I can almost smell it in the air. If I close my eyes and take in the fall breeze, I can smell the soccer field– the new turf, the sweat on my forehead, and my disgusting goalie gloves. I can hear the sound of 20 high school girls walking to the field from the locker room, cleats against asphalt, recounting days filled with tests, lectures, and drama. I can feel the turf underneath my cleats as we warm up, between my fingers during team huddles, and everywhere else on my body once I’ve taken a few spills.
Throughout high school, the crisp air has signaled the coming school soccer season. The air is getting colder in Santa Cruz, but this fall for the first time since I was a toddler, I am not in school, and my cleats have been retired for almost a year.
It seems fairly obvious, but the structure of the school year has always provided a way to navigate my life and understand what to do next. But settling into this new season without school has been, well, unsettling.
When people ask what I’m up to these days, I don’t have much to tell them. I’ve gone on a few trips so far to England, Colombia, the East Coast, and Seattle. Those have been incredible, and I’ll have to write a post about my travels at some point. But in between traveling (and I don’t have anything planned until March), I work full time at a job that I love, and I go to therapy every other week. That’s about it for now. At first, that bothered me. I wanted to be able to tell people that I was on some grand adventure, conquering the world and finding myself somewhere along the way! But this break from school originally came about because I desperately needed a break from achieving and from searching for my worth in affirmation and success. And based on how uncomfortable of a transition it has been from having every minute of my day budgeted to having most of my day open, it’s clear that I needed this.
The discomfort of this year has stemmed not only from having more free time, but also from the work I’ve been doing in therapy to uncover more of who I am and the ways I have learned to deal with my surroundings, for better or for worse. I am learning how to be a healthy human being, and it turns out, it’s hard work. Sometimes it feels like I’m stuck in this year, and I have nothing better to do than show up and dive into the hard work of being a human. But that’s a rare feeling. Most times, I am so grateful that I decided to take this gap year, especially when I think about who I was a year ago.
I don’t recognize that striving, exhausted, lonely girl from a year ago. But if I saw her, I’d just want to give her a big hug, look her straight in the eyes, and tell her she is worth more than she could ever imagine.
I thought I’d share a poem I wrote a bit ago on a drive I took up the coast. It sums up a lot of the ways that I’ve grown since graduating much better than any other description I could have given:
Just drive and don’t think.
Yet all I do as I drive
About the girl I once was,
How she couldn’t have known;
About the girl she’d become,
About the ways she could grow.
I think about the strength she’s discovered
In learning to break;
About the fear she uncovered,
Of what she thought was at stake.
She’s alive, and she’s free!
She has joy and strength and peace.
She is trusting the process.
She has no one to please.
The road has never more narrowed,
The path never more unclear;
Yet her Father who loves her
Has drawn ever more near.