Old stuff. New stuff. Just stuff.
We are in the middle of a move right now. By middle, I mean most boxes are in the new place but not enough unpacked for me to feel settled. Utilities hooked up, but still no Wi-Fi. Toiletries and stuff to shower, but can’t find my favorite pair of workout shoes. Enough clothes to wear, but quickly dwindling as our washer dryer are still en route.
You get the idea.
Along with this move, lots of treasures and memories are surfacing. Most of it is from a time before we had children, before we were married and some even before we met. I found an entire album dedicated to our late family pet of seventeen years – a cat named “Fox.” There are wedding albums, baby pictures, papers and textbooks from my graduate program, toys – so many toys and way more than any person needs, really.
Then there are the travel treasures: tea sets from Indonesia, a cute hand bag from Thailand, a watch from Hong Kong, a clock from Switzerland, quirky shoes from Budapest, a mug from Japan. And you know what took me all over the world? Volleyball.
Oh yeah, there are boxes and boxes of sports stuff.
Both my husband and I played Division I Collegiate volleyball. I was a two-time All-American, he has a National Championship ring. He’s got bags full of old jerseys. I’ve got boxes of magazine and newspaper clippings. If you do anything long enough, you have stuff from what you did. We probably have more than most and not as much as some.
Here’s the deal though. There is a reason all that stuff has been relegated to boxes deep within the garage. There is a reason that stuff never really gets unpacked. Seeing those awards and trophies, those accolades and accomplishments can pack quite a sting. They are called glory days because they were glorious.
When I was done playing I may have been just a little ill-equipped to handle the world outside the collegiate athletic support system. If you played, you know what I mean. If you didn’t, I’m a little embarrassed to tell you that I registered and got every single class I signed up for. I almost never bought a used book, I had tutors, steak night every Tuesday at the athletic dorm (when they still had them) and enough press to keep my ego firmly in the clouds.
Trouble is, heads that are firmly up in the clouds come whizzing back haphazardly towards earth when the air is released. Let me tell you living this out is not the most comfortable thing in the world. And, this might not be true for all former student athletes, but it was true for me. My big ol’ balloon head had an awakening – I call this time “my thirties.”
When I look back on that time and all these artifacts that have surfaced, I realize how far I have fallen. I feel the sting of humility when I realize that not one single person is writing anything about me these days except me. (My eighteen year old self would have called me a “has been.”) I get the wind knocked out trying to lift a box of my former accomplishments and I feel regretful that I didn’t have my act together back then when I could have used the influence I had for great things.
I did not do that.
I used my time to celebrate myself. I used my influence to inflate the Me Almighty. And y’all…I didn’t even play football.
But realizing how far I have fallen allows me to see where I am today. Without the pressure of five hours of training per day, every single Thanksgiving at the SEC Tournament, road trips into the wee hours of the morning or 30+ kills per match, I am free to explore who I am today and what I can do after the fall. How will I pick myself up? How will I pursue the things I am madly passionate about? How will I use my story, my past, my accomplishments to teach my children about hard work, perseverance and (this time around) humility in the face of our strengths?
My biggest regret being a collegiate athlete is the thought that I squandered my time there. If only I knew what I know now, back then it might have been different. Except there’s just this one thing.
I would not be sitting her writing about this if my story went any other way. I would not be effective and I probably wouldn’t have been successful if I played it differently. We need all the stuff in the boxes – not just some of it. Our stories are rich and full because of the layers and tiers of life that is lived.
Life should be textured. We ascend and we descend. We rise and we fall.
I’m grateful that I’ve fallen so far, because what I love most is the climb.