I came to Brandeis thinking I would do two things: go to school and play basketball. I had other desires to explore a part of the country I had never been to before, enjoy time away from home and even have some fun. But at the top of my list was wanting to do both of these things, and to do them well. Each had always been constants in my life, areas that challenged me but also provided comfort amidst other unknowns. Throughout high school, I excelled in the classroom and grew to love learning in all its shapes and forms. I had a bit of a harder time on the basketball court, but came out of that experience stronger and grateful for the opportunity to play at the collegiate level. I was ready to keep pushing, putting all of my focus into being the best student and the best athlete I could be.
During my first two years at Brandeis, this was enough for me. I was comfortable. I loved being far away from home and felt I had finally found my place. I had escaped what was holding me back in high school and had more room—both mentally and physically—to study and compete in ways that made sense to me. I was enjoying my schoolwork and felt intellectually challenged. I worked really hard on my game, and despite injuries, found myself playing meaningful minutes and contributing to my team in a variety of other ways. I felt confident around my teammates and had a social circle to spend time and have fun with. I remember thinking to myself, this is what college as a student-athlete is supposed to be like. And I had made it.
But as time went on, I found myself feeling as if there was something missing. For a while, I couldn’t pinpoint what that something was, but I knew it was there. I am beyond proud to be a student-athlete and always will be. But the perfectionism that surrounded this identity of mine was something I so desperately wanted to let go of but didn’t know how to.
I’m not writing this to say that I have this battle all figured out. Or that my time at Brandeis gave me all of the answers. But I am writing to say that my experiences here have taught me that it is okay to step outside my protective shell every once in a while, and that this is even healthy and needed. I have learned that a student-athlete can be anything I make it to be and that I don’t have to put myself in some arbitrary, restrictive box. I have met people here who support me and who see me for who I am, not what I can do. And I have friends, teammates, coaches and mentors who I call my family.
It has taken me years to realize that the grades and the stat sheet are less important than I once thought they were. They have given me tangible goals that I have used to guide myself, and that has been helpful, but the numbers don’t tell my story. Writing, conversations, experiences and relationships hold that space for me instead.
So, I thank Brandeis for giving me a start rather than an end. For helping me begin to tear down the wall. And most importantly, for giving me people that are along for the ride, wherever I decide to write my next chapter.