Today when I woke up I had to put on a show for myself. I had to look in the mirror and smile when it wasn’t that easy to smile. I had to force a bounce in my step and make sure I had a song playing in my head as much as possible. Luckily my roommate, Tori Huster, was in on it with me (without realizing it) and when we were the only two in the locker room this morning, we belted out Cher as loud as we could. We even looked up some of her dance moves and grooved our little hearts out.
I was apart of an April Fools joke that didn’t really work out. We tried to get Mark Parsons to tell Christine Nairn that no one wanted to room with her on our hotel trip. I’m pretty sure for a couple seconds Nairn truly thought no one liked her. It was enough for me to think the day was successful, though I’m not sure if many others thought it was as funny as I did. Maybe Tori did. But it kept my mind occupied.
I walked out to the field, took a deep breath and gave myself the mental pep talk that I needed. I told myself that I was the greatest ever (typical pep talk) and that everything was going to be awesome as usual.
You see, a year ago today I thought my body was playing an April Fools joke on me. I was at training, on the same field that we trained on today, chasing someone with the ball, when I stepped really awkwardly and felt my knee do something it had never done before. I got up slow, tried to shake it off and realized pretty quickly that it wasn’t something to be shaken off.
I remember walking off the field, getting ice wrapped on my knee and then driving to get an MRI. I remember people checking my knee that day with a worried look on their face that I hated seeing. I told a few people close to me that if my ACL was torn that I was done playing soccer. Then I cried. I cried so much. I was so scared that those words would be real.
It didn’t take long to realize that those words weren’t real. I was just talking to talk. To make the whole thing more dramatic than it already was. It was a stupid thing to say and I don’t know why I said it because I didn’t even believe it. I was just scared of the process and the pain.
I kept seeing myself on crutches and watching from the sideline. I saw ugly scars and film reels of me taking bad touches or giving the ball away. I saw all these visual things in my head but I couldn't envision how much I would actually miss the feeling of playing. The feeling of being on the field and creating, trying things and failing or succeeding or seeing someone else do the same knowing they are just trying to get better. It’s a feeling that knows no age, especially such an old age like 31. It knows no time or place or stress. It’s a feeling that if you’re in it, you don’t know it, and if you start to think about it, you lose it.
That’s what I’ve missed the most this past year.
Today, in training there were a couple times when my mind went blank. I went in for a tackle, made a run behind the defense, dribbled at players. I just acted on instinct and not something calculated in my head in order to keep my knee safe or to avoid contact with another player. Just pure nothingness in my head.
I don’t know where I’ve heard this before but I’ve heard the game begins the moment you forget you’re playing.
I forgot I was playing today. And it was awesome.