While lazing around the house last Thursday in a turkey induced food coma, I was letting my mind wander and reflect back to the past times in my life that I normally try to keep myself from thinking of. During all the recollecting of my past memories I came to the dramatic realization: Volleyball saved my life. It wasn’t until 6th grade that I discovered volleyball. My team bonded quickly, easily becoming close friends over the next couple of years as we learned the basics of the sport and perfected our skill in eager preparation for our first year of high school.
Freshman year finally arrived, meaning we could finally compete for actual trophies and glory. We got to meet our new coach that would move up with us each fall season: Pull Miss, big, happy, gorilla-like, always singing Samoan, who became a second father for all of my teammates and me. Despite the fact that he didn’t speak one lick of English, he was able to teach us everything necessary for snagging our 1st place in region that year. (Varsity took 2nd at state that year. ) Then, 10th grade came and we annihilated all sophomore teams in our region with ease. Varsity took 3rd. Next was our JP year, and we finally got to taste what going to the state championships was like. Rousing. It made the anticipation for our predictably undefeated season senior year even greater than before. Once again my team claimed the 1st place trophy. (Varsity earning a close 2nd. ) My senior volleyball team was the most anticipated team In the state, the state trophy practically in our glass showcase already. The state title was all any of us wanted, and my team was determined to have it.
We kicked off the summer prior to our senior year living on the court. We would play at least four hours everyday, along with meeting for the occasional early morning runs and lifting In the weight room. Primed and ready, nothing was going to Impede us from bringing the state trophy home to Dixie. About mild-June, I left town on a family vacation to Cancan. Three weeks later after returning to the states and turning my phone back on, I was bombarded with missed calls, voice malls and text messages from my teammates.
I scanned through the plethora of scattered, rambling Information and slowly deducted the following nauseating sequence of events: Pull Isn’t feeling well tally, Pull Is really sick, Pull Is going to the hospital, Pull has something to tell the team. Pull has lung cancer. I relayed the dismal news to my parents with numb lips. A silent eight-hour drive followed. Once home I hurried to Pulse’s apartment. I opened the door and scanned the small living room crammed full of my best friends and teammates. They all looked ten years older with such solemn mouths and dark circles of sorrow etched under their red-rimmed weeping eyes.
They were encircling Pulse’s frail, barely breathing body on the couch. “He won’t live past September,” they say. We spent the remaining days of our summer vacation on the floor of that little apartment, Pull was nearly always asleep, so we would Just sit there, not speaking and watch his labored breathing shake through his falling body. He was refusing all treatment and pain medications prescribed to him by the doctor. July was nearly over and volleyball tryouts were Imminent. July’s final day started with a text from his daughter: “Don’t The funeral crushed us and our highly esteemed volleyball team fell to pieces.
No one talked to each other, all of us processing this tremendous grief differently. Some of us turned to drugs and alcohol, others were put on medications for depression, a few girls even moved away. I’ve never felt grief like that in all of my life. You can feel the sorrow suffocating your world like a dark, heavy cloud. My mind clicked off and my entire body shut down. I was in a downward spiral. First I was put on pills to help me sleep and prevent nightmares, soon they added a prescription for anxiety pills and antidepressants after they found lines I had traced into my skin with razorblades.
Next, I turned to the drugs and alcohol, and still later I developed an dating disorder, dropping to a disturbingly low weight. For months I was completely lost in a haze of drugs and sadness. It wasn’t until after my graduation and exhausting all other possible solutions that my parents decided to send me away to a special school for troubled youths. In Africa. When I told my psychiatrist there that I played volleyball he suggested Joining the schools team and participating in the weekend tournaments. Surprisingly, I found myself at practice the next day. It was the first time I had touched a volleyball in nearly a year.
It only took a couple hours of reactive to get warmed up from the year long break. After Joining the team my health began to return to normal. I put on weight, gained my muscle back, stopped all the depression, sleep and anxiety meds. I even got to go home early due to what they called, “a significant mood boost. ” It was like whatever had broken inside of me when Pull passed away got snapped back into its rightful place when I started playing again. Playing volleyball fixed my broken soul. The court was my safe place, my home and I was hopelessly lost without it for a while. But now; I am back.