It’s coming up on the competitive club Ultimate Frisbee season and I have played Ultimate since I was a sophomore in college. In college, the Ultimate team was my family. We ate all of our meals together, traveled together to weekend tournaments, partied together, inter-team dated and, post college, some of us married each other. I poured the majority of my time not spent on school into Ultimate (and a lot of time that probably should have been spent on school). My college teammates are still among my closest friends.
Coming into grad school burnt out on Ultimate, I felt certain I wouldn’t play, though Ultimate is a club sport meaning that graduate students are allowed to play on school teams. But it’s hard to move to a new city, to have to cook your own food and clean your own stuff, to be in a “real life work” schedule that does not involve afternoons lolling about campus, and to no longer live within shouting distance of your best friends, especially when your future husband’s family has been struck by tragedy and your support system can’t support itself. So one day as I left the student rec center and passed a field where people were playing Ultimate, I just joined them. Finally here were people who liked me automatically because I could play the same game they could. I didn’t have to struggle to make normal conversation, an exceptional challenge for me at that time, because I could just show my love for the game. Ultimate and the friends I made on the school team kept me in grad school for the at least first semester. I had two years remaining of my “college” eligibility, gladly played them out and after took on a coaching role that still fills me up.
Having been involved with Ultimate for what feels like ever, I felt excited to play on the club team forming in our city last summer. I played into fall with women that are still great friends to me, but I really struggled with the time commitment, with the physical beating my body seemed to take no matter how conditioned I was, and with the feeling that I wasn’t really having fun. I thought that team drama was causing my negative outlook and elimination of the drama would mean I’d be ready to play again, but in spite of really positive changes in leadership, I felt myself dreading the start of this season, having my evenings and weekends occupied, and feeling guilty for dedicating time to Ultimate instead of lab.
After agonizing over it, I made the choice not to play this year. Post decision, I felt free, ecstatic to work in lab (!), to not have to worry about getting to practice on time, to have time to finish projects around the house, to be home to spend time with Hubs and the pets. To quit, rather than meaning something negative or bad, meant that I could invite joy even better than I had before. I started out feeling like I couldn’t quit something that had defined me for so long and ended up knowing that IT WILL BE OKAY. As I try to be emotionally present in my life, in touch with what I need to truly live it, I’ve realized that things that feel like a burden probably are. If I regret the time I spend doing something, I won’t be able to contribute as my best self, which means maybe not contributing much at all.