Imagine a world of grueling afternoons and fatigued nights. A life dedicated to 5 a.m. wake-ups. 4-hour practices. 3-hour school days. 2-hour leg days. Hours upon hours, wasted.
This, my friends, is the life of a college athlete.
While some people have the tenacity to carve these commitments into their lives, others struggle to maintain their sanity. The life of college athletics is not the shining romanticized picture that many believe it to be. It is an enormous commitment of time, effort, and energy, both physical and mental. The unrelenting stamina to power through both athletic and academic adversity is truly astonishing.
During my stretch on the baseball team I faced an abundance of unfamiliar hardship and emotion. Whether it was the stress of striking out, fear of failing a class or the ever-looming pressure for playing time, I roamed through a life in a malaise, constantly on autopilot and numbed by overexertion. This crushing force of self-enmity weighed down on my spirit and leaked into every aspect of my being. It came to the point where I was no longer coloring the pages of my life; it was erasing me.
I would be lying if I said the life is pure misery. It’s not. There are many perks to being a college athlete and playing a sport that you love. A certain romance becomes embedded in your DNA, forging a strong attachment between the two. The life pulls you in, and you let it. But there’s a certain point where that spark fades. The spirit is exhausted and shaved down to its bones.
Still, it’s tough to sever the ties with a lifestyle that has harbored so much success and exhilaration over the years. We love to play the game and experience the euphoria it provokes, but we struggle to keep it in our hearts when off the field or out of season. The obligations overwhelm and at a certain point we retire. We hang up the cleats that have clung to our feet for decades; we let ourselves color in the spaces that have been occupied for so long.
It’s an easy slip into unproductivity afterward, but you must test the field and find your own equilibrium. It could be a new commitment, organization or skill to fill the void, or it may be a life of relaxation and leisure. Whatever you choose, it must grow organically from within, to a point where you are satisfied with your station in life. Or you must change the channel.
It’s hard to let go, gazing into a silvery past and the uncertain mist of the future. But it’s time to walk a different way. One way or another, no regrets. Decide and never look back.
The coloring book of life is too momentary.