I played Division I tennis in college and it’s been almost a year since I graduated. It was a bittersweet ending. I would miss my team and miss the school, but I was definitely burnt out from tennis by then and I must say, I felt ready — excited, even — to move on.
But, it hadn’t fully hit me that after training for more than 10 years, my career as a college athlete had come and gone. I didn’t think about how lost I’d feel after losing something I’d clung to for so long.
So without further ado, here are the five ways being a college athlete led me to lose myself upon graduating:
1. My body turned to mush and now I feel like a naked 12-year-old boy
Sure, I still work out, but I no longer have time to exercise for three to four hours a day. I’m an adult now for God’s sake; I have papers to sign and bills to pay.
I remember worrying about getting fat when I graduated, but actually, the opposite happened. I shrunk and my muscles turned to a slushy goo.
2. End-of-life crisis
Though it may seem overdramatic, a part of my life ended. The 15 years I spent working toward a scholarship are now over. I’ve since graduated to become a recreational player who plays tennis every other weekend.
After college, no one tells you what to do next; there’s no road map anymore. Where coaches used to push me and parents used to yell at me, I must now do everything by myself.
3. I’m no longer using half of my brainpower to think about a sport
I didn’t realize how much time I spent thinking about tennis; the time of practice, the location of the away match, how annoying our coach could be, how tired or sore practice made me feel, how badly I played last weekend, whether I was losing my timing — I could go on forever.
The point is as soon as I graduated, half of the noise in my head stopped. It was like a vacuum cleaner sucked up all of the tennis files and cleared about half my brain space for… um… I don’t know. What do I think about now? Do I have to come up with actual thoughts?
4. It’s time for me to obsess about something else
Putting the sudden halt on working out felt like a speeding train trying to stop for a deer two feet in front of it. I went from being excited (I can do anything now! I’m free! I can pick up a new sport or enter a hot-dog-eating contest if I feel like it!) to settling for binge-watching everything on Netflix.
I was grumpy for the first few weeks until I realized that it was because I wasn’t working out as much. Then, I was grumpy again, until I finally discovered something else to which I could dedicate my energy. Sometimes, I’m still grumpy, but now, I blame PMS.
5. Discovery that there are plenty of people in the “real” world who work hard
I used to be stuck in this mindset that being a college athlete made me somewhat special. I worried that when I graduated, I’d become just another unmotivated, burger-guzzling slob, just like the rest of the world.
Being surrounded by the same people who train with you, think like you and have no life, like you, is nice, but it makes you oblivious to everything else out there.
Once I left the safety of my tennis bubble, I discovered that there’s a “general knowledge” gap in my brain. I didn’t pick up on pop culture references and celebrity names and was surprised that when it came to a job outside of tennis, my work ethic wasn’t up to par, either.
There are unmotivated humans out there, obviously, but there are also people who never stop working.
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