I admit, I was probably a little dramatic with my last blog post. I was hurt. Frustrated. Devastated. After working so hard, doing everything “right”, I’m right back to where I was five years ago when I did my second knee. It doesn’t feel fair. It feels fucking cruel. But perhaps it was necessary. Necessary so I finally accept what numerous people have told me over the years – soccer isn’t my final destination. It has most definitely been a part of my journey, but my writing is what will take me further. My writing about soccer. About life. Love. Pain. I see the world differently than most. I’m devoted to understanding others – even if that means taking a hard look at myself and my role in the outcomes.
My knee for instance. I know why I did it again. There’s something that’s been present in all three injuries. And being in September isn’t the only reason. But it’s something I don’t want to talk about. It’s something I’m not ready to confront. To accept. Because it means I’m responsible. And right now, I don’t want that. I don’t want to take responsibility for something so devastating. I’m not ready for that reality. So instead, I’ll keep playing the victim for a little bit longer, even though in my heart I know that I’m the reason I did my knee again.
I also know I’m not the only person who has experienced this. I was reading about Alex Johnson, the AFL footballer who has done one of his knees five times and the other knee once. Six knee reconstructions. Same age. Still with the same aspirations – of playing football at the highest level. What keeps him motivated? How does he know this was meant for him? How has he not quit? Is it because everyone’s expecting him to, and he wants to prove them wrong? Because he’s worried about who he is if he isn’t chasing that dream? Because those have been my fears. Who am I without soccer? Soccer’s been my life for most of my life. It’s taken me to America, around America, and through some of my highest highs and lowest lows. How do you let something like that go?
Rewind to the start of this year. The blog post I wrote about feeling valued. How great it felt to be playing, and playing fucking well with a team that respected me. Things changed throughout the season and I was pretty miserable – frequently crying after trainings and games, feeling targeted, attacked. It made me want to quit. But once things were addressed, they got better and I became very adamant on playing overseas in Italy. I then had an amazing elimination final game, only to tear my acl a week later. Every time I’m playing at my peak, I do a knee. Why?
My strength and conditioning coach said it’s the way I play. But I don’t think it is. I changed the way I played after my second one and I still ended up here. I honestly just think soccer wasn’t meant for me. And my lesson, with all of this, is learning to accept that. To let go of the bitterness of others’ successes. Success I feel I deserved. Had worked for. Was worthy of. But was overlooked. In a world where everything is posted online, it’s so hard to remove yourself from that environment. Everything serves as a reminder. It’s like a bad break up – I recall writing in my blog post “Moving on in the 21st century” practical advice about how to get over an ex. Well in essence, this is no different. I’m breaking up with soccer and I can’t be reminded of what I had and no longer do. Or what I could have had but never will. So perhaps that’s my solution while I grieve – removing myself from social media again. From any reminders that reopen those wounds. At least until those wounds have healed, physically and emotionally.
I caught up with a friend the week before I did my knee and this is what she asked – why do you want to make it so badly? Why are you seeking that validation externally? Maybe that’s why you’ve never made it – because you feel you need to make it to feel worthy instead of feeling worthy without having made it. And maybe that’s why you keep getting overlooked. Because you’ve never learnt that lesson. And she was right. I felt like I needed to make it to feel like I was good enough. But I already was good enough. Already am good enough. Even if coaches have overlooked me. As I write this, I feel myself getting worked up and angry because I don’t feel like others have had to go through the same shit I have in order to have “made it” – they’ve just been given their successes. So why have I had to suffer so much? It feels so unfair. But perhaps this is the reason – my writing. Without this pain, what would I write about? How would people connect with me, relate to me?
After my second acl, I had nothing to come back for. No family for support. No school to distract me. Not many supportive friends. I had no purpose. No purpose to my suffering. My pain. I had no reason to keep going. And I almost didn’t. February 15th I almost ended my life. But I didn’t. And surviving that became my purpose. I was driven to talk about my experiences. To share my story. To talk about suicide, mental health, pain, and suffering as though it was as normal as it is. I vouched to be the voice of those who no longer had a voice. And so that darkness drove me to see light in every crevice of life.
Four years on and I’m in a very similar physical situation; a torn acl. But everything feels different. I have my family. I have supportive friends. I have a strength and conditioning environment that embraces me rather than makes me feel like a burden. I have my writing. But most importantly, I have a purpose to this pain. And I have perspective. At 21, when I did my second knee, I thought that was it for soccer. I threw myself into coaching hoping that would fill the void in my heart. But I knew I wasn’t done. So after two years coaching, I decided to play again. And play I did. Really fucking well at that. But now I’m 26, a third acl later. Even though I have those same thoughts of never playing soccer again, there’s a part of me that is at peace with that. It still hurts, because it’s still raw. But I think this is where things start to happen for me, outside of soccer.
When and if I have surgery, I have this book to write. And I suspect a major theme in it will be from the perspective of someone who never made it in the way they had envisioned. Which is something I believe probably 95% of us can relate to. Not the 5% who have made it – the ones who write books about their lives and their struggle to success. How much they wanted to quit, but never did. That’s all well and good, but they did make it. They’re writing from hindsight. From the perspective of having already “made it”. They probably never wrote about their struggle as they were experiencing it. Because who would buy that depressing shit? Instead, people buy books from these successful athletes and entrepreneurs because it gives them hope that one day they might make it too. But the reality is, you probably won’t. And you’ll probably be left in a similar situation to me – angry and bitter about the cards you’ve been dealt. Resentful towards those who have had it so much easier. Frustrated you won’t achieve what you’ve wanted. Who teaches you how to process those feelings? Actually, who even talks about these feelings? Because I can guarantee I’m not the only person who’s felt this way. And that is why I write. To help you normalise what might not feel normal. To help you realise it’s okay to hurt. To be angry. To be resentful. It’s actually fucking human to feel those things.
So perhaps what you need is to find a purpose to your pain. I don’t believe any suffering is ever in vain. Perhaps you’re suffering now so you can be there for someone who will go through something similar in the future. To connect to them in a way they’ve never had before. And perhaps that connection and understanding might just save their life. So that’s where I am right now – trying to find a purpose to this pain. And trying to accept the reality that some dreams, no matter how much you want them, won’t come true in the way you envisioned. And that’s okay. Because sometimes what you actually receive might be better than anything you could have ever envisioned.