I know I normally write to you on this day and talk about all the things I never got to say to you. If it’s okay with you, I’m going to change it up to update you on what I’ve learned this year instead.
Since I’ve last written you I’ve learned to stand up straight. Literally. Sure took a while didn’t it? I’m realizing there are serious perks to being tall: We get more sunlight, clothes look better on us, I can see a concert stage more easily than the Polly Pocket in front of me, and I'm the first to know when to open my umbrella.
I put basketball, and consequently, myself, first. I know I had my moments of doubt. Remember when I had mono and my first boyfriend and you felt like you’d lost me? My constant is basketball; it has been since the first day I stepped on a court and you took me under your wing. I faltered occasionally, but came back stronger each and every time. There is no realm where I feel quite as confident, quite as ‘in the moment,’ or quite myself as when I’m standing on the hardwood with a ball in my hand.
I learned to let go. There are some things and some people I will absolutely never forget, but I have no control over what other people do – I never have. The difference is, now I don’t get sick from worrying about why he did this or she did that. Everyone tries to do the best they can. We don’t always know who we hurt.
I learned to love the game all over again. I think I tell you this every year, but this year I truly mean it. Last Monday night our coach brought out a springboard and let me try to practice dunks. I’m still learning new moves all the time. I had no idea there were so many ways to score. I’m getting really creative: off-balance going off right leg shooting with right hand, twisting and contorting using the basket and rim in ways I’d never think of. It’s a lot of fun. I try not to get frustrated when I can’t do a new move the way I want to. Don’t worry; I still use my free time to get down footwork. Some things haven’t changed...
Every day I decide to be my best self. The days when I tense up and think about holding fast to fleeting moments I tell myself, ‘They are not you. You are you. You decide who you are.’
I am still not taking any shortcuts. I touch all the lines. We both know there is no easy way, and if you find one, it’s probably not the right way. It’s hard being over here sometimes. I miss my friends, my family, hugs, and in-person conversations. I don’t find that I’m hardening in the absence of contact, I think I’m learning to appreciate it more. I miss you.
I’ve taken some serious leaps. My college coach told me she thought I was bigger than the limitations I put on myself. That’s really hard to hear when you’re content with what you’re doing, but she was right. I let go of what I felt held me back. I looked forward. More importantly, I seized the present.
I learned how to shoot the 3. I’m getting better at it every day. I’m still becoming the ‘complete player’ you knew I could be. Your voice is in my head each time I step on the court. You still push me. I appreciate it.
I remember to take time to have fun. Not just in basketball. I think about you renting a convertible, I think about you jumping out at your daughter and me when we used to watch scary movies, I think about you singing along to Pink. I sat on a swing today and pumped my feet until I was as high as I could go, then I jumped. I remember to be a kid, even if only for a few moments each day.
I reminded myself to never back down. Labels mean nothing. Work ethic is everything. Each rep matters. There are no underdogs. There are only hard workers and those who worked almost as hard…
I’ve learned that tone is everything. What you say doesn’t matter as much as how you say it. I'm becoming consistently aware of my tone.
I finally strengthened my hips. It took me 23 years. You’re right, my knees don’t hurt anymore.
It’s nice to be well-rounded, but it’s also exhausting. I’m learning how to focus on one thing at a time. You were right, you can’t be in a million places at once. I’m here now. I’m happy to be here. I got here as fast as I could.
I learned to say what you want to say while you can. Make sure everyone knows how you feel about them. There isn’t always tomorrow. I used to care a lot about what I ‘put out there,’ I probably wouldn’t have even publicly posted this, but I mean every word. I think of you often, and I hope I make you proud.
#30 (the first number I was honored to wear)