*N.A.R.P. – Non-athletic regular person.
What’s that saying? You don’t know what you have until it’s gone? Ugh, could anything be more relevant?
After three years of practices, games, countless injuries, aching muscles, and the inevitable drama that comes with being on a team of ~18 women, it’s safe to say that I was sooo ready to be done with being a student-athlete. During my last season of lacrosse, I was secretly hoping that it would fly by and that I would never have to lace up a pair of cleats or deal with petty drama ever again. (Of course this was until I got my last concussion and mono and had to sit out the rest of the season… #karma???) But, of course, I sometimes catch myself missing my days as a student-athlete, especially recently considering lacrosse season has just started and I’m now a spectator and not a player. And let’s be honest, there’s just something about watching your (former) team through Facebook Live that makes the wound seem that much more fresh and makes me feel that much more irrelevant.
At one point or another, I think many people can relate to seeking validation from an affiliation with a certain group or organization and then feeling like you’ve been robbed of your identity once you leave or graduate. There’s so much comfort to be found in being a part of something bigger than yourself and being constantly surrounded by people with similar interests as you, especially while you’re in college. I mean, I spent the majority of my free time in college with a group of girls—some of whom will be forever friends and some of whom I rarely talk to now—and so I really do miss the feeling being a part of a team. Whether we liked it (or each other) or not, we were all unified by similar goals and interests. We made sacrifices for each other, lifted each other up when others were down, and grew as women and individuals together.
That being said, I really don’t miss playing lacrosse; I don’t miss 5:30am lifts or practice in the freezing rain. But I do miss being a part of something bigger than myself. I miss being a member of a community that is founded on integrity, self-discipline, hard work, and most importantly, unity. And for three years, I placed my identity in a group of women who were all equally as lost as me: none of us knew exactly what we were doing, where we were going in life, or how to even get there. So for these reasons, I miss it.
There’s nothing quite as scary as finding yourself by yourself, especially when you’ve grown accustomed to always having a major support system near by.
However, there’s also nothing more liberating than finally being able to make all of the decisions for your own life. There’s no athletic directors, coaches, captains, or teammates watching your every move or creeping on your social media accounts to make sure you aren’t doing anything you aren’t supposed to be doing (as a student-athlete).
I’ve been a NARP for nine months, and it is still intimidating as hell. I have no idea what I’m doing, and unlike my role as a student-athlete, there’s literally no “NARP Handbook” laying out the rules as to what I can and cannot do. Regardless of how difficult it may seem, many of us who have graduated or left a group must realize the countless learning and self-discovery opportunities that can come about from no longer being attached to a group that once defined us. So, cheers to being an alumni, a NARP, newly single, whatever—embrace this new identity and all the freedom and growth that comes along with it.