[Daily Impact #47] “Reaching a breaking point…”

When I was a sophomore in college I went to go live and study in England for a year.

If you have never studied abroad, you go through a range of emotions as you adjust to a life away from family, friends, and a way of life you have ever known.

At first it is exciting.

New Country, new culture, new experiences, and so forth.

The food tastes better, the world around you is more vibrant and alive, and the women (or men) are more beautiful than any you have seen before.

But soon the sadness, isolation, and loneliness begin to set in.

Sure you are making friends, but they are not those deep friendships you cultivated and left behind, leaning on in times of need. You also begin to miss family and start to realize how important family has been to you all along, even when you were ‘too cool’ for everyone.

This is all a part of the study abroad experience, and everyone who has participated in it has experienced these feelings in some form or another and to varying degrees while they were away.

Some may call it ‘home sickness’. I disagree. It’s not so much about missing home, as it is about stepping outside a place of comfort and adjusting to it without the emotional support that you had only ever known.

When I was living abroad, I reached this point about 2 months into my year long stay.

My girlfriend back home was moving on, my friends were doing their own thing and didn’t have time for me, I was struggling with classes, and because I am an introvert by nature I was slow to form any new relationship that were deeper than surface-level acquaintances.

I was reaching a breaking point and had to do something to release these feelings and emotions building up inside of me.

This is back before any form of social media, so keeping in touch with your family, friends, and old life was a challenge. ‘Snail mail’ and over-priced phone calls were your only salvation to a world you walked away from and left behind, and it could be weeks before you received either.

I remember one grey day sitting alone on my bed in my room, staring out of the window and thinking to myself, “I need to hit someone”.

Now I don’t mean ‘hit someone’ in the get in a fight sort of way. I have never been that kind of person. I’m talking about sports. Sports have always been a form of emotional release for me, so when I wanted to ‘hit someone’, it was in an athletic sort of way.

I decided I needed to find some athletic endeavor to immerse myself in to, so I got on the bus and headed to campus to see what options I had.

As luck would have it, the University’s Rugby Club was practicing that day and all were invited.

Perfect.

After I went to the store to purchase some basic supplies so I would still be able to have kids and my teeth later in life, I headed to the pitch to begin my first Rugby practice.

The night was perfect, it was misty with a slight chill in the air. Everything was wet and slightly muddy, the perfect ingredients for blowing off some steam.

After warm-ups and introductions, we formed circles for tackling drills. It was like the coach was reading my mind and giving me exactly what I needed.

In this tackling drill, it was like a modified game of ‘Duck, Duck, Grey Duck’. We were all down on one knee in a circle, facing inward. A person would run around the outside of the circle and when your name was called you were supposed to reach out and arm tackle the person. This was a drill that was basic to anyone who played Rugby and the persons on the pitch most likely had been doing this drill since primary school.

One problem though, this was not the kind of tackling I was ever taught. No one took the time to pull me aside and instruct me on how to arm tackle a person. It was just assumed I knew what to do.

My only experience tackling anyone was my few years I played football from 7th through 9th grade. I was not a big tough football player by any means, as my 5’6”, 130 pound frame showed. I quit after my freshman year of high school, but seeing as how I I played since 7th grade, I had a few years of tackling drills under my belt.

When my name was called I watched that person running around the circle towards me and did the only thing I knew how to do, the one thing that came natural to me. I pivoted, popped up and buried my shoulder ‘into the numbers’.

It felt oh so good. Exactly the release I needed that day.

Unfortunately, others did not share in my joy. Whistles blew as my opponent went flying on to his back, mouth guard landing somewhere in the mud further away.

The coach pulled me up, yelling at me about how this is a ‘gentleman’s game’ and if I want to be a hooligan to can head over to the football (soccer) pitch.

I was confused since a hit like that would normally have got me high fives and a slap on the butt, but not in jolly ol England. Apparently I still had a lot to learn about this new culture, but damn did I feel a little bit better than I did 5 minutes prior.

To this day, contact sports remain my outlet for releasing any stress and anxiety that build up inside of me.

Hockey, specifically goaltending, has replaced Rugby as my outlet of choice, but the release is still the same.

Whether it be a shoulder or a puck, sometimes a good hard hit is all that is needed to release the tension that has crescendoed into a breaking point in order to make everything right in the world again.
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