Hi, my name is Mandy Lorenson, and I am a softball player, well, at least I will be for the next couple months.
Throughout my life, I have always introduced myself as a softball player.
It has been my identity, the thing I fell back on when, on the first day of class, the teachers ask to tell them and your fellow classmates something about yourself.
But come the middle of May, I will no longer be able to call myself a softball player because I am graduating with my degree in journalism and multimedia studies with two minors in psychology and marketing.
The life that I have lived for the past 18 years or so is going to end for me and I will be forced to let go and turn the page on the thing that has made me who I am today and allow new things to fill the space softball once did.
There comes a point in all of our lives where something, no matter what it is, comes to an end and we have to let it go. As heartbreaking as it is and as much as we don’t want to, we have to in order for new and better things to come.
As I sit here and I think about what it is going to be like when I do tie up my cleats for the last time and take the field, my stomach drops, my chest tightens and my eyes start to fill up with tears.
As much as I would like to ignore the pain and heartache that letting go of this sport is going to cause me, I know I can’t. I also know, much like my entire softball career, that this is going to be another learning and growing experience.
To spend more than a decade doing something and then waking up one day without that something you have clinged to for such a long time, is one crazy concept to me and one that I hope one day I will be able to wrap my head around.
As I get closer to my softball career coming to an end, I have taken some time to reflect upon what this sport has taught me and how it has shaped me into the person I am today.
Security and Identity
Being a softball player has always provided me with the feeling of being safe and secure. No matter where I went, I automatically had team friends that overtime turned into real friends, since I spent a majority of my time with them on and off the field.
The steps for how my life was supposed to be were laid out for me. From earning a scholarship to go to college, to getting the degree I needed in order to prepare myself for the time I am at now: graduating and entering into my “new” life without the identity of a softball player, there has always been a sense of security in what I am doing with my life.
I feel like after college, many people struggle with their identity and how they fit in the “real” world.
Whether we come from the academic, artistic or the athletic side, we all spend so much of our time in school doing our extracurricular activities, that when it does come time to graduate and venture off into the “real” world, I feel that we lose sight of who we really are and how we are suppose to fit in because we no longer have that sense of identity that we have held onto for the majority of our lives.
But within those feelings of losing my identity, I can look to softball as something that has also prepared me to step into the “real” world and create a new identity for myself outside of everything I have known growing up. I feel a sense of security knowing I have been preparing my whole life for this moment of letting go of my identity as a softball player.
Softball has been the teacher of all things in my life and all the lessons that I have learned are things that I have been able to carry over and find application in my own personal life off the field.
Many people may see softball as just a sport or me as just another athlete, and that is fine. There are things in all of our lives that we care about more than the person sitting next to us.
You could care about fine arts and music and I really couldn’t have a care in the world, but what it comes down to is if what you care about and put your time and effort into, is reciprocating care back to you and allowing you to grow and learn as a person.
For me, softball has done just that.
I truly credit softball for shaping me into who I am today, because without it, I would have never been taught the lessons of life the way I have been taught them through softball.
Softball has taught me how to deal with failure and what it is like to fail with multiple people watching.
It has taught me what it is like to fail but still act and carry myself as though nothing has happened.
It has taught me to let go and only put my effort and energy to things that truly matter, and to turn my focus to the situations that make me better.
Everything that softball has taught me on the field has somehow translated over for application in my personal life and how I handle and react to different situations that arise.
From the field, I learned what it is like to be independent, but also a team player.
I was introduced to the group dynamic at an early age and was forced to learn to put myself aside to focus on achieving success as a team.
The success as an individual came, but I learned that the success I had individually came from putting the success of my team before my own.
When I was younger, I didn’t really see what exposure to teams did for me in my own life but as I have grown older, I have realized the importance of my exposure to team dynamics at an early age.
I learned how to be selfless. I learned how to put my feelings aside to achieve a common goal for a group rather than being selfish and only wanting to achieve the goals I have set out for myself.
Don’t get me wrong, I have definitely had my moments where I have let my own goals overtake the common goals we are trying to achieve as a team. But through those selfish moments, I learned how to become aware and change my mindset back to thinking selflessly and for the greater good of the team.
Finding a Balance
The last several years have been a constant battle in trying to find a balance between my own personal life and my softball life, and what is needed and wanted not only from myself, but also from my teammates and coaches.
I don’t know where I heard it, but I have heard someone refer to all that they do in a given day as wearing different “hats.”
I put on this metaphorical “hat” when I am a student in the classroom and then I change it over to another metaphorical “hat” when I am an athlete competing on the softball field. I wear all these different “hats” throughout the day and I am constantly changing them in order to fit the needs and demands of the current task I am faced with.
Playing softball for as many years as I have has taught me how to balance and manage all these different “hats.”.
Now, I will be the first to admit, I have a procrastination problem. I thrive under pressure and I feel as though I produce my best work when I am working with a time crunch even though I could have days if not weeks to complete an assignment.
I guess that’s why I chose the major I did, journalism, because I am always working toward some sort of deadline and the feeling of having a certain time when an assignment is due gives me the push I need in order to not only get the assignment done, but also produce my best work.
Softball has taught me about time management, which has been a vital part of being a student athlete, but also vital when getting a career in journalism.
My daily schedule has pretty much stayed the same for these past 18 years of my life: Wake up, go to school, go to practice, eat, do homework, get ready for bed and do it all over again the next day.
There was room within my days that I fit in other things that I needed to get done in my personal life or I’d have an off day from softball here and there, but for the most part, that has been what my schedule has been like.
On the weekends, I would be at a tournament. Sometimes they would be in my hometown so we wouldn’t have to spend extra days traveling to and from tournament location, but a majority of the tournaments I played in over the weekend required some sort of travel to get to the location the tournament was being held at.
I have lived my life on the road traveling for games and at this point in my athletic career, I have gotten it down to a science. Still, traveling isn’t my favorite, due to the fact that it throws off the routines I have worked so hard to establish in my life to make me perform and function better on a day-to-day basis.
I have found that it’s all about finding a balance and figuring out what it is I need from myself when my day gets going and there’s no stopping until the day is done.
As I was growing up, I didn’t recognize the balancing and managing I was doing between these two lives nor did I see the positive impact that it was having in my life.
It wasn’t until I got to college and bounced around from class to practice back to class, and then to something completely unrelated to both school and softball, that I realized that my entire life I have constantly been doing something and changing my “hat” as I go.
I thought it was normal to go to class, then go to practice, then finish all those little things in between that needed to be done before the day ended.
I didn’t realize that it wasn’t normal to constantly drive yourself to the most tired point you can get to everyday of your life.
Now, I know there are those that may be reading this and are thinking, “Well, I balance work full time and school full time, it’s pretty much the same thing as you’re going through,” and yes, you are right, I agree with you 100%.
Going to school full time and working full time are one and the same, and I hope you can take away that being an athlete and being a worker both provide opportunities for learning and growing experiences in our life.
If I were you, I’d take the time to reflect back and see how those learning experiences have shaped and impacted you and the life you are living today.
The balance that I have found between managing my softball life and my personal life has been one of the, if not, most important aspects I have found upon my reflection of what softball as a sport has taught me.
Finding this balance at an early age and then also being able to manage that balance has prepared me for the life I am about to live as a true adult away from the softball field.
Softball has been the foundation for which I have learned and built my own personal life upon and I truly feel like if it weren’t for these past 18 years going through what I have gone through in my career, I wouldn’t be the person I am today, writing this to whoever cares to read it.
Softball will always be more than just a sport to me, it will be the thing that I loved first but then in return showed me how loving something so much can teach you how to be a productive member of society, filled with lessons just as any nonathletic person is filled with.
As I am about to close this chapter of my life, I can’t help but think back on all this sport has taught me and brought into my life and say,
To the first thing I ever had love for.