Tag Archives: journey

On the road again…

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As I mentioned last week, I spent my middle and high school years criss-crossing the state and my college years criss-crossing the nation because I fell head over heels in love with an extracurricular activity. Which is why, when I read this article about a JV girls soccer team from Alaska, my heart went out to them. You’ll see why…

Players from the Ketchikan High School girls JV soccer team, the Lady Kings, wait in the Ketchikan airport for their final trip of the season. They’re flying to Sitka, a slightly smaller town that’s about 200 miles north, also on an island. The past month and a half, they’ve traveled nearly every weekend. They flew to Juneau twice, then Anchorage, now Sitka.

Marissa Medford, the team’s head coach, acknowledged that the trip was exhausting. But she was nevertheless confident and optimistic.

“They’ve got this down,” Medford said. “They’ve pretty much been living out of their bags for a month now. Pretty much enough time to get home, wash their stuff, get the new set of homework and hit the road again.”

Wow, have I been there. My first year competing for collegiate forensics, before our team had travel restrictions in place (mandating students couldn’t travel over 3 weekends in a row), I felt like I was in a constant state of motion with my eternally packed suitcase in tow. I can remember doing laundry with my roommate before our last and most important tournament of the season and tearfully confessing to each other, “I don’t want to go.” We were just so exhausted. Because not only were we sleeping nights on buses, putting in long days and coming home to paper due dates and tests to study for but we were never alone. As an introvert, this was the most tiring and scary aspect of a rigorous travel schedule. No time to slip away and recharge one’s batteries; having to be “on” all the time.

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Indeed, if soccer is such a huge and exhausting commitment, some might wonder if playing in the first place is worth it. But according to Coach Medford, the experience of being on the team does more than give the athletes a chance to play sports.

“I think it helps them grow, and it brings them closer,” Medford said. “It’s different than people down south. You hop on a bus, go play a game, hop on a bus, go back home. [The Lady Kings] are with each other all the time. They grow friendships, and they grow up together.”

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And she’s right–friendships forged in this manner will last a lifetime. More or less because… you’ve been. through. some. shit. My coaches and teammates saw me at my absolute best and my rock-bottom worst. And I saw them. We were thrown into some pretty wacky situations that only travel can create…and became closer as a result.

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[Medford] believes the payoff is worth it, despite the brutal schedule.

“We have a really bad issue with substance abuse and domestic violence,” Medford said. “Not just Ketchikan, but Alaska in general. So it’s good for them to stay involved and have self-worth, and a sense of purpose and meaning. So that’s good to see.”

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But this is the part that struck me right to my core…how in the face of shitty consequences, extracurriculars, whether that means debating or kicking a ball or strumming a guitar, give a different option. In simplest terms, they give kids something else to do…something BETTER to do, than the outlets that can look so enticing when you’re young and dumb and not thinking about consequences. The girls on the Ketchikan JV soccer team may miss a few homework assignments. They may not be as chatty at the family dinner table because they’re reserving their words for strangers hundreds of miles away. They may, on certain days, question why they even chose to play soccer in the first place. But they will also have beautiful bonds with their friends and memories. They will have opportunities perhaps otherwise overlooked. And maybe they will play that much harder because the journey was just as important as the destination.

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And whether they know it or not, they will have a forever fan way down here in the Bluegrass State who realizes how meaningful those journeys can be.

 

(Pictures of the soccer team from the original article and by Emily Files. Pictures of the WKU Forensics team from Facebook culling and by various friends and old teammates who I hope don’t mind. ;  )

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Book Club: In Pursuit of Female Road Narratives Pt. 4

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“Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail” by Cheryl Strayed is the story of one woman on two concurrent journeys–forging a path through her own grief towards healing, acceptance and self-forgiveness as well as blazing the physical Pacific Crest Trail on an eleven-hundred mile solo hike. As mentioned before in our little virtual book club, I initially heard about this travel memoir on one of my favorite radio programs and felt reading it was of the utmost importance after stumbling upon Vanessa Veselka’s essay about the lack of female road narratives and why it matters.

For the last year or so, admittedly, I’ve been pretty obsessed with the idea of long-distance hiking, spending hours researching various trails and reading books and blogs about those who have made these trips.

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Suddenly, reading Veselka’s essay made me put 2 and 2 together–there were and ARE women out there who are going on magnificent journeys! They are walking from Georgia to Maine, from the Mexican border to the Canadian, they’re seeing our country in new ways, they are heroic and SOMETIMES–they are doing all of this ALONE. Strayed does not spend time justifying her ability or right to tell this story. She just tells it.

Whether you relate to the physical pain she endures; carrying her huge backpack lovingly nicknamed “Monster” and doctoring banged up feet from ill-fitting boots, or her emotional pain; the death of her mother and the end of her marriage–there are moments of palpable empathy throughout.

Do not let the fact that this book is so heavily touted by Oprah (it is emblazoned with her Obrah Book Club sticker/seal of approval) dissuade you. Oprah knows what’s up and this is no Nicholas Sparks feel-good novela. Instead, it is an honest depiction of a normal woman who went from “lost” to “found.”

Strayed doesn’t leave anything out when painting you a picture of herself as “lost.” Even though this depiction is far from from flattering. This candid portrait of Strayed’s miserable life reminds me of a part I played in college forensics, a woman on the road who put it very simply,

“When you’re laying face down on the ground there’s nowhere left to fall.”

Strayed hit rock bottom. There was no place left to climb but out.

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I truly believe this book is a great introductory read for anyone who is seeking out female road narratives. We’ve demonstrated over the last 3 weeks that stories like this one are hard to find. Reading it will hopefully reveal how women on their own and on the road can have a place in not only our literature but our cultural landscape, too.

In her essay, Veselka argues, “True quest is about agency.” Meaning, when we relegate women’s journeys to mistakes, escape or a plot twist only to end in tragedy, we are robbing them of just that. Instead, we need to afford women the possibility and ability to tell stories like Strayed’s.

Veselka explains, “You can go on a quest to save your father, dress like a man and get discovered upon injury, get martyred and raped, but God forbid you go out the door just to see what’s out there.” I want women to see what’s out there. I want to see what’s out there.


…So I read. I go on adventures. And I encourage you to do the same.

(Quote illustrations via here.)

Thank you so much for participating in this inaugural virtual book club on Finding Delight. I loved discussing everything with you and hope you felt just the teensiest bit inspired! I hope to do it again real soon. : )