It’s the closing banquet after my tenth-grade basketball season. Baby-back ribs from Wood Ranch litter linen-clothed tables in the Feldman Horn Art Gallery, and as I look around, the past and present are colliding. I’m eating food from my former favorite restaurant, which I used to call “The Woody,” and when my coach reaches me in the long line of players he must praise individually, he credits my stamina. I’d become accustomed to playing through fatigue game after game, but ironically, that stamina had just run out. I’d suited up for the last time.
After over ten years of dedicated practice, Las Vegas tournaments and the completely engrossing, sometimes draining and fantastic world of basketball, I finally decided to stop playing the game I loved so much. Soon after, I struggled to define myself in a way that satisfied me.
To this day, I cannot definitively say I made the right decision. In some ways, I let myself down, but tough decisions result in an inevitable mourning period.
Quitting is in no way the answer to everything, and for the record, I debated quitting for years, but there came a point when my interest in the sport dwindled in comparison to new pursuits that now take priority. It is not that I had gotten everything I wanted from it, but I was satisfied with my experience and was ready for something new, no matter how much I may have tried to deny it.
When I told my childhood friend, the same friend who used to flail his sharp elbows in brutal games of knockout on the lower yard in fifth grade, he asked me how I could have quit; basketball was my identity, after all. Then I asked myself a few essential questions: Did I quit because I was unsatisfied with being 6 feet 2 inches and only able to approach dunks on nine-and-a-half foot rims? Did I give up? Or was it that my desires, or at least their intensities, had changed?
What’s new is scary, and in staying, there was comfort, even if it wasn’t the ideal sense of comfort all people may be searching for. In stepping into the unknown, I’m positive I have reclaimed control over my own life and achieved a greater level of self-empowerment, and even if that step may seemingly (but not actually) discredit years of hard work, it takes courage.When relationships between two people, a person and an activity, or even a person and an idea lose their allure, it’s important for people to remind themselves why they do what they do. To stay in a challenging environment is to realize that the fulfilling qualities we seek in our everyday lives can never be constant and that the opportunity to look back and recognize a lost love or missed connection is no opportunity at all.
Ultimately, it’s a personal decision to quit, and although temporary struggle may not be an adequate reason for this end, people should be able to look back on their experiences fondly. Sometimes people need change, and if they have learned a lesson and decided to quit, their conclusion should be honored.
I’ll always cherish being a part of “lanky boy nation” with my fellow tall teammates, but eventually, it was time to spread my wings, or rather my limbs, to embrace something new.