For some reason or another, we find excuses as to why we can’t make time for the things that are important to us. Upon graduating high school, we never seem to “have time” to do anything more than work and zone out on Facebook. We don’t have time to travel, to learn how to cook, to do the things we love, or to visit the family that lives far away.
I am no exception to this. Since starting college last year, the time I spent writing, exercising, playing sports, hanging out with friends, and just plain having fun has severely dwindled. In a competitive world of grades and professional futures, financial problems and big dreams, it sometimes seems impossible not to take on a large plate of classes, work, and résumé-enhancing extracurriculars. It’s all about who can do the most at once and who can do it the best—especially when it comes to preparing for and applying to medical school, as I will be doing in a couple of years.
I rarely take a break from the break-neck pace of life I have chosen. It is not a choice I necessarily regret—I love to be challenged and stay busy. But by constantly staring down the same long tunnel, I tend to forget the people that I love around me and the things that I love to do. My ambitious nature is blessing and a curse.
When I decided to study abroad in Córdoba, Argentina, the ambitious, curious, love-of-learning me thought little more than of becoming fluent in Spanish and learning about Argentine culture. I knew that I would have a lot of fun, see some cool sights, and possibly make some friends; but I had no idea that the biggest lessons I would learn would be the most obvious ones.
Like the fact that I absolutely positively LOVE soccer and never play it anymore. Although I played soccer in high school, for one terrible reason or another, my high school soccer coaches wouldn’t play me. After a few years of frustrating seasons full of small-town politics and drama, I decided not to play during my senior year. Even though I dearly miss it, I haven’t tried very hard to find ways to play it, save one semester of once-a-week intramural soccer.
I have always loved soccer because it is one of the few times in life when I am truly in the moment. When I play soccer, I stop thinking completely. My body moves by instinct, and nothing else in the world matters besides getting to the ball. It’s a way for me to connect with other people and yet disconnect from the “real” world. Some of my best childhood memories are of soccer—making new friends and winning the state championship, banquets and awards, playing games during practice and scrimmaging nearby schools.
Since coming to Argentina, I have played soccer every Tuesday and Thursday with members of my study abroad group as well as some locals. Being that on Tuesdays we aren’t scheduled to play until 9pm, I was reluctant to go and play soccer my first Tuesday in Cordoba. However, as soon as I stepped out of the taxi and walked onto the soccer field, I could feel the energy inside me, the huge smile spread across my face. I felt alive again just anticipating playing.
I have played with a variety of new and old faces every time I have played, and every time I have played, I have been told what a great soccer player I am. It comes as a bit of a shock every time someone says it, seeing that my last few years of soccer in high school were nothing but a wrecking ball to my self-esteem. The principal of my school and his middle-aged Argentine friends, the members of my group, local teenagers, and passersby have all kindly complimented my soccer skills.
Having people who don’t even know me (or my past) praise my abilities in soccer has made me reconsider why I don’t play soccer anymore. If I’m so good at it, why aren’t I playing it more? Or at all? The problem is that I don’t have a good answer, other than “I don’t have time.” Between rigorous science courses, volunteering, working, and a half-dozen campus organizations, soccer (and exercising in general) seems to naturally fall by the wayside week after week.
However, after almost a month of playing and watching soccer in Argentina, I have finally realized that it is a part of my life that I’ve been missing for way too long. Life is too short not to do the things that make you happy.
Being the planner that I am, I have already scheduled a jam-packed academic year. But somehow, someway, I am going to find time to play soccer. Being on my own in Argentina has shown me what and who is really important to me—and I intend to make those things and those people a priority when I return to the states.