Basketball: the misses and the rebounds

So my friend Karl told me to write about my basketball years. Honestly, I don’t know how and where to start. All I know is basketball is my first love.

When I was in my earlier days in high school, my self-esteem was very low. My poor eyesight couldn’t let me see clearly and I had to wear a pair of eye glasses with very thick lenses. My parents’ separation during my growing years also worsened the anxiety. I didn’t know how to groom myself. I didn’t know how to deal with this stage of my life where I have to be with bunch of people my age who are all growing with conflicting conformity and vanity, while I try to deny to myself that my family, who used to be really happy, already started to fall apart.

There was nothing noteworthy about the first year but my life turned 360 degrees when I joined the school’s basketball girls’ team later on. How I got there is a different story.

It was a struggle at first because, well, I didn’t know how to play basketball. My only asset was my height. Since the tallest in the team is already graduating in two years during that time and the team would need someone as tall as her, the coach took the risk of providing me the last slot in that year’s try-out even if I couldn’t even dribble a ball.

During the first days of training, my coach would always make me do extra work. It was awful. My body aches with strange pain. Every morning, I will wake up asking myself if I can still do it. I was struggling to stage a perfect lay-up. My hands were struggling as well as my feet. The additional drills that I have to do were also a pain in the arse.

All of this, until I have to limp through school corridors during daytime, and act like I could be the fastest runner in the world during afternoon and evening trainings just so I wouldn’t be kick out.

Shoot a ball in the basket; block and put up a perfect offense; make a helpful defense. These were all new to me. Every day, I am bathed with unfamiliar sweat.

I knew what my coach was thinking. He wanted to build me. He wanted to make me his product, something he could be proud of. Sometimes, he would look at me and tell me I could be one of his ace players. That was how he teased me. Then I fell in love with him. I fell in love with basketball and with him.

Over the years, I gained friends. I became known in school. I did crazy things with my team mates. I felt crazy things. I didn’t care about my grades. I didn’t care about anything but basketball. It was addictive. The pain it brings to me was addictive. It was dangerous. It killed some part of me. I’m no longer the shy and introvert person that I used to be. All I knew was there was a new world introduced to me and I needed to explore that.

But one day, I decided that I want to stop. I already said before that maybe, loving things also means not overdoing them. It’s true. I believe it. I didn’t want to keep on loving something until I start hating it.

It was during my fourth year in high school when I helped my best friend got in the team. Like me, she didn’t know how to play basketball. I found it hard to convince my coach about it because she lacks height too. Eventually, he let her in after I told him she could help us work out with clerical works like write letters and request to the school admin, which I did for her anyway.

My best friend is the opposite of me. She’s very jolly and so easy to get along with. Soon all my teammates became fond of her and she became fond of them too. When that happened, I was still stuck doing things for her favor. Slowly, my life is changing again. Insecurity began to scrawl inside my veins, giving me chills that are both familiar and stranger to me. She only sees me when she needs me. She was having really fun and I couldn’t help but be mad at myself for disliking the fact that she is. There are times that she would go out with my teammates without me. Everyone likes her so much that I was struggling to keep up. The effect of these changes could have been easier to bear if she was with me or if they were with me but it seemed to me that they were able to create a universe of their own and I was uninvited. It felt like my best friend stole my team from me the same way my team stole her from me. And it’s all because I want her to be happy.

I mean, what can I do in this type of circumstance? It felt like I was gradually losing the things that I built, including my relationship with my coach, teammates, and best friend. Then I started underperforming and skipping trainings. I just wanted to get over high school.

Past-forward to present

I have a friend. A few weeks ago, I faced some issues within myself concerning my friendship with this person. Somehow, she made me look at the same person I was looking at the mirror seven years ago. I hated that reflection. Anxiety is fatal. The person behind the glass was weak.

Like any person, my friend was going through a lot. At first I thought the best way to deal with it is to reach out to her then I figured to myself that she might need some space too. My care for her is genuine. I was really worried. I’ve spent practically all my years working with her always around. Two or three days without a dose of her are unusual.

Days, weeks, until I almost didn’t notice that I’ve been waiting for months. I know she was not ok but what should I do?

Then a day came when I saw her, not in person, but I saw her. I saw her smiling. In that moment, she was with her friends and this guy who I used to like so much. All the fondness vanished. The jealousy became two-way. I was being selfish again.

“He shouldn’t be there, I should be there,” I told my little brain.

The thought of being excluded is a scary thing for me. It reminds me of a lot of things. When my family fell apart, I felt I was being excluded to the society. When my best friend and teammates drifted away from me, I felt I was being forced to leave something that I worked hard for. The pain was real. I felt it deep down my soul.

But this time, I decided not to dwell on it. I’m already going through a lot sans that issue. If I’ll allow that piece of block in my life, it will just further expand the tower of my frustrations by another floor. So I told myself to just go on, think of other things, and do other things.

Focus on people who have stayed and who are willing to stay. That’s the rule. So I dribbled myself to home court. Shoot. I let it go.

Flashback again to high school, I have finally learned to let go. When I have learned to accept to myself that there are really a whole bunch of things in the world beyond my control, I let it all go. So I said I wouldn’t play anymore in college.

Basketball is indeed my first love, also my first real heartbreak. If I move on to college with a baggage like this and keep doing it, it’s like scratching real bad an open wound that’s about to dry up. After graduation, I didn’t play for a long time. I let the wounds healed up first.

The first time I played again was right after I broke up with my first boyfriend. The feeling of going back to your first love after all the crazy things in between was splendid. The hiatus and the space were all worth it. That was one hell of a good rebound!

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