At some point she had to let her go, to redefine who she is, to re-program her routine, and to change her needs. The competitor in her didn’t stop in 2005 when she peeled off her batting gloves one sweaty finger at a time, unlaced the double knots of her spikes, and cleaned out her bat bag for the last time. Unbeknowest to her, she never expected her last name and number on the back of her jersey would be difficult to leave on the hanger.
She was taught how to push to reach her goals, how to wake up early, stay late, to completely sacrifice for her ultimate goal of being the best version of herself. But what happens when its over? Who prepares her for the emptiness that creeps in, and the loneliness of missing the game and her role in it. What does she do now? Who does she become? What does her day look like? How does she transition from having teammates to co-workers?
She was ill equipped for her first year of life after retiring from professional softball. It caught her by surprise. She wasn’t even granted the “honeymoon” transition period from player to coach. Emptiness reared its unwelcomed head and slowly diminished her smile in the midst of conversation. An awakening was birthed when she realized that people actually have discussions about topics other than softball. Reality made its bed in her heart when she realized she was on the brink of her past and her future.
Each day that passed, was a slow reality that she would no longer be announced as, “now batting, #12, Iyhia McMichael” rather, she found herself wearing a name tag with people squinting their eyes to see how to pronounce her name, asking who she was, what was her background, all while listening to clever ways of how to say her name.
Its in those moments, she realized how much she wanted to go back to her safe haven of being an athlete, where everyone knew her name, where she felt welcome, and everyone spoke the same lingo. She rebelled against the shift happening in her own life. The only problem with that resolve was she found herself snuggling closer to lonely and flirting with depression.
The years to come after the summer of 2005 was difficult to say the least. She found herself quick to rattle off her accomplishments, both to prove her validity as a coach and to have her ego stroked. She found herself in a tug of war of letting go of the player she was and embracing the coach she would become. Someone long ago told her, “you cant hold on to your past and your future at the same time and expect movement, clarity, and vision.”
Although she still has moments of missing the game, she has transitioned to thankfulness of friendships made, places she’s been blessed to see, and lessons learned through the game of softball that have helped refine her spirit and strength. Now, she has appreciation and overwhelming joy for the game she gave her heart and soul to and now gets to coach, thankful for the players she is able to help create a healthy balance of being the best they can be without losing who they are.
While home, this picture spoke to her in a different way. She looked at the athlete in this picture and felt so proud. She has no regrets for the game of softball. She gave it all she had, so focused, so determined, so structured. But, she no longer misses that girl, she understands that season is over, and her off seasons now prepare and refine her spiritually with tools in preparation for whatever season God has in store. Isaiah 46:10 says, “Only I can tell you the future before it even happens. Everything I plan will come to pass.”
With tears rolling down her cheeks, she found the strength to LET GO of the tie that held her to her past and her future. She picked up her cleats and felt them in her hands, she picked up her batting gloves looking at the weathered leather, and grabbed her glove listening to the slap of the leather as she slammed the ball in the pocket of her leather glove one last time. IT TIME! IT’S TIME TO LET HER GO. I’m thankful she had the strength to let go of the player in order to embrace her future as a coach.
REBORN. RENEWED. RECOLORED.