It should come as no surprise to you that I have come up with some long, dramatic way to say goodbye to you. After all, you’ve known me for 16 years.
But here I am, at the funeral of my soccer career, laying to rest the first thing I ever loved.
I learned to love you, before I even learned to love myself.
In fact, it was in you, that I found value in myself and the things I could do with a ball and a pair of cleats.
In that value, I learned so much. About myself, about others, about life.
You taught me how to look beyond myself in successes and at myself in our failures.
You taught me what it’s like to feel proud. Then devastated.
Healthy. Then injured.
Undefeated. Then just as easily, defeated.
I’d be lying if I said that this polarizing nature of being an athlete didn’t crack me from time to time. Because it did. More times than it didn’t.
But year after year each crack got filled by the thrill you gave me. It was as if the very thing I hated about you, also fueled my addiction to you.
I remember when I first played you. 2005. Bluehawks. Pink Cleats. Centennial Park. Snoqualmie, Washington. The memory is so vivid to me that the whole notion of it feeling like it was “just yesterday,” doesn’t even do it justice.
The years following my electric career debut on the Bluehawks came and went. The orange slices at halftime disappeared and just as quickly, my youth.
I was once a ball-hogging, shy, and unathletic 5-year-old and somewhere along the way, without me even noticing, I’ve come into my own, as an independent, slightly more athletic, 21-year-old ready to close this chapter of my life and open the next.
But first, our love story deserves a recap.
Over the last 16 years, you and I have made a pretty solid team.
We scored goals together, won championships together, crossed state lines together, got a red card… or two… or five, and found the people that will be giving my eulogy one day. But most importantly, you gave me the fight and purpose that I needed when the going got tough.
And let me tell you, the going got tough.
When things went awry at home and I felt like I was drowning in a pool of uncontrollables, you were there to give me the consistency that I needed. Quite frankly, I don’t want to know what type of person I’d be today if I didn’t have you during that time.
When I blew out my knee (thanks for that, by the way), my love for you was the only thing that got me back on the field. In fact, my love for you is the one thing that has kept me on the field all of these years despite the afflictions you caused me.
You know what I’m talking about… the early mornings, the nagging injuries, the bad weather, the screeching voices of my coaches at half time… and don’t get me started on the fitness testing.
You put me through some hellish times, but you also helped me through some hellish times, and once again I’m reminded of the polarizing nature of being an athlete. A feeling I know all too well.
It’s a grind. And sometimes it’s a lifetime’s worth of grinding for one second of glory.
But if I could do it all over again, I’d still show up to that Bluehawks game all those years ago.
But now it’s time to say goodbye to this life that I know so well.
To say goodbye to what feels like the sixth member of my family. Don’t tell the others, but you’re definitely my favorite sibling.
And I could think of no other way I’d want to leave you than on Wilson Field – where I found my people, my purpose, and my place that shaped me into the person my 5-year-old self wanted me to be.
And while saying goodbye to you hurts so much, I know that you will change another little girl’s life like you did mine, and that’s enough for me to let you go.
Goodbye, soccer. I love you.
Mia Fowler is a senior studying business and journalism. When she’s not in the classroom, you can find her on the soccer field where she is finishing up her last season with The Panthers.