Tough Decisions and Lessons in Identity Formation
This week I decided to stop playing basketball, at least for the time being. If you know me, you’ll know that I’ve played basketball since I was 11, and that it has formed part of my identity for most of my life, and for all of my adult life. If you don’t know me, then you should know that for most of my life, basketball is who I have been.
That makes my decision to not play seem a bit fucking mad then. Friends have asked me if I’m alright, if I’m going through something, if there’s something wrong. And yes, I am going through something, but it isn’t necessarily bad. It’s probably something synonymous to growth.
See, in the place I am now, basketball has become something I feel I HAVE to do rather than something I want to do. I feel like I have to do it because I’ve never known myself without it, really. It’s as much a part of my identity as anything else in my life, and so the worry is, am I losing apart of me if I move away from it?
Of course the answer is no, and that’s an irrational thought pattern. However, it has made me understand how difficult it is to move on from something if your identity is weaved into that activity or behaviour. The worry is that if I leave it behind, I also leave behind relationships that I treasure. Although I no longer have an itch to play basketball, it feels almost wrong to step back from it because, in its own way, it is a part of me. It’s a weird feeling.
It is the right call though, at least for now. I shouldn’t be spending time doing something I don’t enjoy. The last few years, it feels like I’ve been splitting my focus between basketball and writing, and doing neither of them too well. In order to excel at anything, I’ve always found that one needs to be single-minded in their approach, and up until now I haven’t been. I turn 26 this year, and I’m pretty sure the sun has set on the dream I had as a child to be a pro-baller, but there’s still time to hone my writing and do something with that.
This week I had to figure out if I could be me without basketball, which to the uninitiated probably sounds pretty dumb. But I’ve made some of my best friends and some of my best memories through the sport, and I wouldn’t change any of it. But at this cross-section of my life, my priorities are different I suppose. I no longer feel the need to play, and it wouldn’t be good for me or anyone else if I continue. I’ll start to resent it, and myself, and the people involved, and that’s not conducive to good mental health either.
Having to make decisions about aspects of your life that help to form your identity is hard. But they are decisions we can’t ignore. If we ignore them we’re ignoring how we feel, and negative feelings will inevitably fester. At least that’s what it feels like for me anyway.