An open letter to the sport I loved –
I’ve been through toxic relationships with you, uncovered, transmuted and transformed inadequacies + insecurities with you, been through broken friendships, chaos, inner + outer turmoil and faced my fears with you. You’re not my life partner, but you were an intermittent soulmate.
Four years old with a little snapback on a tike’s hoop, 9 years old playing rec ball. Getting the taste of triumph, failure, making + keeping self-promises; gaining unshakable confidence. Learning people; what makes them tick; social constructs; bonds, behaviors, agreements, understanding the core needs that drive us.
You were a gracious teacher for 17 years in a school all my own.
It was a season; unlike spring, summer, fall or winter – uninterrupted, projecting a vail of complacency over a life not yet truly lived.
Over time, I stopped loving you; self-sabotaged to elude you; learned to live without you; said goodbye to you; rose from the ashes beyond you.
For the first time in a decade, I can pick up the memory of you without thoughts of regret, self-depreciation, condemnation, guilt, fear, resentment or anguish – but instead rise in wholeness, oneness and continuity with grace; back in the spirit of four-year-old Laura, snapback-living holding her first basketball.
I had been dying to find out the meaning of what once never was. But now it’s clear; transformation. Letting go with love, lightness, ease + excitement.
Suddenly, a new feeling; I don’t need you anymore. I don’t cling to you the way I once did. Shedding shadows of you like layered clothing in excess. Able to feel the swift tranquil breeze of the wind on my skin. I am.
A divine gift – I get to know me, true.
My spirit without veils, stripped bare from ego, identity or physical form. Forever learning, forever rising. A wistful, post-dream-state awakening. There are unwritten days that have yet to come, moments of magic in the midst waiting to cast enchantments on willing instances.
Towards the end of an era, I gazed through a mirror of clarity – a reflection of familiar eyes belonging to my soul’s heart. I saw the girl who existed before ever picking up a basketball – she mattered.
And she deserved to dream, too.
My relationship with this sport isn’t something I’ve ever discussed publicly. It was an internal battle that I faced alone; mostly unaware of it until the mask of anxiety was unveiled, shouting ‘Hey, wtf, deal with this.’ I was a little ashamed, self-critical and facing a serious shift in identity. When I chose to move on from the sport, I felt like part of me had died – like I didn’t know who I was. Basketball wasn’t something I did, it had defined who I was as a person. I drifted.
There were times in my career when I was the stuff of nightmares; the teammate from hell, overly competitive, ego-driven, neglectful, self-absorbed, a sub-par communicator. But I learned in time. I learned through chaos and hard lessons how to lead, to achieve, to listen, to communicate effectively, to understand, to judge less and accept more – not just on the court, but in life. It took time. To learn who I wanted to be; who I didn’t want to be. There is always more to learn; the process never-ending.
I made peace with components of stories I didn’t want to accept or acknowledge; things I endured blindly at the expense of dream achievement; bullies, abusive coaches, toxic team dynamics, underhanded social power play, episodes of severe performance anxiety. Even the acceptance of my own faults as a teammate, player and person.
There were moments when I lost sight of the humanity in the sport; forgetting how to just enjoy people, form friendships, loosen up, joke around, have f*cking fun; not always have to compete or watch my back.
None of those things will ever be an excuse for why I chose different life for myself. These experiences shaped me, molded me into the person I’ve become and I wouldn’t change a thing.
I learned the law of GOYA (get off your ass) hella early in life. I put in the time and it took me all the way to college; showing me that any dream is within reach – if you just do the work. My days were saturated with individual shooting & drill practice 2-3 hrs a day, rain or shine; personal training sessions 2-3 times a week; double header weekends + 3 hr long practices 1-2 hrs away.
I gave it everything I had, vocalizing + establishing my intentional dreams to the people who loved me most (my family). They stood by me, encouraged me, supported me endlessly and made sacrifices above + beyond to match my determination in helping me reach my goals. I learned what it takes to get sh*t done. How to achieve. How to dream bigger.
Focus, persistence, determination, affirmations, confidence – were all taught to me by my first love; a game I embraced whole heartedly.
I take full responsibility for the person I was then, am now and will become in the future. In a cathartic sense, I understand now more than ever that people are always doing the best they can – with the current set of beliefs, rules and habits that they have in place for their life at the time.
When I see situations and scenarios from this stance, its easier to see that all of us are operating from a place of trying to meet our core needs; significance, connection, love, growth. I’m less likely to judge others, less likely to judge myself and more apt to forgive.
For anyone going through a shift, know this:
1. What you do isn’t who you are; there’s a world of difference.
2. You can be, do and have anything you want if you do the work; transformation baby
3. The [you] you were before you did [your thing]? That person matters. That person is more than enough. Give that person the chance to astound.
The reason I write this, is because I am certain that the stories we resist telling, the ones we’d rather forget + start over from, are the ones worth sharing. Those stories carry lessons and their weight in wisdom. As I reflect on mine, I’ve uncovered that the world is so much bigger than any singular passion, any one dream, any solitary vision. You have within you this infinite resource of qualities, skills, abilities and gifts just waiting to be shared with the world.
The key is to observe the stories you’ve been telling yourself; release the constraints you’ve placed on your spirit – the ones that say ‘you’re not good at that’ or ‘you could never do that because..’ accepting that there is much more for you in this life than one single path. You can transform or reinvent yourself anew however + whenever you choose.
Cease playing small with the gifts you’ve been given; we are all always given more than just one. Unconditionally embrace your spirit as is; without the wrappings of traditional self-valuation. There is no one you have to be, nothing you have to do, and you would still be – at the very essence of your core and root of your truth – whole, perfect, complete and divine as you are now. In this moment.
Right this very second, as you are reading these words, you are enough.
If there is one solitary truth I could share from my experience with basketball and journey towards dream achievement, it would be this:
Meet yourself, darling. Your true self. And then dream because it’s fun.