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Would I be weak if I said I can’t let go? Is it because the passion is too strong – or am I weak? I’d confidently declare the former, but then don’t we all do that? Take the easy way out, because after all is said and done, it’s just easier than the truth?
It started six years ago. When I first played, I remember the exultation it arose in me. In no time, I was addicted to basketball. Everyday, I would anticipate the half hour of basketball we were sure to play. In the Inter-House Championship, when I made the scoring basket before the buzzer went off, I was not thinking of my sprained ankle or the fact that the MVP wasn’t mine. I was thinking – we’ve won! And that simple thought shone like a talisman I could keep close to my heart.
I was the happiest person on earth; I played like there was no tomorrow. I loved everything about the game – from the tryouts to the pep talks, mostly given by me. Even now, I can visualize the baskets. That nanosecond when my feet were off the ground and my eyes on the basket, I could forget who I was, where I was and who was watching me. I was home.
And then, as so often happens when you’re flying high with your dreams, I was shot down like a bird. I couldn’t play in matches anymore – and my dream of playing for the school team shattered before it could form. My mind was in tumult. On one hand, I knew I was making the right decision. But that didn’t stop me feeling the way I did.
That year, and the next, I didn’t play. I faced disappointment, shock and even anger. No-one could make head and tail of my excuse – “I have my reasons”. I was a promising player. If I was trained, I would be an amazing strength to the team. And that, of course, made it all harder than ever.
I watched my friends board the bus to the annual Inter-school tournament. I obsessively watched all the photographs of them playing even though it hurt. Any news about the match would make my heart lurch. It had nothing to do with good news or bad news – basketball news would have this strange reaction in me from then on.
I watched as they walked back, defeated and injured and angry. Soon though, they forgot. I wish I could say the same for myself. For some reason I couldn’t let it go. It frustrated me. Somehow, I always counted myself as a ‘basketball player’ before I was brutally corrected. Personally, I was puzzled. Could you still be a player if you didn’t play, but wanted to just as badly?
Every year, it happened all over again. Every time I told myself: it’s over, this is how things are. But every time I saw my friends getting ready for the match, or discussing strategies in the bathroom, my resolve would shatter and I’d feel the same way I’d felt the first time my team played without me.
Today, it’s been six years since I last played in a match; three since I’ve played at all. Things are different now. Once in a while, a curious someone enquires as to my reasons for letting go of something I could have had. In reality, I have never actually told anyone my whole purpose of quitting basketball. It is not that big a secret; it is neither embarrassing nor silly. It is simply something personal; something that may mean nothing to anybody; but it means more than that to me – and I’d like to keep it that way.
After the last match, day before yesterday, I texted my friends, I congratulated them on winning the championship. They thanked me, told me how much it meant to them.
When I kept the phone, I couldn’t escape myself. I sat up the whole night, thoughts racing in my head. It had been one hell of a journey – and what souvenir did I have? There was hurt, disappointment, and an unrealized dream.
But I knew what there wasn’t - Regret.
I had come out of the ordeal, scarred like the next man, but with strength; and a confidence so fresh I could smell it. I knew I could do whatever I set my heart on, and on a good day, I think it is just precious enough to be worth all the pain.