from us single-handedly by an adult who does not care. I know a paycheck meant more to you than our wellbeing, and I know in a few years you probably won’t even remember who we are, but we will always remember.

We will remember how excited we used to get on game days and how passionate we were when we played. How we wanted to continue on with our athletic careers to the next level when playing was actually fun. We will also always remember the sly remarks, the obvious dislike from the one person who was supposed to support and encourage us.

We will always remember the day things began to change and our love for the game started to fade.

I hope that one day, for the sake of the young athletes who still have a passion for what they do, you change.

I hope those same athletes walk into practice excited for the day, to get better and improve, instead of walking in with anxiety and worrying about how much trouble they would get into that day. I hope those athletes play their game and don’t hold back when doing it, instead of playing safe, too afraid to get pulled and benched the rest of the season.

I hope they form an incredible bond with you, the kind of bond they tell their future children about, “That’s the coach who made a difference for me when I was growing up, she’s the reason I continued to play.”

I don’t blame you for everything that happened, we all made choices. I just hope that one day, you realize that what you're doing isn’t working. I hope you realize that before any more athletes get to the point of hating the game they once loved.

To the coach that ruined the game for me, I hope you change.

Cover Image Credit: Author's photo

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Drum Corps And Overcoming Myself

Sometimes, you truly are your own worst enemy.

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Late afternoons in Millbrook, Alabama were terrible. I learned that very quickly. The heat, the bugs, and the humidity were such a terrible mix. Dense grass and burnt, blistered hands made for grueling rehearsals. Surely through all this suffering I would be able to conquer anything, it seemed.

I was wrong. The biggest obstacle I'd ever face turned out, as cliché as it sounds, to be me.

My biggest obstacle - myself.Photo by Ruth Marek

I joined Southwind Drum and Bugle Corps for the 2017 season, and my rookie year would definitely showcase the impact of these negative thoughts. We were not even a week into tour when I first "broke." I had survived all-days, but once we hit the road, it seemed that I couldn't continue. That day, the pressures were particularly immense. I had been newly promoted to the marimba line, been given only nine days to learn the full show, and now we were on tour. Competition would start that very day. Needless to say, the odds were stacked against me. The grass on the field was extremely, almost unnaturally thick, making for a hellish and painful push. I'm already a small person, and of course only being a week or so into my rookie season, I didn't have the muscles for it yet. The sun was beating down on us; the temperature came close to 100 degrees. The marimba itself - yeah, the big thing I have to push around a field all day - was actually at least twice if not three times my size. On top of it all, we were under a time limit which, if violated, resulted in a penalty for the whole corps.

I could continue on for ages about all the external factors that made my experience difficult, but I would be completely ignoring the point. Those external factors made my experience difficult, not impossible. The factors weren't the problem itself. I was the problem. I didn't believe in myself. Negative thoughts thrive in negative environments. As such, the aforementioned circumstances resulted in a copious quantity of self-doubt, self-loathing, regret, and other wonderful feelings. My own negative thinking patterns created the problem.

How does one overcome oneself? It's almost paradoxical. In retrospect, I've struggled with myself for far longer than just in drum corps, and I still struggle today. But that sweltering day, in the middle of Millbrook, Alabama, I was given something that has helped me tremendously in my fight to extinguish my negative thinking patterns. That day, in the middle of my push onto the field, my legs locked up. My thighs were screaming, and I was pretty close to doing the same if I hadn't been biting down on my lip. I was leading the whole line of front ensemble onto the field, so I had to keep going. I tried to. But I couldn't.

I couldn't do it.

I couldn't do it.

I heard my section called out from the press box: "That's two minutes already! Front ensemble has thirty seconds to get set!"

I couldn't do it.

I couldn't do it.

The pain of pushing the board mixed with the pain of the humiliation I'd caused myself and my section. I began to cry. My technician, Kirstyn (whom you may remember from my previous article), ran to my side. Tears were streaming down my face, probably leaving streaks of sunscreen washed away. I thought she'd help me push. She didn't.

All she did was stare at me. I still remember her eyes, icy blue and filled with confidence, like she was willing it with everything she had to transfer to me. I remember sobbing. At this point, I'm still pushing, but barely. She said two words to me, and those two words changed my entire life: "Keep pushing."

I'd love to say that something clicked into place. I'd love to say that those two words filled me with strength and my speed skyrocketed, bringing me and my section to our place in time. It didn't happen like that, of course, but the fact that it didn't have some magical effect on me speaks to me. It shows that overcoming oneself has always been and will always be a long process, filled with successes and failures just like any other.

More than anything, those words fill me with hope. Hope that I can get through whatever obstacle I'm facing. Those words have become a sort of mantra for me, and I am immensely glad to have received that advice. I've taken on so much more in my life than ever before thanks to the hope it brings me.

If you're ever facing an obstacle, be it yourself or otherwise, keep pushing. You'll thank yourself after the fact.

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