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Saying Goodbye to My First Love, Softball, Due to My Chronic Illness

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I grew up with you. Loving you, caring for you, constantly visiting you and sometimes, quite honestly, despising you. You brought me some of my closest friends, fondest memories, funniest stories, and most valued life lessons.

You also brought me some of my first curse words, toughest frustrations, and inevitable girl drama. You taught me that winning is fun, but that losing will happen, too. To never give up, even when you’re far behind. That the underdog can be a champion. To never underestimate people. To stand up for myself and the people I care for. You taught me what it means to be mature when you want to be anything but that. You taught me how to learn, but also how to lead. You taught me loyalty and what it means to be a team-player. You taught me love and you taught me loss.

Softball diamond
Mary’s softball field.

The first time we met, I was too young to recall. Now, all these years later, just the sight of you brings a warmth to my heart that not many others can claim.

Each time we met, the fire within me started. There was always an excitement that couldn’t be fulfilled doing anything else. When I walked away from you, I either felt satisfaction and joy or disappointment and anger.

Before all this happened, I never expected to one day walk away from you feeling nothing but emptiness. I never knew something I loved so deeply and valued so greatly could one day make me feel sad and defeated.

Every now and then, though, I tell myself that this time it’ll be different. That I will put on my glove and run around the outfield, feeling as free as I once did, weightless and immortal. That this time I’ll take the bat in my hands and feel the rush as I connect with the ball, and run around, passing my dad waving me toward home plate with a look of pure joy and pride. That this time I’ll step out on your dirt and not worry about how badly I’ll feel like tearing off my head. That I won’t feel the excruciating pain of a migraine inside my skull. Each time, I’m let down. My thoughts become dreams that just need to be put to bed.

We’re often taught that we will experience love and loss in our life. However, no matter how much we’re taught it, we’re seldom prepared for it. We may know that we will enjoy victory, but also face defeat. The victory may never feel sweeter and the defeat never more bitter. We can learn what it feels to be completely alive, but also what it’s like to be completely numb.

Every time I used to walk away from you, there was no goodbye, only the unspoken promise that I would be back soon. But the truth of the matter is, I never expected my headaches to last this long into my young life. I always was hopeful that something, someone, somewhere would cure me or find a treatment for me that allowed me to be active again. To play again. To truly be one with you again. As you know though, that’s not the case and I don’t think it ever really will be.

So now, I leave you with no return date, only the hope that one day we may meet again. It’s hard to leave a first love behind. But maybe we have to sometimes. Maybe in order to move on, we need to find something else to replace the hole where that love once was. But this statement I know to be true: You never forget your first love.

Originally published: April 11, 2016
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