“Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.” – Jonathan Lockwood Huie
My grudge and I go way back. The first time I recognized the massive shadow looming over me was when a teacher told me I wasn’t “nice.” It was during a meeting with my parents and the principal of my gossip-ridden, small-town school. The teacher was the advisor for the National Honor Society — the society I wasn’t inducted into. My parents wanted to know why. I was a straight-A student with a 4.0 GPA; I was in all of the athletics and involved in almost every extracurricular; I organized fundraisers and volunteered plenty. It was a shock when we discovered I was blocked from being inducted because this advisor felt I wasn’t “nice enough” to some of my peers. I sobbed hot tears into my pillow and decided she would never be forgiven.
Do you know how exhausting it is never to forgive someone? It takes so much energy; my grudge, like a vacuum, sucked the joy out of me until I was just the shell of my past self. My parents recognized it and sent me to therapy. All the therapist did was give me inspirational quotes and remind me that it was just a blip in the timeline of my life. That was almost four years ago and I still vividly remember it. I never got any closure because my parents scooped me up and transferred me to another school. I won’t say I transferred solely based on the experience; however, it was the catalyst for the move. The main reason I moved to a different school was to take AP classes that weren’t previously available to me. I began to withdraw from everyone around me, and by the time the school year came to an end, I wasn’t friends with people I had known since kindergarten. Time and distance helped, and the wounds began to heal. By the time college started, I felt that the puppet strings that attached me to my grudge had finally been cut loose.
I played collegiate volleyball my first two years, and it felt like a dream. I moved to the big city and became friends with my teammates. I left that town in the past, along with my old self. The first year was good. We were in the middle of the pandemic, but I was best friends with my roommates and my classes were easy. Our season was canceled, but we didn’t care. We still spent all of our time together as a team. So what if our coaches were hard asses? We could conquer anything as long as we were together!
Then my world came crashing down again. I got caught bar-hopping while underage by my coach, and was threatened with the idea that I could be kicked off the team. All those feelings from high school came rushing back. I was suddenly alone and felt like I had lost all control. I felt betrayed and embarrassed, but most of all, so alone. My friends couldn’t help me with this. It wasn’t fair that we had all been out together and I was the only one who got caught. Suddenly, my grudge was back on my shoulders and I was unforgiving. I was so mad, I considered quitting. They couldn’t kick me off the team if I beat them to the punch and left on my own.
Luckily, that meeting with my coaches was at the beginning of summer. I had two months to crawl home and lick my wounds. I did my best to have fun with friends, but that meeting and my grudge loomed over me like a dark cloud.
Nine months later, I got pulled into the office again and was accused of telling anyone and everyone that I was planning on quitting. I’d been blindsided again; I didn’t fight it. Instead, I explained calmly that I had considered it after our previous meeting. I didn’t go around telling strangers, “Hey, I’m going to quit volleyball just because!” But I did talk to my parents about it. I explained that I didn’t feel that way anymore and was enjoying my time on the team. This was returned with the threat of pulling my scholarship and kicking me to the curb.
“Why should we pay for your schooling if you don’t even want to be here?” His voice was sharper than necessary as I was already choking back hot tears. That was the final straw; I was done being pushed around and decided to quit. I had a meeting with a Title IX coordinator, but because the head coach’s threats were essentially empty, there was nothing they could do about it. There isn’t an HR office at any school where student-athletes feel they’ve been wrongfully attacked, which is an entirely different problem for collegiate athletics.
This story doesn’t have a happy ending; I quit eight months ago and still have so much anger. But I started seeing a therapist who has helped me heal. I got a dog — something I’ve wanted to do since I moved out of my parents’ home. I’ve come to terms with the fact that I lost relationships because of my decision to quit volleyball. It’s still hard when I see people I knew from what felt like a lifetime ago around campus. My grudge still makes occasional appearances when I feel too weak to rise above the experiences I’ve been through. It might take a few more months or years, but I want to forgive these people — not because they deserve it, but because I deserve peace.