My Peter Pan Lifestyle - Pt 1
There’s nothing quite like a 7-hour trip home from upstate New York in November to dig the knife into the gushing wound that is the end of your competitive soccer career. 0/10 would recommend. This gives you just the amount of time to not only create in your head and play a montage from 15+ years of soccer—from eating oranges at half time as a five-year-old to watching the clock run down for the final time in your school’s jersey—but also to replay this personal cinematic masterpiece at least 72 times. Each rerun comes with new clips and, with every barren Maple tree that speeds by your window, you are reminded that, for better or for worse, there is never going to be a final cut of this feature.
From the above scene, you probably can get a sense of the kind of senior I was. “Last fitness test”. “Last preseason game”. “Last time singing in the locker room”. “Last time stepping my left foot in this very specific manner on my home field”. My teammates probably definitely wish they could have smacked me in the jaw over my premature mourning and I would have joined them in the beating in a second. But the fact of the matter was, I was blessed with an incredible 4.5 years of college soccer and during the last several months, became engaged in the impossible task of attempting to squeeze everything out of each moment of the experience with the people I loved before time ran out. For everybody, the last go around is emotional in different ways. For everybody, there’s a weirdness, an anxiety and a sadness that comes with the loss of something that consumed so much of your life for so long.
My mother has a favorite story from me when I was a young child, during parents-as-coaches, oranges-at-halftime days. After an event which my child-self felt as deeply devastating (probably the loss of an AYSO game), I told her that “I thought the world ended. And then it didn’t”. In many ways, on that bus ride home after my last NCAA tournament game, it felt like I was 7 again.
The world, as young Hannah would point out, kept turning though. I now am on the other side, alive and well. Instead of waxing poetic about my final days as a collegiate athlete, I am going to talk about my existence after the curtain fell. More specifically, you will read about the great, scary, foreign (in more ways than one) adventure I am on playing semi-professional soccer in Sweden.
For many months before and after graduation, I was one of the young adults forced to constantly field messages regarding the “right way” to lead a life in the real world. That noise can feel like it’s being turned up to 11 especially when you graduate from a very expensive liberal arts college. The idea blasted in my ear, and that of so many others, is to pursue a path of stability, of wealth, of respectability, of something that resembles getting your life together and setting yourself up properly for the future. Get your masters, be an investment banker or a teacher or a doctor. Do good. Make money. Best case scenario: do both (yeah right!).
Here, I am not working a 9-5 job; I am not in or applying to grad school; I am not making much money. Despite all this, I would like to think that, in a roundabout way, I am giving a good shot at figuring out myself and my life to prepare for a happy and successful future.
I was not sure of this decision to move abroad to play when the last whistle blew or when I turned in my equipment in December or even when I walked across the stage to get my diploma in the spring. There are times when I am still not sure, like when I can’t understand what my teammates are saying to me on the field or I accidentally eat pickled herring. However, despite the bumps, I am growing, having fun—and yes, thankfully learning a little Swedish—outside my comfort zone and I believe this is where I am supposed to be for now.
After all, knowing that I will continue to formulate many montages as I look in retrospect at closed chapters of my life, I want to stockpile some out-of-the-ordinary and special highlights to be screened in my brain theater.
So, how did I end up in Uppsala, Sweden? What is life like for a semi-pro American soccer player abroad? The trials? The triumphs? Will I ever return home?! (To my parents who may be reading this, yes, I will; that was a joke, I promise!). Rest assured that I will not leave you dangling for long and hope to shed light on these and other matters in the next few posts.
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