An Ironic Smile

As I packed my bags for our East Coast trip to New York, I realized I had way more stuff than when I arrived two months ago. A few trips to the Nike and adidas employee stores will do that to you I guess. Having somehow zipped the last zipper of my borrowed Portland Pilots duffle bag (traumatic), I sat by my luggage wondering who was going to carry all that stuff to the car. Unfortunately for me, my brother wasn't around and I had to do it alone.

Once I was back in the house doing my last check for anything I might have forgotten, I realized I didn't have any of my material items in sight. Even my phone was in the car. All I had for that brief moment was all I was.

Though not the ideal time for a defining moment in one's life, it was a feeling I'll never forget.


When I came to Portland two months ago, I had a picture of what things would look like. I saw the YouTube videos of the team playing in front of 15,000 people and looked up places I would visit once I was there. I looked at the roster to see who I knew and who I thought I would be friends with (come on, everyone does that).

I mapped out what life as a Thorn would be like. It was like my own little mental book.

But even at 29 years old I'm still not emotionally intelligent enough to realize that planning and wondering is a waste of my time. It's never what I expect. And this experience was no different.

I was watching Friday Night Lights and this made me perk up:

"There ain't much difference between winnin' and losin', except for how the outside world treats you. But inside you, it's about all the same. It really is."

Whether we won or lost on Saturday wouldn't have mattered to me. Of course it's amazing to win. But the way I felt inside the past few months was enough to walk away fulfilled. I'm filled with love and satisfaction; personal achievement and team accomplishment. The way this team came together toward the end of the season was enough in itself. We learned about each other and ourselves, how to play different roles and to be ready for anything. We watched on as each person grew.

We saw practice players train as if their only goal was to make each of us better. We saw Becky Edwards and Nikki Washington jogging at our last training of the season after knee surgeries. We saw Alex Morgan and Tobin Heath cheering from the bench as if the game depended on the strength of their voices. We saw Adelaide Gay, my vote for teammate of a lifetime, make sure Karina LeBlanc had everything she needed before each and every match. We saw Christine Sinclair put the team on her back time and time again. We saw Rachel Buehler go into tackles that most American football players wouldn't go into. We saw Nikki Marshall and Danielle Foxhoven work as if the tank never emptied. And Allie Long play a position she never has as if she had her whole life. And SO much more of course. The longer I was there the more I saw people being themselves, on and off the field, one of the most inspiring things to see in this world. Because it reminds me to be myself. Which at times, is easy to forget, but vital in the quest for happiness.

I know I'm only a day or so out of season, but I'm not in Portland anymore. I'm not with my teammates anymore. My cleats are put away. So when I hear songs from the season I turn them off right away. I don't want to hear them. I don't like to listen to music that brings out that much emotion. It reminds me of that time and place and I don't want to forget that feeling. So I save it for when I really crave it - because I don't want it to remind me of something else. And I don't want to lose the feelings it brings out of me.

So I sit in silence a lot now. Reflecting about everything that has happened the past few months. The good and the bad. I think of my life like a book still and like a hopeless romantic and a writer, I don't think I could have written a better story myself. Like I said, I feel filled. And it's because of the people that, only two months ago, weren't even a thought in my life, but now I couldn't imagine being without.

There's something about fighting with a person for a common goal and seeing each other succeed that brings out something in you that you didn't know you even had. Almost to the point where you'd rather see them succeed than yourself. Because you know their struggle and they know yours. And your happiness is a direct result of theirs.

It's special.

Finally. I can walk away from Portland and my teammates and the amazing fans with an ironic smile. I say ironic because I'm not happy to be leaving. If I was then I did something wrong. I didn't give enough or I didn't put myself out there enough or work hard enough. But I did all those things. So I'm happy knowing that I'm sad.

For me, there is no better feeling in the world... To know that I left with so much more than what I came with.