Friday, September 23, 2016

A Love Letter to Rugby




There are moments, moments everyone has experienced, that end up making a huge impact on our lives. It's not something we can usually understand as being life-changing; more often we look back at a specific decision and realize the consequences that came from it later on. Well this is my moment of looking back. Enjoy.

Last year when I arrived in Tucson, ready to meet my new roommates and enjoy the semester before I studied abroad, I was not in the best place emotion-wise. The combination of losing a group of friends, finding out my roommates weren't the kind of girls I could mesh with, and the realization I'd gone through three years of college without joining any clubs in a real way led to what I'm describing as a funk of day to day unhappiness. It really chipped away at me to be surrounded by people who didn't care enough to invite me out and who gave my invitations a half-hearted "maybe next time". Not the most fun of times.

And it was because of those shitty feelings I found myself wandering around the university's club fair, stopping at a booth labeled U of A Women's Rugby. Here's how that conversation went:

"Hey! You should play rugby!
"Okay!"

With that kind of salesmanship how could I resist? Two weeks later I found myself on the pitch for my first ever practice of a sport that literally saved me from what can only be described as crushing loneliness. I became a part of this amazing group of ladies who are tough and loving and loyal. They're some of the best friends I've made here. And those are just the people. The sport itself gave me this kind of unshakable confidence that comes when you know you have the ability to literally bash through obstacles. 

Rugby is hard. This is a full contact sport with no pads. Each game lasts for 80 minutes of continuous play. There's no pausing for a breath after each tackle, no stopping the clock unless a timeout is called. No one starts out the season in good enough shape to do all this, but you have to get there as quickly as you can. All of this sounds intimidating, but in that first practice I knew I'd made the right decision because I felt happier and more accomplished sucking in air after conditioning than I had in months. I didn't realize how much I missed being a part of something until I filled that hole in my chest. Rugby started me down a great path of trying new things, getting a new job that I still have and love, and reconnecting with people I was worried were out of my life for good. 

Now that I'm back in Tucson I've been faced with quite a bit of guilt over this sport. I've explained all the ways it helped me when I had nowhere else to turn, but this year is different. I actually have things going on in my life. I have roommates who I care about and enjoy being around. I have my writing, drawing, and blogging. I'm working more hours and taking more credits. When rugby was the one thing keeping me from falling over the edge it was easy to devote my life to it, but I'm in a much better headspace now and that makes it difficult to put in that same level of commitment. I needed to reevaluate my position.

What that came down to is a question to myself; is losing out on other areas of my life worth my all or nothing mindset when it comes to the sports I play? I used to be able to fully commit myself to my teams in high school because the system was designed to work around that ideology and support me. I had parents to pay for everything and give me rides, teachers who would extend due dates, and it was all paid for by boosters. That kind of attitude doesn't work in a world with multiple high priorities of the (semi) real world. All or nothing doesn't apply to my life anymore, and I'm kind of okay with that. Getting rid of that mindset is what helped me maintain this blog so far into the school year and I think I should start applying it to other areas of my life. Basically, the answer to my question is no. It's not worth it. I need to be okay with devoting as much time as I need to rugby, but also to other areas in my life. There's nothing wrong with taking a day off every once in a while. The world won't end if I skip practice because I'm not feeling well. I can still call myself a player of one of the greatest sports ever thought up while eating an unhealthy meal. With this mentality I'll never be the best player on the pitch, but I will be able to continue playing and improving my skills while having a ridiculous amount of fun.

I hope when I look back at the decisions I make I can take pride in who I become. Rugby already changed my life for the better (see below, a picture of us playing tug o' war in the mud, definitely something I wouldn't have been able to do without this beautiful sport), and here's to hoping the streak continues.

End of sappy post.
-E.B