Although I always try to view adversity as a crossroads, not a cliff, I have not always engaged in the healthiest coping mechanisms. As I’ve gotten older, I have learned what works for me, what doesn’t and even what is destructive. Part of what I have learned is that helping other people with their problems often makes mine seem a little smaller.
I have logged many hours as my friend’s unpaid therapist, but I would not be the person, listener and giver of advice that I am if not for everyone who has shaped me. This list of people includes friends, family and mentors as well as enemies, ex-friends and boyfriends and people who have otherwise negatively impacted my life.
Every heartbreak, heart-warming moment and betrayal has made me who I am in some way. I have been shown both overwhelming kindness and unbelievable cruelty and I am grateful for everything I have learned along the way. Therefore, I would like to share some of the best pieces of advice I have picked up along the way so that maybe one of these things will be as impactful to someone else as they are to me.
10. “Play every game like it’s your last”
This is one is pretty cliche for an athletes, but I never would have fully understood it had I not known my former teammate Alexa Criollo. I look up to Criollo as an athlete, teammate, friend and person and absolutely loved playing lacrosse with her.
Unfortunately, halfway through her senior season (which she was absolutely dominating, by the way) she broke her foot on a Sunday shooting around with some of her friends. She was out for the rest of the season and will never play competitive sports again. Sucks, right?
I missed Criollo on the field and I miss her even more now that she is graduated and gone. She definitely has made me appreciate lacrosse more deeply as I’m drawing closer and closer to the end of my athletic career with only two seasons of lacrosse and one season of soccer left. I carry her words with me to every practice, game and workout.
9. “You can’t always be the most talented player on the field, but you can be the hardest working player on the field”
Phil Reed coached me in both basketball and soccer throughout middle and high school and I can still affirm that he is one the best coaches I have ever had. I could write an entire article about how much his leadership has shaped me as an athlete and person. I try to apply his advice in all aspects of my life; people may be smarter, faster, stronger, better, but no one should ever outwork you.
8. “Part of life that is hard to accept as you get older is that sometimes people will inevitably let you down”
Brian Williams, another fantastic coach that I have had the privilege to work with. I don’t often find people that will push me harder than I push myself, but Coach Brian motivates me like no other and has been such a light in my entire athletic experience. I have the utmost respect and trust for Coach Brian and would (and have) go to him for just about anything.
One day after practice my freshman year he asked me if I was alright because I had seemed upset during practice. Earlier that week, I had been really let down by a close friend and I cried and told him what had happened and opened up about a lot of other personal history.
In the face of a conversation he probably hadn’t bargained for, he showed me admirable kindness and understanding. He taught me that it is human to err, and sometimes people will let you down and it’s not necessarily a reflection of them, you or the relationship. But, it is also human to forgive and forgiveness is a skill that everyone should strive to constantly grow and improve and I am grateful for everything that Coach Brian has done to help me facilitate this as well as my development as an athlete and person.
7. “The art of planning is in re-planning.”
My father and I don’t often have deep conversations, but the occasions where they do happen are some of the most significant moments in my life. During one of these conversations, he had just been laid off from a job and company that he had lost his love for and chose to view it as a new beginning rather than an end. He now works for SRC Inc. and loves his job.
As the frightening concept called my future slowly continues to creep into reality, I try to remember his words and realize that I cannot possibly plan out the rest of my life and I am ready to roll with the punches.
6. “Good is the enemy of great”
Keith Detelj, my lacrosse coach, just recently said this to us in a team meeting. It’s really hard to get better than good at anything because being “good” inspires complacency. It is easier to strive for improvement if you suck at something because no one ever wants to stay at the bottom. The tricky part though is to never stop climbing because you may never truly reach the top, but there’s no reason you can’t strive to.
5. “If you feel like it’s you versus the world, chances are it’s really you versus yourself”
I actually read this in a book titled “The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck” by Mark Manson that my mom gave me for Christmas. It was actually my favorite Christmas present from her this year because it was a gift that really made me feel like she understood and even appreciated my personality. If you want a peek inside my head, read this book.
Manson writes that there are two forms of entitlement: “I’m special and therefore I deserve special treatment,” and “I suck and therefore I deserve special treatment.” The second one is the most dangerous and one that I definitely engaged in when I was younger. I’ve found that my life has drastically improved since I decided to view the world and adversity from a different perspective.
4. “You can’t always control the situation you are in, but you can control how you respond”
Although my soccer coach Mike Eckberg told us this, this advice stretches far beyond the soccer field. Quite frankly, shit happens and you can’t control everything. Adversity is a launchpad and an opportunity to make something better than it was when you found it, even if that something is yourself.
3. “Radical forgiveness”
This is actually something that my therapist explained to me in my most recent session. I am an angry person by disposition, but after a horrible, crushing experience at the beginning of the summer I was able to let go of a lot of the anger that I have been carrying around in my heart for years. I had allowed my negative experiences in life to pile on top of each other and crush me into a deep-seated, quiet fury.
I suffered one of the most sadistic, cruel acts I have ever endured in my life and it was at the hands of someone I loved. I had to take measures that I never thought I would have to in my life, and I came out the other side unharmed after feeling so threatened mentally and emotionally and then the world opened up.
Now, when I do get angry, I subsequently get upset with myself because I’ve realized that anger is almost never worth it. When I explained this to my therapist, he told me about the concept of radical forgiveness. He said that I “have a lot to be legitimately pissed about,” and that it’s okay for me to let myself feel that way. It’s all about expressing those emotions in a healthy manner.
2. “Be a jack of all trades and a master of two”
I actually heard this while listening to a speaker at a journalism conference at Columbia University my senior year of high school. As a two sport athlete, editor-in-chief of a publication, double major, intern and employee, I think it’s safe to say that I have followed this advice. Try everything.
1. “This too shall pass”
I’m pretty sure everyone has heard this somewhere, but the first time I heard was from my best friend in high school’s father, Sam Cummins. Sam and Kathy often felt like a second set of parents to me and even though life has taken Kerrigan and I in different directions, I am confident that this wonderful family would still be there should I ever need them.
He said this to me when my boyfriend at the time left for boot camp. Although that now seems so small in my life, his advice was bigger than that. Happiness comes from solving problems and usually if you’re willing to weather the storm, you will eventually be okay and even come out the other side better than you were before.