Having played soccer my entire life, my decision to play football in my senior year was rather bold. It came after several months of hard thought, and recognizing the fact that my teammates on the soccer team were not people I liked. So, I hung up my soccer spikes and put on a helmet and shoulder pads. The day before summer practice started, my father asked whether I was scared, to which I replied, "How can I be scared of something I don't know." Having uttered that remark, I realized that I am not afraid of the unknown, something that has not always been true.
When I was ten, I received news that my father had been transferred, and my family and I were moving to London, England. This was big. I was a small-town kid from suburban New Jersey who barely knew where London was. I did not take kindly to the fact that I would be leaving the only place I had ever known as home. Much to my chagrin, we moved to London the summer before I started fifth grade. A five-year journey began with a frightened kid in an airport who was, reluctantly, the last person to board the plane leading to the unknown.
I spent most of my formative years in London, living in the world my friends in New Jersey only read about in textbooks. At the time, however, I viewed my experience as one might view being shipwrecked on a desert island: far away from home, unwilling to adapt to my surroundings. For my first four years in London, I was so busy concentrating on how much I hated where I lived that I did not realize what I was experiencing. I had traveled more than most adults I knew, and learned more about life than during any other period. These five years opened my eyes to the reality that the world was bigger than merely that which I knew, and somehow I must learn to adapt to my changing surroundings.
After four years in London, I had changed. I had gone into the unknown and everything was okay. Five months into my fifth year, we received news that our time abroad was over, and my family would be returning to New Jersey at the end of my first semester of high school. This led to mixed emotions, even though I had wanted nothing more than to move home for the previous several years, now I had begun appreciating my situation. (Never wish for something, you just might get it.) Moving day came, as it had almost five years earlier. Guess who was the last person to board the plane? Only this time, I was not afraid of the uncharted waters that lay ahead, and I knew that I would never again be afraid of the unknown.
I will never forget my first day of football practice. I came home and was greeted by my mother. Seeing her I said, simply, "I must be out of my mind," and walked away. The truth is, I knew in my heart that I was not out of my mind. Deciding to play football was, in effect, agreeing to step away from that which I had always known, and experience something I had never done before. -
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.