Last time I wrote, I was drowning in work. That was my life until today. Today, it all came to a much-welcomed standstill. When that happened, I spent about an hour organizing the piles of paper that had built up on my desk, I made my to-do list for tomorrow, and I came home. When we’re buried, we are buried. When I can pause, I pause. And today, I got to pause. Finally.
I’ve had this weird gratitude about my work lately, even through the frenzy. The work that sometimes causes me so much stress also provides for me. It’s the reason I get to live where I live. It’s the reason I get to do triathlons. It’s the reason I get to volunteer my time in my community. It’s the reason I get to randomly travel with my niece. Sometimes I hate it, but mostly I am utterly grateful for it.
I’m utterly grateful for a lot these days.
This weekend, I had the privilege of going to Corpus, where I grew up, and spending time with some people from my youth tennis days. Some of them live in Austin, so I get to see them with some regularity. Others, I had not seen since we were kids. And seeing them, being on the court with them, was far and away my favorite part of the weekend. When I got to see who one of my crushes had become, I had another experience of patting myself on the back for choosing my childhood friends so well.
I also had the experience of seeing that I’d missed out on some people because I’d been a timid kid. For years, I grew up playing tennis around these kids. In some cases, we even practiced in the same circles and played many of the same tournaments. But I could not call them all friends because I had been too shy to build friendships except with those who initiated friendships with me. That was a sad reality I came to this weekend. It made me wish I had been a bolder kid.
But oh how I enjoyed being on the court and among people who shared some part of that experience with me.
I don’t often talk about my tennis days because they seem so distant. Tennis, for me, is full of joy and also full of regret. I grew up thinking I would play college tennis and maybe even try to play professionally at some point. But then I had a bad year, and I went off to boarding school and doing that meant effectively leaving tennis. Where I went, tennis was not a year round sport. I gave up the ability to play for hours a day, both before and after school. I gave up the ability to travel for tournaments and maintain and even improve my state and national rankings. I basically gave up tennis as I had known it.
At the time, that change seemed like exactly what I had to do for myself. And don’t get me wrong – my boarding school experience was wonderful. It had its challenges, but it remains one of the best decisions of my life. But that decision cost me tennis. College tennis, anyway. That’s certainly been a regret.
I realized this weekend that tennis is still an option for me. After we played, we all had dinner together. And after dinner, my former coach – the one who organized the whole thing – sat across from me, looked me in the eye, and told me that I looked good out on the court. I did? Really? I knew I’d had fun, but was I any good? I wasn’t sure. And then he told me that my strokes were still there, and he encouraged me to play.
I thought about that on my drive home. Could I play? Could I be really good at it again? Do I want to try? I thought about all the reasons not to try. It’s a challenge to coordinate schedules with other people and find places to play. It can be expensive to join a club. It is weather dependent in a way that triathlon isn’t. I’m getting back to racing triathlons next year, and trying to do tennis too would be too much. And what if I’m just a good hitter but terrible at match play? What if I don’t have the head for the game anymore?
All of those things ran through my head. And then I thought about how much I had loved being on the court again, being in a tennis community again, running around and feeling my heart pound again. And I told myself that I could do it, if I want it badly enough. And for the first time since I left Texas tennis at the age of sixteen, I think I want it badly enough.
Back to my gratitudes, the reality of my job is that I can afford to play tennis here and there during business hours if that’s the opportunity I can find. The reality of my life is that I have the access to courts, and I know people who play, and I have time if I’m willing to do some coordinating and maybe drive across town every now and again. I don’t need a ton of equipment or new clothes or anything. I just need to reach out to people, show up and play. And I can. The life I have allows me to do that.
So I feel like I went home to Corpus and found a part of myself again – a part I thought was lost. I didn’t expect that this weekend. As the weekend approached, I thought about canceling the trip altogether because work had been so overwhelming. But I had tried to rally some friends to attend, so I did not feel like I could bail on the gathering. Had I not done that, I probably would have bailed. I feel like the universe conspired to get me where I needed to be, to show me something that is available to me, and to break my heart open in the best of ways.
I’m so grateful. For all of it.