My junior year at Harding, I faced a lot of trials. I was broken from the ending of several relationships. On top of that, I was overwhelmed with trying to balance my job and academics. I felt like I was drowning.
Tennis has always been an outlet for me to deal with my emotions. It is a way to just forget about other things that might be happening in my personal life and go out and hit. It is easy for me to focus on practice or matches rather than real life problems that bog me down when I leave the court. Sports are an easy way to escape reality, but when you become dependent on something and link your identity to it, things get complicated.
It took me until last year to realize that I was basing my happiness on how successful I was at the task at hand. I was doing this in all aspects of my life, but primarily on the tennis court.
It had escalated to the point where, if I did not do as well as I anticipated, I felt like an outright failure. If one aspect of my life was not working out, at least I had tennis.
I am not sure exactly how or why this happened, and I do not know if I will ever know, but I started to hate it. I could not bring myself to step on the court without feeling a sense of discouragement, sadness and anger. A few days consisted of breakdowns and crying where teammates had to ask if I was alright.
Maybe these were just pent-up emotions I had never known about. But losing the love of something that had become a part of my identity for nearly 10 years was one of the most terrifying things I have ever gone through.
Having to find the joy again was one of the biggest challenges I have ever faced. It took me a few weeks to want to come to practice, let alone play matches. I kept telling myself to fake it until I made it.
We are not always meant to know why things happen. But sometimes when everything is going wrong, there is only one thing we want to know: Why?
I do not know if you personally struggle with a mental health issue. But I want to encourage you that you are never alone. Especially at Harding, I have found true friendships.
What came out of all this misery was something incredible. The love and support from my teammates was all consuming. They made me feel comfort when I did not think that was possible. They taught me how to love the game again.
To find the joy, you have to step back and really think about why you started playing in the first place. What made you fall in love in the first place?
I fell in love with tennis because it gave me an outlet where my individuality could shine. As an only child, I have learned to love doing things by myself. That is one of my favorite aspects about tennis- I am individually in control.
I want to say that it is alright to lose the love. There will come a point in your life when the thing you love most will disappoint you or you will lose the joy in it. Nothing is permanent in this life, and it is important to remember that.
Athletes, in all aspects of life, have dealt with this. People get burnt out all the time. Even professionals have off days or question their purpose.
The point of this is to lift you up. It can be a scary and lonely time losing love for something.
However, if it is truly meant to be, that love will come back one day. Until it does, lean on your teammates, friends and family. When the love returns, that will be the best feeling in the world: stepping back on your court and living out your passion.