I will never forget the feeling of elation after winning the biggest game of my life. In college, there was one of these each year, and each year, the stakes were higher than the last. My freshman year it was the conference championship game, won in overtime. Sophomore and junior year, it was a tie breaking game against our conference rivals, advancing us to regionals and adding to our unbeaten regular season records. Finally, the most exhilarating game of my soccer career was at the end of my senior year.
We came back from a 2-1 lead in the last 30 minutes of the national semi-final game. If I close my eyes, I can take myself back to that moment. I’m there, in my uniform and snug cleats, watching it all unfold before me. Then, with the blow of the whistle, an all-consuming wave of euphoria broke over the 20+ of us, and we sprinted out, colliding in the middle of the field into a vibrant hive of enthusiasm and pure joy.
If you’ve never played organized sports or played sports at a high level—not to discount the value and enjoyment at all levels—there is nothing I can write to communicate this feeling of elation to you. I doubt I will ever feel it again. Of course, I’ve had many other really happy, wonderful moments and will have many more to come. As far as the specific, overwhelming feeling that accompanies great, communal accomplishments, I cannot think of anything else measuring in that magnitude. That game was the culmination of 18 years of my life and literally, 18 years of blood, sweat, and tears. Moreover, it was the combined effort of 20+ comrades with similar histories and it would not have been possible without all of us united.
Though winning the semi-final game in the national tournament was an incredible and momentous event, I find it difficult to think about at any length. I went into college soccer with certain expectations and specific dreams. I wanted to be the star goalkeeper. I wanted to make that crucial save in the lingering seconds of a significant game. Unfortunately, I did not play much, nor was I the one in goal during the 2005 NCAA Division II National Tournament. Between a shoulder injury, struggles with confidence and courage, and varying situational factors, I never rose to be the star I envisioned.
Out of this experience, however, I found something bigger: the best friends a girl could ever ask for. Friends who truly know me, who see me for me, complete with insecurities, blind spots, and blemishes. Friends who love me, care for me, and listen to me. They support me in new endeavors, encourage me in times of self-doubt, dance with me in moments of celebration, and make time for me no matter the scheduling difficulties.
I may never find that feeling again, but I’m not sure I need to. I have something so much greater than fame, greater than accomplishment, and greater than success. I have love. I have understanding. I have community.
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