Lost and Found

As some of you may know, when I was 17, I struggled with an eating disorder. (I go into much greater detail here: https://emkayed.wordpress.com/2015/04/28/the-secret-could-have-killed-me/). I lost about 75 pounds from September-March of my senior year of high school. When I tell you it was one of the hardest things I’ve ever been through, I don’t say that lightly. I started losing weight because my life was spiraling out of control.  I desperately needed structure, something I could methodically and meticulously manage. Food and exercise filled that role for me. My eating disorder quickly became my life. It was my every thought, my every glance in the mirror, my every second from the time I opened my eyes to the time I closed them at night. I learned every trick of the trade. It was all-consuming. It became my sole identity as I eradicated everything from my life that didn’t put me closer to my “fitness” goal. I was miserable and miserable to be around. I lost my friends because I completely removed myself from the outside world. I stopped pursuing the things I loved. I carried my disorder around with me, even when I was crushed by the weight. As the days got longer and the number on the scale got smaller, I hated myself more and more. Facing daily tasks seemed daunting. I was perpetually exhausted from being constantly at war with my body. And then one day, after talking to many people who loved me and many, many tears, I waved the white flag. I began to heal.

Slowly but surely, I started to love life once again. More importantly, I started to love myself. I went to the beach. I went to the mountains. I ate good food. I played softball. I moved out of my parents house and 250 miles away. I started college. I ate more good food. I started my job. I road-tripped. I ran and hiked and thoroughly embraced the days and nights. Every day certainly wasn’t perfect, but for the first time in a long time, I was allowing myself to live. I had times where I struggled with the demons that living with an ED brings, sure, but I was leaps and bounds of where I had been. I was finally moving on with my life. And I was happy.

Interestingly enough, all the weight that I had once lost found me again. Plus more. I knew it was bound to happen, but I don’t think I was quite prepared for the extent of it. I had no idea I would gain all of it back. While some was definitely necessary, much of it was most definitely not. I struggled for weeks because I knew that once again, I wasn’t treating my body the way that I should. The last thing I wanted to do was slip back into my old habits, but I knew I would enjoy life more if I made changes to be healthier. One day this past February, I decided to start over again. I wanted to change, but this time, it was because I loved my body, not because I hated it. It was because I wanted my body to be able to do more, not weigh less. So I decided to give true health a shot. And this time, my intentions were pure.

Since mid-February, I have lost roughly 40 pounds. There is no before and after, because I am not a finished product, and I never will be. I am on a never-ending journey of just doing the best I can every single day. Some days I feel myself slipping back into the security of my old thoughts and I’m sure that’s a struggle I will always face. I try to make good food decisions most of the time, but I know that having a piece of cake here and there won’t kill me. I don’t see food as the enemy anymore. I run every day because I love it, not because I feel the need to punish myself. And I drink water like it’s my job because I know it’s what my body needs. I try to make choices that I know will make me happier and healthier. While I want to lose weight, sure, I am much more focused on making sure I’m living the life I want to live in the process. I want to love and appreciate the body I currently have, even if I’m trying to change it. I don’t like to think of things in terms of a goal weight because my plan does not include a number on a scale or the tag on an item of clothing.

I’ve already weighed the least I probably ever will and I know for a fact that alone cannot bring you joy. If I have learned anything for certain, it’s that “skinny” is not the greatest adjective you can be. Kind, thoughtful, passionate, adventurous, grateful, happy: these are all so much more important. So this time around, that is my goal– not to be a smaller person, but a better one.


One Day This Won’t Be Your Life Anymore

I spent nine years chasing the game I loved. I played every weekend, holiday and summer until I was 18 years old. I collected memories and trophies and battle scars. And then, in one of the most difficult decisions I’ve ever made, I walked away. I felt sure that it was best for me and most days, I believe I was right. I was watching my dad’s team play this weekend (he coaches high school softball) and a parent asked me “What would tell these girls if you knew they’d listen?” And this is what I would say:

One day you will walk off the field for the last time. One day you will untie your cleats forever. One day you will put your glove in your bag and there it will stay for months at a time. One day your tan lines will fade. You’ll forget the feeling of seams beneath your fingers. You’ll struggle to remember the way it felt to hit the perfect pitch. You’ll see your teammates once or twice a year instead of every single day. You won’t slide into second. You won’t round first. One day you’ll be on the other side the fence.

One day this won’t be your life anymore. And when it’s not, you won’t remember the things that you’d think. You’ll have no idea how many times you struck out. You won’t know how many errors you made. You won’t be impressed with how many home runs you hit. You won’t care about your batting average or ERA. For the most part, you won’t remember wins and losses at all.

After your last inning has come and gone, you’re going to remember the times when you wanted to quit— but didn’t. You’re going to remember the teammates (and families) you loved along the way. You’re going to remember playing in the freezing cold, driving rain, and unbearable heat. You’re going to remember the hotel bonding and the eight hour road trips. You’re going to remember the early practices and late games. You’re going to remember the coaches that never gave up on you. But most of all, you’re going to remember the sheer happiness that came only from being between two chalk lines. You’re going to remember the moments you did more than you ever believed you could. You’re going to remember the times you used every bit of talent God gave you.

One day this won’t be your life anymore. So for today, run as fast as your feet will take you. Whether it’s a pop up to the pitcher or it bounces off the fence in left field. For today, swing as hard as you can. Commit to every pitch and give it everything you have. For today, make every play like it’s the last chance you’ll ever get. For today, play because you want to. Play because you need to. Play because the little girl you used to be fell in love with this game all those years ago.

For today, don’t stop until the last pitch is thrown. Play with every piece of your heart and leave it all on the field. One day, this won’t be your life anymore. When that day comes, make sure you wouldn’t change a thing.


I’m Overwhelmed, but I’m Good

This afternoon, as I was waiting for my 1:30 physics class to start, I overheard two girls talking. It seemed like maybe they hadn’t seen each other in a while. One girl was catching the other up on various aspects of her life. When the first girl was done, she asked girl number two “And how have you been?!” After a few moments of hesitation, the second girl said “I’m overwhelmed, but I’m good.”

I laughed to myself and thought, “Wow, story of my life.” If there was one word to adequately sum up my constant state of being over the past six months, it was “overwhelmed.” Overwhelmed with eighteen hours of classes. Overwhelmed with the stack of unpaid bills on my kitchen counter. Overwhelmed with five broken bones in my foot. Overwhelmed with spending more hours at work than I do sleeping. Overwhelmed with living four hours away from my family. Overwhelmed with change. Overwhelmed with an uncertain future. Overwhelmed with doubt.

I’ve felt lost and scared and everything in between. Like whatever I’m doing isn’t enough. Like just when I get one thing under control, something else falls apart. My heart is restless and I am exhausted on all levels. I feel like I’m just treading water. Like I’m going through the motions but not really moving forward.

And until this afternoon, I don’t think I really understood why: I am overwhelmed because I am trying to bear the weight of the world on my own.

Alone. By myself. Here, at 20 years old, I have been trying to walk through this world without help from Jesus Christ. I have my own plans, and I was just expecting the One who created me to watch from a far and allow everything to fall into place. But God loves us too much to let that happen. He wants to walk with us. He wants to carry the weight for us. He desperately wants to provide the peace that comes from Him and Him alone.

God WILL give us more than we can handle because He never intends for us to handle it on our own. He lets us go through the hard things because He knows they will lead us back to Him. In the middle of the mess is where we find Him once again.

•     •     •     •     •

It’s easy to forget (and I often do) that this life isn’t even my own… It belongs to Someone Who has counted the stars (Psalm 147:4) It belongs to someone Who already knows every piece of the story (Jeremiah 1:5). Someone Who knows that my classes will be passed, my bills will be paid, and my body will heal from the inside out (John 14:27). Someone Who holds the world in His hands and promises to guide my steps as long as I remain faithful (Proverbs 3:5).

The past few months, I’ll admit, have not been pretty. But even when it’s not pretty, I know that it will be okay.

While yes, my life is messy, and some days I struggle to find the motivation to leave my bed, I AM overwhelmed. Overwhelmed with unconditional love. Overwhelmed with the promise of a prosperous future. Overwhelmed with perpetual forgiveness. Overwhelmed with God’s never ending grace. Overwhelmed with the chance, every day, to start all over again.

I’m overwhelmed, but I’m good.

An Open Letter To My Step-Mom…

Based on traditional standards, you’re not supposed to attend your parents’ wedding. But in less than a week, I will watch my father walk down the aisle. While I know that divorce and remarriage are not foreign concepts in this day and age, I never dreamed that one day I would wake up and they would be my reality. Life has a way of surprising you. Over the past two years, I have had every conceivable emotion about the day my dad would remarry, and even sitting here writing this, I probably still cannot adequately express the way I feel. Here is my best attempt.

To my (future) step-mom: 

I never wanted you in my life. In fact, for years, I prayed for the opposite. Every night I begged God to keep my family together, as if words sobbed into a pillow could magically become the glue that kept my family whole. When that didn’t work, and my parents split, I prayed that they would each stay single. I couldn’t wrap my brain around the thought of my parents with anyone else. But here you are. 

I would be lying if I told you that the moment you walked into our lives, I was happy. I’m pretty sure you quickly understood the day that I met you that was far from the truth. I felt heartbroken, betrayed, and emotionally drained. I know you could tell that I was less-than-pleased to meet you. Thank you for giving me a chance anyway. 

I tried to hate you. I avoided making plans with my dad so I didn’t have to see the two of you together. I deliberately didn’t ask about you when my dad called. I didn’t attempt to build a relationship with you because I thought that somehow meant I cared less about my mom. Thank you for trying anyways.

As the months went by, I watched your relationship with my father grow stronger. I watched you make him smile bigger than I’d ever seen before. I saw the light in his eyes when he said your name. I realized that you were God’s plan for him all along. And I began to love you. 

When you come from a “broken” family, it’s easy to make the story about loss. But if I tried to write that story, I wouldn’t have much to say. When I hear the two of you say “I do,” the tears that fall will not come from the same place in my heart as those two years ago. This time, I am no longer sad for the family I have lost, but overjoyed at the one I have gained. 

It’s taken me nineteen years to figure out that your family is the people who love you. That is the only requirement. Not adoption documents, not names on birth certificates, not marriage licenses. Family is a lot less about law and a lot more about love. So thank you. Thank you for being there. Thank you for accepting me, shopping with me, crying with me, and keeping me as your own. Thank you for calling at two in the morning to make sure I made it home safely. Thank you for cooking me dinner when I come to visit. Thank you for filling such a unique place in my heart that no one else ever will. Thank you for loving my dad. And thank you for loving me. 

— Your (almost) step-daughter


What I Learned From Being “The Coach’s Kid”

I’ve never really been the kind of person that was especially enamoured by people. I never had a Disney princess obsession and I’ve never been particularly starstruck over actors, athletes, or musicians. But if there ever was a person who I was exceptionally impressed with, (as many daughters are), it’s my dad.

For as long as I can remember, I’ve been his biggest fan. He’s a coach by trade and he’s never let me forget it. I know he’s good at what he does. I attended my first basketball game before I was a year old and in the 19 years since, I’ve seen him win playoff games, district titles, and state championships. I’ve watched as he was named “Coach of the Year” multiple times. I’ve witnessed him build programs from the ground up, taking them over when they sported less-than-stellar records and turning them into contenders for state titles.

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Few things have shaped my identity as much as my father’s occupation. Growing up, I was Emily, also known as “The Coach’s Kid.” You don’t carry that designation without learning a few things along the way. So many of the lessons he instilled in me on the court and field are just as applicable now that I’m all grown up. These are a few of my favorite:

The call that’s made is the only one that matters. Life isn’t always fair. It doesn’t really matter what you think should have happened. It doesn’t matter if you think you didn’t touch the girl, or if you know that you beat a throw. If a foul was called, it was a foul. If the umpire called you out, you were out. Instead of analyzing what could have happened had that call not been made, you accept the fact that it was made and do your best to work from there. A situation doesn’t change just because you disagree with the outcome. All you can do is make the best of what’s in front of you.

You’re good, but you’re not the only one. My dad never for a second let me believe that I was the best at anything, and for that I am forever grateful. He made sure I was never content with my ability or skill level. Contentment breeds complacency, and complacency gets you left behind. The fact of the matter is, there will always be someone better. You can let this destroy you or you can let this motivate you.

There’s not many worse things an athlete can be than “uncoachable.” It does not matter if you are the best player in the state, if you are aren’t capable of accepting and applying criticism, you won’t amount to much.

Coaches make the decision they feel is best for the success of a team as a whole. If you aren’t starting, or if you aren’t playing the position you would like to be playing, there most likely is a valid reason. The reason is usually that a) you are a better fit elsewhere or b) someone else is better than you, plain and simple. The coach is under no obligation to make you or your parents happy. The team is not all about you. Life is not all about you. Learning to fulfill the role you are given, whether that be sitting on the bench and keeping the book or pitching every game, is what makes you successful.

All that matters is what you bring to the table on the day of the contest. Nothing up until that point is relevant. It does not matter if you haven’t lost a game all season and it doesn’t matter if the other guy has beaten you twenty-seven times in the past. All that matters is what is happening on that given day. You treat each opponent with dignity and respect and play each game like it’s your last– regardless of what your expectation is of the outcome.

Success means nothing if you aren’t happy. My dad always instilled in me that passion (on the field or court and in life in general) can make up for a lack of many other things. It really doesn’t matter how talented you are if you no longer love the game– if your heart isn’t in whatever you’re doing, you might as well not be there at all. I watched my dad coach basketball (very well) for 18 years. And then when I was 19, I watched him walk away. Though his years of winning records were a testament to the fact that he was indeed good at his job, he was no longer happy. He moved on to a new adventure and over the past year, he has been highly successful there as well.

Though the good Lord knows there were many a day when I couldn’t quite figure out if having a coach for a dad was a blessing or a curse, I think I’ve grown to realize that I am a better person because of it. I am better because of pitching practice at 6 AM before he left for work and left-handed layups until I could do them with my eyes closed. I am better because of hours spent in the gym on Sunday nights with him and years of us watching film, always searching for ways to improve. And most importantly, I am better because he always seemed to remember that his job on the court was not nearly as important as the job he had off. He’s supported me through every decision I’ve ever made. He’s loved me enough to to drive thousands of miles to watch softball tournaments for seven years straight, and then still loved me when I decided it just wasn’t what I wanted to do anymore. He taught me how to swim, dribble a basketball, and drive a golf ball (or attempt to drive a golf ball… I’m still pretty bad at that). He’s always believed in who I am and who I want to be, and he never let me think that my dreams were out of reach. Even though he is a phenomenal coach, he never fails to remind me that he’s an even better dad.

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The Secret That Could Have Killed Me

Preface: This post is about a very personal issue that I have remained quiet about for quite some time. Some of the things revealed in this article are things I have never told anyone, and never intended to. I chose to write this as part of the healing process. I knew if I was ever going to be healthy once again, I needed to understand the place I was in back then. As everything else on my blog, this is based on personal experience and is unique to my life. I am in no way an expert on the subject; I only know what I have lived through. I hope you enjoy it! 

          It’s a Tuesday night. I am staring into a toilet bowl with tears streaming down my face. I am throwing up what I ate for dinner: one banana, one rice cake, and one liter of water. When I am done, I will brush my teeth and lace up my running shoes. I will run five and half miles. The same distance I run every week day. And then I will come back home and cry myself to sleep… This was my personal hell for nine months. In that nine months, I embarked on one of the most difficult journeys of my life– a road paved with purging, calorie counting apps, and good intentions. I never wanted to hurt myself. I just wanted to be skinny… to feel pretty no matter the cost.

          I have always been the bigger girl. Growing up, I towered over my friends. I shopped in the adult section of stores while my friends were still buying clothes from Limited Too. I hit five foot eight in the 6th grade. I struggled with my weight throughout adolescence. My size made me a force to be reckoned with on the basketball court or the softball field, but it provided within me an internal battle. As a kid, I was an athletic powerhouse, but I just wanted to be small. I wanted to be petite and skinny– adjectives that had never described me.
          My junior year of high school, I let my weight spiral out of control. I ate out often and exercised little. By the start of my senior year, I realized that I weighed the same as my 6’3″ male best friend. So in August of 2013, I decided I was going to lose the weight. My parents had just split up, my two best friends had just moved away to college, and I felt like it was the perfect time to put all my energy into something I had control over– making myself beautiful. I truly believed that weight loss would solve all of my problems. And so it began.
           I started out where most do. I cut out soft drinks, downloaded a popular app to track calorie intake, and started running. I ate about 1,600 calories and ran a half a mile a day. Healthy enough. Weight flew off. I lost 15 pounds the first month and 20 the second. People were starting to notice, and I was hooked on the high provided by people’s admiration.
          I dedicated every moment of my time to losing weight. I was either working out, running, planning meals, or reading fitness blogs every second of the day. As the weeks went by, I ran more and more and ate less and less. On multiple occasions, people came to me, friends and teachers, expressing concern. I adamantly denied having a problem. I assured everyone that I had this under control.
           By Christmas, I had lost 55 pounds. I was in clothes I never even dreamed of before. I thrived off people’s compliments. I felt great, I looked great, and I was still healthy. I should have stopped there. But I’ve always been an all-or-nothing kind of gal, and I knew I could do “better.”
          Ten pounds later, I was slipping down a dangerous slope. My life consisted of nothing but running and eating my small “meals” that I meticulously planned and calculated to fit within my calorie budget. I became a shell of the girl I used to be. I quit hanging out with my friends. I quit playing softball. I eradicated anything from my life that wasn’t a part of my “fitness” journey. I had notes on my phone saved with all of my ridiculous rules: “on weekends, eat nothing but fruit,” or “on Mondays, eat only one chicken breast.” I understood it was hurting me, but not enough to make me want to stop.
          At my lowest point, I was eating 500 calories a day while running 7 miles a day. I weighed myself twice daily and recorded each weigh in. If I saw a change in the scale I deemed unacceptable, I would run until I literally collapsed on whatever road or trail I had chosen that day. I would make myself throw up the minute I consumed anything, and then run for a hour to punish myself for throwing up. It was a vicious cycle. Eat. Throw up. Run. Cry. Repeat.
FullSizeRender (Me, at my lowest recorded weight, with two of my (very supportive, absolutely wonderful) best friends)
          I had read all the articles. I’d heard all of the warnings. I knew it was dangerous. I was a smart girl. I knew what I was doing. But I couldn’t stop. I was in far too deep.
          By March, 75 pounds were gone. My food for the day would usually consist of an apple, a packet of microwave oatmeal, and a rice cake. I drank a gallon of water and tried to convince myself that I was finally where I wanted to be. I was finally beautiful. But I didn’t feel beautiful. I felt empty. And hungry. And sad. I had finally accomplished what I had always dreamed about. I was in control of the one thing that I had spent my entire life chasing after. I didn’t understand where I went wrong. I had started this as a journey to loving myself… and when I looked in the mirror, I didn’t love the girl staring back at me at all. In fact, I didn’t even know her.
          One day in science class, we were watching a video. The screen started to get fuzzy and the room started to spin. Before I knew it, I woke up on the ground. I passed out right there in second block. When the school nurse asked me what I had eaten that day, I lied. She gave me a box of apple juice and a package of crackers. I pretended to sip the juice and threw the crackers away– they didn’t fit into my 500 allotted calories. She asked me a series of questions and though I knew the correct answers, lies spewed out of my mouth. I couldn’t let her know the truth. I was scared she might tell me I had a problem. I was terrified that she might tell me I needed to stop.
          That same day, my mom made me visit my pediatrician. He asked me what I had eaten in the last twenty four hours and through tears I whispered the answer: nothing. He asked if I had run that day, and I knew before the words “six miles” left my lips what his response would be. He looked into my eyes and said “Emily, why are you doing this? I love you, and I have been taking care of you for a long time. I am scared for you. You can’t keep doing this. Eventually this will kill you.
          “Eventually this will kill you.”
          I just wanted to be thin… I didn’t want to die.
          Sitting in that room, I looked down at my hands. They were frozen– always cold, always shaking. And at that moment, I knew. I knew that my body, a body that had survived so much in its 18 years, deserved better. I knew that being “skinny” was not worth losing my happiness. I knew that being thin was too big a price to pay for my life.
          I have never admitted this before. I have never used these words to explain my experience. But here they are, for the first time ever: eating disorder. Because of those five syllables, I will forever be a statistic. I will forever be one of the nine million.
          I wish I could tell you after my doctor’s office visit, the stars aligned and I found perfect balance with my personal fitness and the rest of my life. However, this is simply not the case. During the past year, I finished high school and started college at Louisiana State University. I have gained over half of the weight I lost back. While some of it was necessary, a good bit of it was not. I eat lots of pizza and fast food and never exercise like I should. And I struggle with body image every single day. I am no where close to perfect, but this time around, I have a much better understanding of myself. I now know that a number on a scale or a tag will never define me. I understand that there are more important things than being thin. I understand that I never need to change who I am, but I should only ever strive to become a better version of me. The next time I go down that road, I’ll be doing it the right way.

In Defense of Travel Ball…

I’ve been trying to write this post for months now and I just haven’t been able to find the right words. Lately, I’ve been seeing many statuses and articles pitting travel softball against league softball. Many have negative opinions when it comes to travel ball, saying it’s detrimental to high school programs and ruining community leagues. I wish I could say that I understood these accusations but I cannot even begin to comprehend them. You can say what you want about select softball, but it produces quality competitors and fosters talent in a way that is incomparable to anything else. This post is just my perspective of league softball and travel softball, because they have both made such an enormous impact on my life.

 I would not believe in love at first sight had I never picked up a softball. From the first time I stepped on a field when I was nine years old, I was hooked. I started out where many do, playing league. I loved the rush of game days, the thrill of sliding into home, the smell of freshly cut grass. I attended every game and got better and better, practicing with my team and on my own, pitching every chance I got, and eagerly awaiting any opportunity to compete. League ball provided my foundation. It was there I learned the fundamentals and how to win and lose with grace. However, by the time I was ten, my parents realized that the athlete in me wanted and needed more than the ten games per year league ball could provide, and thus, my nine year long relationship with travel ball began.

I don’t think my family quite anticipated the impact travel ball would make on our lives. In my almost nine years as a travel ball kid, we spent birthdays, Easters, and anniversaries at the ball field. I’d come home from a tournament in Oklahoma at 2 AM on a Monday to sleep for three hours and wake up for school. I missed homecomings, football games, and proms. I played in hundreds of games per year, sometimes eight or nine per day. I played through brain surgery, broken bones, and staph infections. I made numerous sacrifices for travel ball and yet, it never seemed that way to me. I was just doing what I loved. I was chasing my dream.

By the time I got to high school, I had played in hundreds of softball games. I knew the game, and I knew it well. I earned a starting varsity position as a freshman, as did the three other girls from my high school that played travel ball with me. In fact, all twelve of the girls on my tournament team at the time earned a starting position on her high school’s varsity team.

I continued to play travel ball throughout high school. My freshman year, my select team changed our mission from winning trophies to securing scholarships. There is no doubt in my mind that travel softball is an effective way to earn the opportunity to play at the next level. Of the fifteen girls I grew up traveling with, thirteen ended up with scholarships to play softball at the university of their choice. Off the top of my head, I can name at least fifty other girls (probably many more if I wanted to think about it) I know personally that played travel ball and ended up playing in college. That just doesn’t happen in Dixie or even for girls who play strictly high school. At any given large exposure tournament, there are anywhere from fifty to sometimes hundreds of college coaches present. I would venture to say that in the softball world, it is now next to impossible to play collegiate softball without playing travel ball. (Baseball is a bit different and this is not so much true.) Softball has evolved… things don’t work like they used to. It is difficult to even compare community leagues to travel ball because they serve completely different purposes. If you just want to have fun and learn the game, league ball is the way to go. However, if a scholarship is your ultimate goal, travel ball is undoubtedly the best option.

Don’t get me wrong, I have been a Dixie umpire for five years now, and Dixie has affected my life in ways I never thought possible. I have made lasting relationships with the girls I call for and I have thoroughly enjoyed watching them progress as athletes and people. I understand that Dixie provides things that travel ball cannot, such as sense of community. I am in no way knocking the advantages of league ball. I am just attempting to defend the one thing that has occupies a bigger part of my heart than just about anything else.

My softball story does not quite have a happy ending. Somewhere along the way, after a few visits to various schools with scholarship offers and many months of deliberation, I realized that collegiate softball did not have a place in my future. Before my senior season even began and to the shock of my parents and teammates, I retired my cleats. It was the hardest decision I have ever made and it was certainly not one made due to lack of passion for the game. It was a very personal choice and it was simply what I needed to do at the time. I have never regretted my decision and I know it was what was best for me.

The fact that anyone could ever say that travel ball does more harm than good is absolutely mind-boggling to me. It is not for everyone, and I understand that. I cannot speak for everyone but I can say that travel ball gave me the best memories of my life. I have had opportunities and experiences that most young athletes will only ever dream about. I am so thankful for my travel ball days and the many life lessons I learned during them. I would not trade the weekends I spent at tournaments for anything in the world.

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When “Perfect” Falls Apart

Recently, there’s been a Thought Catalog post circulating Facebook entitled “When Your Parents Divorce When You’re Just A Kid.” It’s a heartbreaking narrative that describes the ways the author’s life was forever altered because of her parents’ divorce. If your parents are no longer together, I’m sure many points of the article resonate with you. Divorce is never easy, and though I consider myself to be well adjusted, the word itself still shakes me to my very core—the same way it did when it was first spoken in my household. While my parents’ divorce completely changed my life, and I would definitely consider it a defining facet of who I am, I am convinced that I came out of it better than I was before.

Step-parents, shared custody, multiple holidays—these were all things that eluded me for 17 years. I watched as one by one, my friends’ families fell apart. I listened as they told stories, using “mom’s house” or “dad’s house” instead of just “my house.” I counted my blessings and wrongfully assumed it was a world I would never be a part of. Divorce was not something that could happen to me. My family was happy. My parents had been married for 20 years. Surely, they had already weathered any storm that could leave our family in shambles. Surely, we were safe.


I cannot explain the crippling sadness that befell me when my mom explained to me that my dad and her were separating. I cannot explain the way it felt like I was drowning while standing on solid ground. I cannot explain the way I could taste my heart breaking—sorrow indeed has a flavor. And I cried. I cried for the weekends I would not see my father. I cried for the anniversaries that would never come. I cried for the perfect family I no longer had.

The first few months were almost unbearable. I could not figure out how to live life without both of my parents in my house. As I attempted to focus on my daily routine, I could not escape the gaping hole that was my father’s absence from my home. My dad would call often, and the phone calls were the hardest. My parents were good at acting like nothing happened, but I was not. I did not know how to make small talk with my dad. How were we supposed to talk about my weekend when my entire world had crumbled beneath me weeks prior? How was I supposed to act like nothing was wrong? How was I supposed to pretend that it was perfectly normal that I could no longer kiss him goodnight?

We had taken a family picture two days before my parents announced their separation. If pictures were worth a thousand words, surely this one had a story to tell. I cannot tell you how many nights I spent staring at that photograph, searching for signs I may have missed about the catastrophic storm that would hit us two days later. I stared at the four of us for hours on end, a normal family. How could I not have known?

I never knew what to say to either parent. I loved them both with every ounce of my heart, but I was so angry. I didn’t understand how they could ever think this was a solution. I was going to college next year. I was supposed to be enjoying what I had left of high school. How dare they take that away from me?

My relationship with both parents at that point could be described as dysfunctional at best. Because I was hurt and resentful, I decided that if I wasn’t happy, no one would be. Because I was miserable, my mission in life was to make my parents miserable as well. I became increasingly difficult and at times, downright hateful. My parents did nothing but love me through it all. They did everything in their power to try to make things okay for me, to make sure I was adjusting well, to make me happy. And I, stubborn and contrary, wanted no part of it. I was determined to wallow in my self-pity.

If there was one thing I hated more than the thought of the divorce itself, it was the thought of seeing my parents with other people. I avoided the topic altogether. When my dad met a woman, I simply pretended that she didn’t exist. When my mom met a man, I acted as though I was completely unaware. It was not that I disliked them—it was just that if they were around, I had to face the reality that my family as I once knew it was over. As long as my parents were single, I could perpetuate the idea that one day, they would realize this was all a big mistake. I still clung to the hope that my parents were going to live happily ever after with one another. My prayers however, were never answered.

As the days turned to weeks and the weeks turned to months, I watched my parents fall in love with other people. I experienced a side of them that I had not known in a long time—pure and utter happiness. I watched my mom laugh louder and my dad speak with delight that he could not contain. Somewhere along the way, I understood that this was God’s greater plan. I have never been more thankful for unanswered prayers. I cannot explain the joy my heart feels for all of us. I love these two people more than they will ever know for loving my parents so much.

Sure, my family was divided, but I am convinced that the love was multiplied. I now have four wonderful people that love me, care about me, and would go to the ends of the Earth to make sure that I succeed. I have four people who are proud when I ace a test. Four people who call me on my birthday. Four people who love me when I don’t deserve it and welcome me with open arms when I need a place to come home. My family is not broken, but finally whole.

This is never how I expected my life to turn out. This was not in my plan. I did not choose my parents’ significant others, but I am eternally grateful that they chose us. If life has a happy ending, this is ours.

The original Thought Catalog post can be found at http://thoughtcatalog.com/jamie-varon/2015/02/just-a-kid/.