“Celebrating with two of my favorite things: my mom and chocolate cake!)”
That’s right, readers. I am officially OLD. Well, old-ER. A couple weeks ago, just before Thanksgiving, I turned 25! Gasp.
I have always thought of 25 as the age at which people start becoming real adults: a couple years removed from university, further and further away from the teenage years, you know, grown-up. Weird.
Am I where I thought I would be at the age of 25? That’s a tough question. I was never one of those kids who had a distinct, unwavering vision of what the future held for me. “I want to be a doctor!” or “I am going to be a teacher!” Nope. That was never me. I always knew I would graduate from high school and then go to college, but that is where the clarity ended. I just kind of figured I would have a lightening bolt moment at some point and poof! A career would be born, and an adult I would be!
So while that obviously didn’t happen; I was fortunate enough to study in a field that I was truly passionate about and loved learning about. However, my major in university also didn’t lend itself to clear-cut job opportunities or a definitive career path. I did a couple internships and researched different job offers, but nothing captured my attention. And that folks, is part of the reason I am where I am today!
And while I don’t know if I am where I thought I would be at this age, one thing I do know is this: I am incredibly proud to be able to say that at this point in my life, at twenty-five years old, I am living my dream. It wasn’t easy, it has never been easy, but I found a way to make it happen. With tons and tons of help and support, hard work, and a couple of lucky breaks, I will always be able to say that I was able to turn the one constant in my life, the one activity that has held my attention all this time, into an actual way to support myself.
Over the past twenty-five years, I learned a lot of different lessons and been given a lot of good advice. Some are soccer-related yes, but all life-related. Lessons that I have been taught the hard way on the soccer field but resonate in all facets of my life. Today I want to share the ones that have made the biggest impact in my life; the advice that has gotten me through some hard times and has helped me grow as a person on my soccer journey. And as I think back on twenty-five years and the ups and down of my long love affair with soccer, I will be forever grateful for everything I have learned and experienced, these lessons most of all.
Be the bean.
This is the definition of my outlook on life and attitude. If you have never heard of the story, just Google “The Carrot, the Egg, and the Coffee Bean” and take a couple minutes to read it! It will give you some food for thought on the way you approach life’s challenges. When I was going through a tough period at Rice, (little playing time on the soccer field, a breakup with my first serious boyfriend, etc.) my dad shared this story with me. It has stayed with me ever since and changed the way I deal with adversity in my life.
Control what you can control.
There are so many things in the world that we cannot control. As a goalkeeper, I cannot control if the attackers on my team miss every shot on goal or kick every corner kick straight out of bounds. I can’t control what lineup my coach decides to put on the field for an important match, or who he decides to travel for away games. All I can control are my actions, and my attitude and reactions to life around me. When I was younger, I would become incredibly frustrated if my team was not able to score goals. Going through games where we would dominate the field of play, or have multiple shots and opportunities without converting them into goals, drawing 0-0. So difficult! I would find myself growing more and more aggravated. When I finally took a step back and thought about my emotions, it hit me: it doesn’t help my teammates when I am outwardly frustrated on the field. It also doesn’t help me as a player because my frustration took away from my concentration on the game. So now, in training and matches, I just focus on my job, my role as a goalkeeper. Directing the defense, reading the play of the game, keeping the ball out of the back of the net.
Don’t be afraid to fail. Be afraid not to try.
This advice is relevant to the soccer field, but also in the game of life. What is life without a little risk? If I had been too afraid to pursue playing soccer after college, I would have missed out on some of the best experiences of my life! Just because I didn’t play every single minute of my college career, just because I wasn’t an All-American (or even All-Conference), just because people said it couldn’t be done. The past two years I have become such a better player, and I have learned so much, not only about the game, but about myself as well. And yes, I could have failed. When I first sent out my film to teams abroad, every single team could have said no or simply not responded (which in fact a lot of them did). But what if I hadn’t? I could not imagine my life, where I would be right now if I simply was too afraid to take the risk. I don’t know how I would be able to wake up in the mornings and wonder, “what if?”
Life is what happens when you are too busy looking at your smart phone.
Seriously, people. I cannot stress this one enough. One thing I have learned after two years of living in countries where my cell phone only works when connected with wifi, put your cell phones down! It has been liberating to experience life being able to walk around my small town and really see things because I am not distracted by my cell phone. When I travel I can occasionally connect to wifi, but for the most part I am exploring phone-free. These years have really forced me to see just how dependent so many people are on their cell phones. When I am hanging out with my teammates here in France, either at a friend’s apartment or out at a restaurant, literally everyone is on their cell phones! It can be so hard just to have a conversation with someone when you feel like they are not listening to you because their attention is aimed at their smartphone. So just as an experiment, if you are reading this, try at some point today to really disconnect. Have coffee with a friend and leave your cell phone in your purse. Take a walk and leave your phone at home. Make eye contact with a stranger. See what happens when you really observe your environment and take the time to notice the small things around you!
Tough times don’t last, tough people do.
This piece of advice has never been more relevant than in my current situation. The reality is that I am a part of a team that is struggling, capital S. We are still dealing with vestiges of a dramatic offseason, a ton of new players, and a coach in his first year in Division 1. And I am not going to lie: it sucks. Game in and game out, not knowing which teammates are mentally going to show up or the level of effort that players are willing to give. I am dealing with a lot of things that I have never had to deal with before, all in a language that I don’t fully understand. It has been frustrating, it has been incomprehensible, it has been infuriating. But despite the difficulties of the season, despite losing many games to opponents we are better than, despite having a higher goals-against average than I have ever had, I will not let this season defeat me. I am going to continue to play as hard as I can, help my teammates become better, and try to give our team the best opportunity to I can to win games. I am going to keep trying to better myself as a player, as a leader, and as a person. Staying positive even when it would be easier to give into the negativity. Because when it is all said and done, when the season is over, whatever the results may be, I know that I will be able to say that I gave it everything I had.
Make time for the little things.
Straightforward. Easy. Read a book, enjoy your coffee, send some snailmail. Indulge in some chocolate, call someone in your family. Laugh. It really is the best medicine!
So there you have it! A bit of soccer advice, some life lessons, wisdom from a new member of the AARP! Just kidding. But seriously, I am now closer to the age of thirty than to twenty; it just takes some getting used to!
Peace, love, and to the next 25 years,
Professional goalkeeper for ASPTT Albi in the French Division 1. Previous player at Foot Féminin Yzeure, Forfar Farmington FC (Scotland SWPL) and the Houston Aces (USA WPSL). Inquisitive adventurer uniting my first great love, football, with my passion for exploring. Proud alumna of Rice University (Go Owls!)