I’ve been struggling with these underlying feelings ever since I was injured eight weeks ago. It was this little voice inside my head that would occasionally whisper the words “I think you should stop playing ultimate for a little while.” I would immediately ignore them, pushing them aside as some sort of strange delusion, because there was no possible way I would ever miss a season of ultimate. I never have, and I never will. But that little voice kept getting louder and louder, until I broke down and finally decided to listen to what my heart was saying over my head. It’s time for a rest.
As much as I tried to chalk it up to fatigue or frustration with my injury, driving out to San Francisco each weekend became a more and more difficult endeavor. I would leave feeling irrationally sad, wanting to stay and play in this gorgeous National Park I call home. I would listen to my workout playlist, loudly (and poorly) singing along to Mumford & Sons or Queen, trying ever so hard to get excited about the weekend ahead. It seemed to work for a short while, but I never seemed to beat those horrible, terrifying words: “I think you should stop playing ultimate for a while.”
How could I think these things? With everyone watching, supporting me in this journey, how could I let them down? I started this adventure believing that being a part of a great team was what everyone should strive for. I felt a part of this machine we call women’s ultimate, driving faster and faster ahead into the future of development, advancement, and equality. I couldn’t get off now. It wasn’t fair to everyone I convinced I was worth it; it wasn’t fair to everyone who put time and energy into my development and training. I would let everyone down. And yet…
I missed my dog licking my face in the morning when I woke up. I missed my husband’s goofy smile when he entered the house after a long day of work. I missed filling my lungs with mountain air and feeling the cool touch of granite while climbing its cracks. I missed trampling over rocks and grass and bushes, and shivering in a tent while the wind howled outside. I missed the smell of our small gas stove while we boiled hot water for coffee in the morning as the sun rose over the hills. And yet…
What if I missed ultimate? What if I left and missed another year with wonderful friends and teammates and coaches who cheered me on, supported me, and helped me grow. What if I missed that camaraderie that is so unique and special to ultimate? The women on Nightlock were so determined, so gritty, so happy, you could feel the excitement grow each time you stepped out onto the field. How could I leave that behind? How could I let them down?
Eventually, I broke. I couldn’t take this inner dialogue any more, which usually ended in tears and frustration. After the last day of Nightlock tryouts in Stanford, when I was supposed to drive the five straight hours home to start work the following day, I headed north and met my best friend Jenny in a Thai restaurant in the Mission. She was the only person I knew who could help me decide. After rambling to her for twenty minutes, crying in the middle of the restaurant, and saying things like “I should feel happy playing ultimate this season, but…” and “I spent all this time training, this is what I should be doing, but…” she gave me the best possible advice I could ever ask for. She said no matter what decision I make, the truth will find me. I didn’t need to worry about whatever my choice was: I would eventually, inevitably, find out what was meant to be. If I chose another intense season of ultimate and loved it, then ultimate was clearly not the stressor I faced on those drives to San Francisco. If I kept pushing myself to play, feeling defeated by fatigue, depression, and injury, all I had to do was stop.
I went home and drafted an email to Nightlock, telling them I wasn’t going to play this year. I decided to sleep on it before I pressed send, feeling like this was far too big of a decision to make in haste. Then I waited another day, and another. I couldn’t press that button, too afraid of finalizing my fate. But then I thought about my family, with all the adventures we would go on this summer, and I couldn’t help but smile. Our backpacking trip in the Eastern Sierras, climbing in Yosemite, learning how to shoot, flying to Portland and eating donuts, and visiting my family in England. It would be the summer of unexpected adventures. Without further hesitation, I pressed send.
As much as I tried to push through and do what I thought I was supposed to, I finally accepted the fact that this amazingly wild and wonderful journey I have been on these past few months just led me to something I wasn’t expecting. My place in this world, at this moment, isn’t on an ultimate field. It’s at the top of a mountain, drinking coffee, and watching the sunrise next to my husband as we laugh at my dog, who is trying so desperately to lick my face to say hello.