Everyone says that graduating high school is bittersweet; sweet because it means that we’ve survived high school, but bitter because, after the excitement of prom and graduation parties, the life that we’ve known for so long drastically changes as we go off to our various colleges. Among the bitterness, there lies a goodbye that may be one of the hardest to say, the one you say to your sport.
From a young age, we are taught about the experimental design process in science class. There are independent variables that change from trial to trial and there is a control variable that remains the same throughout the entire experiment. As we grow up, we have our independent variables such as boyfriends and girlfriends. Our acquaintances become our best friends and vice versa. Our hairstyles, fashion interests and tastes in music change faster than we can hit the bottom of a pint of Ben and Jerry’s Half-Baked Ice-cream. But in this experiment that we call our childhood, we also have a control: our sport. We’re introduced at a young age and stick with it throughout our childhood because it’s our first love. In midst of the countless independent variables, us athletes will always have to carve out a couple hours each day to attend practices. Practices allow us to take a break from daily changes. Yes, we may moan and groan about the intense training that we are forced into at these practices, but the time spent at practice is also like a splash of cold water to the face on a hot day. We get to spend time with our team, which usually involves sharing the latest gossip. We can build upon our passion. Most importantly, with this break we are able to reflect on how the independent variables have affected us. In this experiment, the dependent variable is happiness.
I swim. With swimming, you tend to spend a lot of time thinking because your body has gotten so used to the motions that you actually can do the laps with your eyes closed. Cross country, cycling, and track tend to be the same way. As the thoughts ramble on, we begin to gauge how happy certain independent variables make us. Even with contact sports, practice is a time to get away. This away time allows these athletes to go back into their routine with a fresh mind. A fresh mind produces clear thoughts that again allow the athlete to take note of how happy they truly are with the independent variables in their life.
The control is overlooked throughout the entire scientific experiment. Boxes are left blank as data becomes collected. The same thing happens with our childhood experiment. Until we play our last game or swim our last meet, we never come to terms with how much we truly love, want, need, “all of the above” our sport. Whether we aren't able to play in college because we aren’t good enough, or because our college doesn’t offer a team, this realization is one that makes us choke up. Not in an “Oh my gosh! I just graduated!” cheerful kind of choked up, but in an “Oh my gosh. I can’t function without playing.” panicked kind of choked up. How am I going to let off steam? Will I get fat? Crap, I have to stop eating crap! How am I going to make friends without a team? It’s a sudden sense of worry like when you hear about an injured family member. The worry lingers and nags. But it’s okay to be worried. It’s natural. You’re saying goodbye to the only unwavering part of your life. Who knows what college life will bring. We’ve been given a whole new experiment with unknown independent variables. Worst yet, we have to re-find a control, re-adjust our lives, and re-kindle a passion. It’s okay to worry, but it’s also okay to take a deep breath because the dependent variable of happiness remains the same as you go through this series of experiments called life. It’s easy! All you have to do pin-point what makes you happy and you can catch whatever curveball life throws at you.
Lead Image Credit: Tiffany Powell