Many people fondly remember the sports they played during their childhood. For me, my childhood consisted solely of memories of softball. I started playing softball in second grade. For the following 15 years, my brain only worried about school and softball. The momentary highs of playing felt like they’d last forever, but the lows stood consistently worse and lasted even longer. The joy from competition and success, invalidated by one error, no matter how insignificant.
When I got a job during my junior year of high school, I found myself with less time for everything. Work, AP classes, the SAT, the ACT, college visits and what I wanted to major in consumed me, leaving me with little time to practice. So, my skills didn’t improve and my confidence depleted. I ran myself into the ground trying to juggle it all with no time to recharge. I couldn’t escape the feelings of mental and physical exhaustion and failure. In my final years of high school, I realized that the sport I loved all my life didn’t make me happy anymore. I decided not to continue my softball career in college.
The summer before college gave me a sense of relief. The pressure and fear of the consequences of my athletic imperfections no longer buried me. Yet, after a month of freedom, I started to feel lost. The responsibility of a team no longer took up space in my brain. I didn’t need to adhere to a rigorous routine of workouts, practice and tournaments. Nothing forced me to participate in activities. I didn’t see my teammates, my only friends, at practice every day anymore. When I stopped playing softball, I lost myself.
My first week on campus, my only “friends” included my roommate, her boyfriend and their friends. I knew them all from high school but besides my roommate, I didn’t associate with them. I didn’t want that to change now, I couldn’t survive high school 2.0. I chose to resort to a hermit lifestyle until I made some new friends. I thought for the rest of my college career I would strictly go to class and do schoolwork, but I wanted more. I craved the full college experiences.
During syllabus week, one of my old high school teammates, who went to The University of Missouri, called me to catch up. She excitedly shared news of a quidditch team at her college and I couldn’t believe a sport like that existed. The Harry Potter sport? How does that work? We can’t fly. After hours of hyper-focused research, I found the University of Iowa Quidditch Club. I made a plan with my roommate to go to the university’s club fair to learn more about it. On the second floor, tucked in the far corner stood the quidditch booth. I took a deep breath and walked up. I tried wrapping my head around a new game and its unfamiliar rules, but the new information immediately overwhelmed me.
Later that night, I got a mass email from the Iowa Quidditch Club, sent to every freshman on campus, informing me that their new member meeting took place this week. Fueled by curiosity and the possibility to relive my life as a member of a team, I made up my mind; I’m going to join quidditch.
The pretty sad attendance of the new member meeting consisted of seven attendees: four newbies, like me, and three team members excited somebody actually showed up. The small room they booked for the club meeting made it obvious that they expected low numbers. They presented the same speech they gave at the club fair and the second time around bettered my retention. Then, finally, they announced their first practice for the following week.
Unfortunately, the first practice later got moved from outside to indoors because of the rain. This may sound like no big deal, but in a crowded gym, everyone would stare. I felt nervous: alone, not knowing anyone there, a freshman and the definitive of getting lost. Still, I forced myself to go. When I got there, I joined the other new members. We all stood there, awkwardly in silence. Thankfully, the current players broke the awkward silence with their excitement. As newbies, we felt an overwhelming sense of confusion, but we still got thrown into the scrimmage. The only way to describe that first practice: ugly chaos. Nothing about it reminded me of softball, but the nostalgic sounds of teammates yelling surrounded me. I missed everyone working together for the shared goal of winning. I missed finding the energy to laugh at each other from how exhausted we looked after a hard practice. I missed feeling part of a second family, a family of misfits.
Though I lost myself dropping softball, I’m not ashamed of making a decision that helped me find solace during the transition to college. I needed to fill the void with something constant and familiar while facing the new challenges that college can provide. Belonging to a team again helped me rediscover myself. Now during those dreaded classroom icebreakers, I hold the perfect fun fact: I play quidditch.