What it Feels Like to be lost and found

Desirae Wittig-Gildea // As Told to by Chloe Barbarise

As soon as I stepped onto the chalked-up field, it felt like my safe place. The dirt particles got stuck in my cleats, and the wind blew the dust over my clothes. Although it was messy, it was my second home. When I was there, I was extremely comfortable and never showed signs of nervousness. For a long time, it was always like this. There were not any worries on my mind, but as I grew older and experienced different coaching, things took a turn for the undeniable worst.

At age 10, a coach came up to me and asked if I would play for their travel softball team instead of staying on an in-house team for another year. Right at that moment, everything felt different. Someone saw potential in me that I didn’t even notice. It made me realize that this was my thing; softball was my sport. From that day on, I wore my uniform sharper and worked harder than I ever had before. I met the people who impacted my life.

I wish I could say there was a family-like atmosphere among us, but there was not. We appeared to be one big happy family on the outside because of our shared laughs along with our championships. However, the inside was different. We all got along, but there was this feeling of separation between us. It almost felt like we were different puzzle pieces that did not fit together. The coach threw us together, expecting that we would find our way to each other, but other pieces blocked our way. It was inescapable, and my worst nightmare was coming true: I was losing my source of happiness.

Like many teams, mine also had its fair share of conflicts, mainly in the range of drama and gossip. There was always a single individual that started drama, and this time it revolved aimfully at me. The situation got entirely out of control and led to me feeling a sense of loneliness.

I was the outcast on the team, even off the field. In the dugout, I would sit on the bench, separated from the others, and would kick the dirt instead of talking to my friends, or at least that is what they said they were. The slow progression of my downfall began.

As the season moved along, I began to argue with my coach more often and started to feel like everything I did had to be perfect. I did not enjoy it anymore. I once looked forward to game days and putting in all the work to prepare, but I soon found it exhausting.

I remember the last game before I quit. I was catching, and my coach and I had been arguing from the dugout. Instead of focusing on the game, the only thing I could focus on was the sound of his voice. It pounded in my head, and I could not shake it. He kept nagging and pushing me the entire game, so I chose to stand up for myself.

Those last couple of tournaments at the end of the season solidified my decision. Once my teammates told me they were finding a new team, I decided I would take a break instead of starting over.

I quit. I chose to run away. I lost my sport; I lost myself.

Believe me, I knew in the back of my mind I was running away from change. I had never been good with change, and starting over in a new direction was not something that made me feel safe.

After I quit, voices from the past told me I was making the wrong decision, and I was too good to walk away. When they told me that, confusion washed over me because no one had treated me that way before. No one realized that the sport took an extensive toll on my mental health. There was too much pressure upon my shoulders, and it felt more like a job than a hobby.

The years after I quit were long and drawn out but gave me the idea of playing again. A part of my quitting had to do with the fact that I was scared to start over with a new team. I was terrified of being rejected by a team and thinking I was not good enough, but it was time for me to start over and put in the work. Luckily, my friends told me how understanding their coach was and how he would love to have me. That same coach, who is now my current coach, also saw me play before, so he was quite aware of my potential.

There was not an exact moment in time when I knew I did not love the sport anymore because, in reality, I never lost love for the game entirely. The atmosphere around me did not feel right, but now I have regained that love. This team took me underneath their wing and made me feel like I never quit in the first place. I found my forever home.

If you or anyone else believes that they want to quit, it is okay if that is what you truly want; a break is okay if that is what you need. Other people should not affect your opinion on what is best for you, and it is never too late to change your mind and play again.

I started as a Bordertown Bandit in a bright pink uniform, and now I am a Mchenry Elite Warrior who fought her way through the endless amount of obstacles. The path I stumbled upon certainly was not the easiest. As an individual, though, it shaped me into the person I am today. I was lost at the beginning, stuck all the way down in the corner of a box. Years passed, and I did not know if I was capable of making it out. Thankfully, my current teammates found me and pulled me out before I could fall beneath the surface. Then, I found myself. And that is all I could ever want.