Tuesday, March 17, 2020

“Do what you can, with what you’ve got, where you are”

At some point, we all have to accept the cards we've been dealt. Sometimes it's a winning hand, sometimes it's a losing hand, but no matter what, we have to simply do what we can. In light of the Coronavirus outbreak and a lot of difficult situations resulting from it, I want to share a story with all of you:

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It was my sophomore year of undergrad. I was a member of our school's division II softball team, and we had just gotten a new head coach. I spent my freshman year sitting the bench, and I was so determined to make this year different. I spent the whole summer lifting, conditioning, and doing everything humanly possible to get myself in shape to begin the year. 

When the team came back to school in the fall, I surpassed all of the mandatory fitness benchmarks. But I didn't stop there. In addition to the practices, workouts, and scrimmages I had for softball while maintaining Dean's-List-worthy grades, a position as a resident assistant, and all of life's other chores, I spent extra time in the gym perfecting my swing and making sure I was in top condition when our season arrived. I never told my coach about any of the extra work I was putting in because I wanted my hard work to speak for itself. However, he pulled me aside one evening after practice and told me that he saw all the extra work I was putting in. I had so much hope that this season was going to be mine for the taking.

Our season officially started at a spring break tournament in Myrtle Beach. We warmed up for our first game, and entered the dugout. The starting lineup was hanging on a clipboard on the fence. I walked over to it and scanned it for my name. Nothing. I read the lineup three times to make sure I didn't miss something. I wasn't starting. I took a deep breath and swallowed my pride as the game began. "Coach can't start everyone," I told myself, "maybe he'll swap me in for someone in a few innings." The game ended, and my white uniform was as spotless as it was when the game started. The second game was more or less the same: Warm up, check the lineup, mask my disappointment, hope to get a chance later in the game, and the game ended before I knew it. The first day of our season ended without me stepping foot on the field.

That night back in our hotel I couldn't help but think about how disappointed I was and that this season was starting just like the last year had. I looked at myself in the mirror and couldn't help but think "benchwarmer." All of my hard work was going to be for nothing. I went to bed hoping that tomorrow would be different. It wasn't. Neither was the day after. 7 games went by, and the most I got to do was pinch run once.

Our last day at Myrtle Beach we had two games scheduled. The first game was identical to every other game, except I was becoming less disappointed with the reality that this season would be another that I would watch from the sidelines. When the second game started, I wasn't surprised when my name was left off of the lineup for the 9th time. I also wasn't surprised when I wasn't told to sub in for another player in the middle of the game. I was surprised when my coach told me to pinch hit in the last inning of the game.

After almost 9 games straight of being benched, I was about as far away from being warmed-up as possible. The season before, I had pinch hit three times, and I struck out or grounded out every single one of them. To say I was nervous was an understatement; I was probably shaking while I walked up to the batter's box. Nonetheless, I took a deep breath and looked to my coach for my signal. There was nobody on base, 1 out, and we were up 11-6 in that last inning. My coach wanted me to get a hit, but there wasn't much riding on my at-bat, and it wasn't hard to deduce from my playing history that week that my coach didn't have much confidence in my abilities. 

The stage was set for me to fail, but I held onto the last shred of confidence I had in myself. My dad always told me to simply do my best whenever I had an opportunity to shine, and I kept his words in the front of my mind as I waited for my pitch. When I saw it, I held my breath and swung my bat. I felt the ball connect to the bat and then watched as the ball soared over the pitcher's head. I got an easy single, and hugged my first-base coach when I realized that I had just gotten my first college softball hit!

My sophomore season progressed mostly in the same fashion as my first 8 games: sitting the bench with the occasional pinch run. I never got to take the field. I got two other opportunities to hit: during one, I got another single, and during the other I hit a double.

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That was my last season playing fastpitch softball. A lot of it was disappointing, and I spent so much of the season wondering what I did wrong or what I could have done better. But for the three opportunities I was given, I did the best that I could, and I soaked up every second. To this day, I still remember the glorious feeling of the bat connecting to the ball just right, and of standing on second base after the perfect line-drive double. In these times when there is so much going wrong and so much anxiety and uncertainty, let's all try to do our best with what we've been given.

πŸ₯Ž To the seniors who are facing canceled events, formals, or graduation ceremonies that you've waited so long for and worked so hard to get to: think about how exciting your next step will be. Whether it's college, graduate school, starting your career, or something else, the next part of your journey is going to be filled with an even greater adventure than you've had yet. Use this time to get yourself prepared to take on this next step head on.

πŸ₯Ž To those worried about family members, whether that is grandparents, young children, friends, or anyone else: be with those who you can be with, and stay in contact with those who you can't see in person. Technology has given us the ability to connect to the people in our lives in so many different ways, and as technology advances, people appreciate handwritten letters more and more. Connect with the people in your lives as much as you possibly can during this time when there is so much to be unsure about.

πŸ₯Ž To those brave heroes working in hospitals, doing research in labs, making sure grocery stores are stocked, or helping society to continue to function: you are truly what makes this country great, and you are a blessing to all of us. Thank you for all that you have done and will continue to do.

No matter what your situation is, there is something that each one of us can do to try to make this time a little less scary and lessen each others' burdens, even just a small bit. Together, we can get through this.

Stay safe everyone, and make today the best page yet,
Paige

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