College students learn a variety of coping mechanisms to deal with the everyday struggle we’ve chosen to endure. Some take the same lower division ceramics class every quarter, despite the fact that Patrick Swayze never visits from beyond the grave. Others join new churches or jump out of airplanes. I get the feeling that at least one of my fellow columnists indulges in herbal remedies from time to time, although I won’t say which one. There is one thing that has kept me afloat for the last five years, the thing that I love most.
When I was 12, an unfamiliar man came to my PE class to demonstrate a sport I’d never heard of. He brought two high school aged boys who hunched over opposite one another to line their sticks up and take a face-off in front of the class; I thought they only did that in hockey. They beat the shit out of each other with three-and-a-half foot metal sticks until one of them ended up with the ball. The man indicated that he was starting the Diablo Scorpions lacrosse club. I was sold.
I had played baseball when I was younger, but I was never very good, so in true pre-teen form, I quit. I played on the middle school basketball team despite my size because my best friend did too. He had a flat-top back then, so he was cool by default. Initially, I joined the lacrosse club because I wanted to find something masculine that I could have pride in, and because I seemed to be running out of options, beating other men with a three-and-a-half foot metal stick appealed to my less reasonable impulses.
That summer I attended lacrosse camp in Pebble Beach at a truly picturesque private school called Robert Louis Stevenson. You could never see very far past the tall pine trees but you could hear the ocean, and the fields smelled like fresh dew long after it had evaporated in the morning. You could throw a lacrosse ball and hit the world famous golf course. Well, I couldn’t then, but I can now.
It was in this environment, free of schoolyard contempt and otherworldly compromise that I learned almost everything important I understand about lacrosse today. I learned the fundamentals of dodging on a defenseman, the ins and outs of running a fast-break and the necessity of busting your ass every single moment you’re on that field, because you never know when it might be your last. I learned that you are to inscribe every field you grace with your best self, in the Native American tradition.
These are, however, not the most important things I learned there. I learned that understanding the technical aspects of the game is not the ultimate goal of practice, it is the means to a more emotionally complex end. I learned that there was nothing else I could experience that matched the inexplicable feeling that continues to overwhelm me well into my twenties when I slide that helmet over my head. I learned that for five days at a time, a person can travel to Pebble Beach with their lacrosse bag and become spiritually renewed at an age when spiritual renewal is unlikely (unless you had the greatest Bar-Mitzvah ever), and moreover, that if you learn to channel this energy, to make your passion your therapy, then you can feel renewed every time you put that helmet on.
Ten years ago, someone exceptional shared with me his boundless passion for a sport, a form of therapy that meant everything to him. It is because of him that I found my coping mechanism, the one thing that I advocate every college student find if they have not done so already. In his honor, I’ve decided to begin coaching this year in an attempt to share the passion that he instilled in me with the budding youth lacrosse community of Davis. I may never get to play collegiate ball again, but I can always aspire to share even a fraction of what he gave to the campers at Robert Louis Stevenson as a coach.
I advocate you find that thing that offers a momentary escape from the struggle we’ve chosen to endure long enough to retain your sanity. Find your passion, do it with as much honor as you know how, and make it your therapy.
And just when you think you’re done, dedicate a part of your life to sharing it with the people you love the most.
JOSH ROTTMAN urges you to submit your fiction, poetry and mixed media to Nameless Magazine. Visit us at namelessmagazine.com and reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.