If you're lost and alone, and sinking like a stone, carry on

When I was ten years old, I played in the U.S. Kids Golf World Championships in Williamsburg, Virginia. Now this wasn’t exactly as impressive as it sounds, considering that as a ten year old girl golfer, I didn’t really have much competition at the state tournament. In fact, there was only one other girl in my age group, and I got to play at the world championships only because I beat her by a single stroke.

Nevertheless, one of the moments that I remember most vividly from my twenty years of life came after this three-day tournament. My mom bought me a charm bracelet and gave me a charm for every par I made. And then my dad said something that, even if he doesn’t remember saying it, I clung onto for a very long time. “You know, you’re a very strong person,” he said to me, smiling. “I was so proud watching you play in front of all those people. You might seem small and quiet, but underneath it all, you’re so strong.” My ten-year old self blossomed at these words. I believed in myself. I felt strong, confident, fearless – I knew I’d do big things with my life.

A decade later found me sitting alone in the Starbucks on Forbes and Craig, recalling this moment with a twinge of regret. Lately, I have not felt strong at all – I’ve felt beaten down, defeated, and broken. I’ve felt overwhelmed, confused, and lost. I am a paper person, cut out of a flimsy sheet of blank paper, surviving delicately. I have been entertaining the idea of a magical box in which I could hide from this thing we call life. The world and all its troubles would melt away at its walls, and my existence would be temporarily erased. Inside this box, there would be no responsibilities, no consequences, no future to be afraid of.

“Can you make me this box?” I asked my boyfriend, slightly pathetically, as I buried myself under a shield of bedcovers. I felt like such a coward.
“But then what would I do?” he responded, as if I was actually making a realistic request, while pulling the covers away from my face.
“I don’t know, you could come in the box with me,” I suggested hopefully, knowing full well that neither of us could ever disappear into any sort of supernatural contraption.

It’s funny, but it’s almost like I am more of a ten year old now than when I actually was one. Where did that strength go? That belief that nothing was out of reach, that I can do anything I decide to do? Somewhere along the line, I let life get the best of me. I gave up in the face of challenge, crumpled at the first hint of failure. I convinced myself that I wasn’t good enough, and settled in comfortably among the masses of the average. I started rambling about boxes that could make things disappear.

But that ends here. As I played the first nine holes I’ve played since high school today, I remembered the lessons that golf has taught me. I remembered that if I made a mistake on one hole, I had the rest of the round to make up for it. I remembered that one bad shot wasn’t worth getting upset over, and I remembered that I played best when I was enjoying myself. I remembered how when I was little I’d be terrified and nauseous at the first tee for every tournament, and I remembered how I kept doing it anyways, and how I grew to enjoy being watched on the tee box, grew to feel confident and strong with my driver in my hand, eager to impress the crowd.

I know I’ll never be the best golfer, the smartest physics major, or the most creative writer, but I know that I can at least be better at all these things if I just remember to believe in myself a little. I’m sorry if I sound dumb or cliché, but I hope you believe in yourself too. Because sometimes we forget who we are and sometimes we doubt ourselves, and I know this long life story might have been a verbose way to get my message across, but to anyone who happens to be reading this – let’s believe in each other. Let’s stare the future straight in the eye, and never waver for a second. Let’s all be strong, like the ten year olds we once were, and let's become the people we wanted to grow up so badly to become.