Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Your Story: "More Than Meets The Eye"

This next story comes from a fighter who I know well. Not only is she an athletic fighter, but more importantly, she's a life-fighter. She mentioned it a little bit in her story, but this young woman has conquered (and still conquering) some very difficult times. She was forced to grow up too quickly, which has made her look at life through cynical, yet "all-knowing" lenses. She's had to portray such maturity and fearlessness in order to lead her younger brother and sister.

The day I met her, I knew she was special... I knew she had qualities most don't... I knew she was hiding pain... I knew there was more than met the eye.

"More Than Meets The Eye"

For a week or so now, I’ve started my story at the very least ten times. I’ve tried the metaphorical approach and the direct approach. I’ve tried going from future to past and from past to future. I’ve tried leaving my life out of it. I’ve tried focusing just on tennis. As I deleted my last attempt, I wondered why it was so difficult for me to write about. I’ve finally decided to start with why it’s hard to talk about.

It’s tough to talk about because my life isn’t how it used to be. My past self and I are two different people. So different in fact, I have a hard time relating to her. Not even different in the I-changed-on-purpose-to-better-myself kind of way. I’m different in the sense that I had to change to survive.

Childhood wasn’t easy. I didn’t get to do a lot of things normal kids do. I seldom had play dates for starters—so I seldom had friends. I played a lot of tennis tournaments, so I was gone most weekends. But even then, I didn’t do well enough in the tournaments to make a group of “tennis friends.” I went to a private school from kindergarten to fourth grade before my parents finally pulled us out and sent us to public. Being overweight and middle class wasn’t easy in a kingdom of skinny rich kids. I was socially awkward, blind to any sense of fashion, and had no idea what I wanted. All I knew is that I was not happy about going out and practicing tennis everyday after school.

The night before my first day of junior high, my parents got in a fight, and we left our house to go stay with family friends. I remember grabbing my baby sister and brother, and hiding in the closet in the last room of the house. I remember the police officers looking for us, but we stayed where we were until discovered. I remember talking to them, and looking back, thinking this was the place in my life where I can point to that changed me forever! Not for the better, not for the worse... just changed.

From then on, my new purpose in life was to keep my brother and sister together. My focus was making sure they were okay, and got what they needed. At 13 years old, my job was to talk to the mediator, to work out a living plan that encompassed all of our extra-curricular activities. I cast tennis by the way side for a while to make sure we were okay, or at least to make sure we would be okay. It didn’t seem like a tough sacrifice at the time.

Eventually, high school came and I started messing around with tennis a bit more on my own. I played on the high school team, which helped me realize again how much I really did like tennis. For so long I thought it was something being forced on me, but I realized that I really did love it too. I did pretty well in high school, but more importantly I realized my passion for it. Well, maybe I had a little help from Dayne on sticking with it and striving towards a better attitude. To say I was a brat on the court is putting it nicely.

I’m proud of who I’ve become though. Tennis is an integral part of me. There isn’t a doubt in my mind that I would be partially dead without it. I’m no longer a brat on the court (all the time anyways, I still have to physically bite my tongue sometimes). I’m playing for a Division I tennis team at UCSB, which I love—but it’s definitely a struggle. I’m independent, paying my own way through college and learning to ask for help when I need it most—which because of my independence growing up, and even still today, is the single hardest thing for me.

My story isn’t over yet. Life isn’t easy. I’m still basically a kid. I make more mistakes per week than I can count on two hands. Bills pile up faster then ants on sugar, and I will never be able to “master” my life or tennis. But I’ve learned that life will never be easy. Mistakes will never go away. If I’m lucky, I’ll still be partially a kid forever, and there will always be another bill. It’s not about making your life perfect or achieving every goal. It’s about fighting your ass off to be happy. It’s about making yourself the best person you can be. It’s about having a purpose, something that makes you want to jump out of bed in the morning.

What makes you jump?


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