The Odyssey: Blood, Sweat and Zeal

The other day I came across a post on Facebook that some page had shared. It seemed to be like any other – reminding me of the numerous pages with mindblowing(?) names like “SmOkieeZz HaHhaA” that I had ‘liked’ during the time my job according to Facebook was “noT yeT woRkiNg !! iM stiLl stUdYinG !!” (Don’t lie, I know you had that phase too. It’s okay, we all grow up). I silently thought to myself how I had to unlike those innumerable pages and unfriend the people who kept sharing their posts. But then I realized, this post was like no other. This one wasn’t about the oh-so-glorified concept of love or the even more glorified heartbreak. This one wasn’t about telling your often underestimated parents how much you loved them. This one wasn’t about siblings and how growing up with them was the best thing ever. This one wasn’t about how your friends are your asset for having stood by you through the thickest and thinnest of times. This one touched my heart. This one was different. This one made me cry.

The post had been shared by a page called “Athletic Vibes” and when I finished reading it, I found my eyes wet and a tear drop on my keyboard. I read it multiple times, each time hammering the words deeper into my heart, and I saw a ton of memories flash before my eyes – The time I first wore a jersey that bore my name on it, the time I was running temperature but threw myself out of bed to play an inter-school finals match, the time I cribbed about having to travel for 2 hours every day to my national camp, the time I played charades on the train with my teammates travelling to Calicut for the state meet, the time I helped paint the basketball court in our school, the time I first learned how to throw a javelin… the list could just go on and on. With all of this replaying in my head, I couldn’t help but realize that we didn’t know it then, but we were making memories for a lifetime.

Today when my brother comes to me and talks about how many periods he spent playing ball in school or how he’s improved his timing in the pool, or shows off a new technique he’s learnt, I try very hard not to show it but it makes me extremely jealous. With the demanding curriculum in college, it’s only once in a blue moon that I get to call myself a sportsperson, let alone be one. But then I realize, it’s not a tag that comes and goes, it’s something that stays with you even after you breathe your last. Once a sportsperson, always a sportsperson.

One of the major reasons I think the post hit me so hard (so much that it made me write this), is because I am currently recovering from an injury to my ankle – an injury caused during training, doing what I love most. Misdiagnosis and improper treatment of a nerve injury caused me to sit out of the event that I look forward to with most fervor each year. I was to take part in 4 sports and all I could do was sit on a hospital bed and read updates from the events’ official page and a number of Facebook statuses. I remember begging my parents to let me fly back to Bangalore and play because I was fine, completely fine. As healthy as healthy could get – except my lab results begged to differ. But that didn’t matter, I just wanted to play. I didn’t want to play for the certificates and medals; I didn’t want to play for the laurels or the praises. I wanted to play for the rush that ran in my veins when I stepped on court and held the ball, or stood before a target, bow in hand; the greed for the most underrated pleasure of yelling ‘C’mon!’ after sealing the game. My need for the adrenaline pushed me to step back onto court even before my injury healed completely but even when I had to stop midway and the pain left me crying in the arms of a friend, both of us knew that although I may have outward regretted my call to play, I was the happiest inside – I had felt that rush after months. The 20 minutes I spent on court that day confirmed my love for sport and made me want to dust myself off and come back stronger than ever.

Both of us authors have had our share of sports in our lives. It is where we have looked for support and inspiration and at the same time, gone through experiences, both happy and sad, but special nonetheless. We have tasted victory, swallowed defeat, rubbed many people the wrong way, and also made friends along the journey. We have even been fortunate to have been teammates and although that endeavor may have had its ups and downs, some moments have no doubt been unforgettable.

I know I may not be the best sports person out there. I may not be great. I may not be a match winner or a game changer. Sports may have been one of the numerous trades that I’ve tried a hand at. But it has easily been the reason I have wanted to push myself forward, especially through the non-conducive environment that is college. It may not have fully succeeded in making me a good human being, but has definitely taught me how to become one. It has given me hope and confidence, happiness and sorrow, awards and injuries, but most importantly, the will to be the best version of myself.

And all that said, I’ll leave you with the post itself:
“One day, you won’t be an athlete anymore. You won’t have those long bus rides with your teammates. You won’t have those bruises all over your body. You won’t have that routine you do before every game. Your teammates will become distant and your laughs will become limited. Eventually, the one thing you looked forward to will come to an end. The one thing you relied on to relieve your stress and allow you to escape from your problems won’t always be there. One day, you won’t be an athlete, you will just have the memories of one.”