I'm nervous for women's basketball season to begin. Yes, I'm nervous because I'm always nervous before a season starts. Our team has an outstanding, nationally-ranked freshman class coming in, most of its scoring is returning, four of its five starters will come back...*Insert other SID notes here*
But I'm also nervous because since the season has ended, I've developed this perfectly crafted work-life balance for myself. I weight train a few times a week (I've hit loads of personal bests in the last few months), I leave work as close to 5 p.m. as I can, and I generally enjoy living in America's Finest City. But it hasn't always been like this.
For readers who don't know, my boyfriend, Andy, is in the Marine Corps and was deployed for literally all of the 2016-17 season. He left two days after the season opener. I'm not going to lie: I was a mess. When I dropped him off at 5 a.m. that Sunday morning, with the fog still settled over Camp Pendleton, I had to pull over on base to sob. Yep, I was that person.
Eventually, Andy and I settled into a routine: nightly emails, quick texts when he had service, photos when we had the ability to send them and, when we got really lucky, video chats in hotel rooms. Cards were mailed every so often, postmarked from one Asian country or another, and care packages were sent across oceans.
Meanwhile, I was writing game notes and recaps from desks in hotel rooms in Wyoming and Albuquerque and Utah and was flailing. I've always suffered from anxiety and the stress of traveling so much, dealing with the deployment and learning the ropes in my first year of a revenue sport made me a downright mess. What do you do when you feel like the world is collapsing in on you, when you feel like everything is out of control on the inside but on the outside, you're maintaining a carefully constructed veneer? Luckily, with his deployment winding down, I saw that light at the end of the tunnel and held on so tightly, I got callouses.
A week after the season ended, I drove with a few friends to Santa Barbara for a weekend away. The trip reminded me that I cannot be defined by my labels. Yes, I am a women's basketball SID. Yes, I am the proud girlfriend of a Marine Corps pilot. But I'm also a human being. All along, it was okay for me to be sad because the person I loved was so far away for so long. It was okay for me to feel stressed because I was a first-year women's basketball SID, traveling for four months straight. But it wasn't okay to constantly tell myself that my emotions weren't valid, that I was weak because I was struggling. If anything, I was stronger because I had ridden in the rapids and come out on the other side with a few bruised knees but was otherwise still intact.
This season will be different. I know the ropes. I've already written those recaps and game notes in Wyoming and Albuquerque and Utah. The bruises on my knees have long since faded. Andy won't be deployed and when I return from a road trip, I'll return to the house we share with our pets and he'll be there.
However, I'm still nervous because during the offseason, I haven't let those labels define me. I feel like I've mastered the art of work-life balance. But what if, when I'm in one city or the other, I can't maintain that balance? What if I struggle and I find myself, once again, sobbing in my car? Do I have the tools to give myself the pep talk and say, "you are strong and powerful and, dagnabbit, you got this"?
I think I do. And I'm sure as heck ready to believe in myself.