Refocus (v): To change the emphasis or direction of.
When I initially thought about how to interpret refocus, I was going down the traditional route we read about so often of starting the new year right and refocusing on your goals. I began writing and had to stop when I realized how lame I sounded. I also started asking myself who was I to tell someone to focus on their goals when I myself am still figuring it all out.
So I went back to the drawing board, thinking about how could I make this word actually mean something. This is where my overthinking comes in handy. Because the harder I thought about it, the more I started to remember how many “goals” I’ve had over the years that have come and gone like Pinterest trends. I thought to myself if I was so focused, why would I have to “refocus” on my goals?
A few years ago, when I started to be more honest with myself about what I wanted for my life I realized that some of my “goals” weren’t really even mine. They were goals that somebody else had for me. No wonder I couldn’t get any of them done, I never wanted to do them in the first place! For example, I used to have a “goal” to start a grad school program which led to another “goal” which was to take the GRE. But when honesty kicked in I realized I had no desire to go to grad school, but my mother wanted me to so I felt obliged.
For most of my impressionable, dependent, young adult life, I cannot begin to tell you the lengths I would go to make other people happy. I mean, I really like to give off this strong independent woman kinda vibe, but every confident bitch out there has her beginnings.
Sometimes not everyone loves The Lion King as much as you do
The earliest memory I have of doing something to make someone else happy was when I was four. My mother and tita were sitting in our then dining room talking about grownup things. As a child, my parents were not around much, so when they were around I wanted attention and I wanted to make them happy. I realized that ranting on and on about the Lion King wasn’t working so I had to be creative to get their attention. One particular time, I came up with a new bit: pretending to be a waitress.
So here I was, a young little thing in my pink Nala shirt, armed with a pen and notepad. I walked up to the adults and said, “Can I take your order?” Holding back laughter, my mom said, “Orange Juice.” My tita, also giggling, asked what teas we had. I happily went to the pantry to grab what I could find, brought them back, and asked her to choose one. After she chose, I went back into the kitchen to boil some water and put ice in a glass with orange juice.
For as long as I can remember, I have always had this need to do things for other people to make them happy. This doesn’t sound like much of a problem because what’s wrong with making other people happy, right?
It’s ironic that I played keeper, because it’s a position that has to take care of everyone
In high school, I played goalie on the ladies soccer team. Though I can list many positive outcomes about my experience, I first and foremost think about how much I did not like it.
I started playing back in middle school because we had an awesome coach and also my friends were doing it sooo I didn’t want to be left out. Our coach was funny, understanding, supportive, and he never once made me hate practice. I loved playing with my team and I was always pretty eager to get out onto the field after school.
I also had separate coaching from a senior at the time, it was a pretty cool experience and as a middle schooler, I felt pretty special. She was a real mentor to me and she taught me to love the goalkeeping position. It was the first real instance in my life I learned that a woman can be both tough and a leader through confidence instead of “doing shit” for other people. She was tough on me but I didn’t mind it because I felt that she believed in me which made me believe in myself.
My middle school soccer days ended wonderfully but not all good things are meant to last forever
New season, higher stakes, tougher coach
The following year, we had a new coach for the JV team who let’s just say had a much different coaching style. From the get-go, she and I just weren’t going to get along. I had a hard time forming a relationship with her because she was heavy on the tough love. I’m sure she wanted me to do well but I didn’t get the same supportive vibe as I did previously.
I was conflicted, I didn’t want to take it personally but I saw that she did get along nicely with some of my other teammates so I tried to brush it off. During practices and games, I wasn’t always performing great partially because I just wasn’t enjoying myself anymore on this new team but also because, well, I just wasn’t that good! No shame in admitting that now, a decade later.
So as a result when she was frustrated she would yell at me and it just made me feel shitty all the time. I did not want to be around her, but it’s hard to quit a team mid-season when you didn’t want to disappoint anyone and news travels fast around school. I dreaded going out to the field for practice. I do believe in tough love but I also believe in compassion. Especially since she was first and foremost an educator, you should understand that tough love has boundaries.
Another new season, even higher stakes, yet again another new coach, and a window to freedom
After my time on the JV team, my soccer flame was dying out. Or rather it was so weak that a gentle breeze would have extinguished it. I so, so, SO, envied all my friends who had more time to just be kids and were involved in activities that I really wanted to be a part of.
Due to my fear of upsetting anyone, I decided to stay with it again the following year, this time on the varsity team. Even if I was terrible at the position, I kept being asked if I was going to play so I felt pressured to say yes. I didn’t have the guts to quit and stand up for myself. Also, the coach for the varsity team was somebody that I looked up to when I was in middle school. I thought to myself that it wouldn’t be that bad because she was an awesome person.
But I wish I did. My loss of interest quickly translated into my abilities and I was letting in easy goals during matches. I could tell my teammates were growing irritated and my new coach was not too happy either, but in all fairness, she wasn’t as harsh with her words. My mood, in general, was poor, I was always tired from practices, and it really did eat up a lot of my time. I mean two-hour practice four days a week, plus two matches a week which were often scheduled on a weekend… that’s a lot of time dedicated to something I was not too fond of anymore.
What truly made this situation even worse was that the aforementioned coach was somebody that I had deeply admired as a faculty member. In her office, I thought the world of her and used to hang out and chat after school. Though after dealing with her on the field I saw a new side of her that surprised me. I wasn’t sure if this was just a “coaching” thing to get us into shape or if she was actually irritated with me and was being passive about it.
For what it is worth, I did try my best. I had committed to a team and was not going to screw up the season for them. Although there were times that I was so desperate to not play I did some pretty weird stuff. Like one time, I was in goal and was so nervous about playing that I ripped my glove on purpose. For whatever delusional reason, I thought that it would get me out of playing, but like… we didn’t have a backup keeper. What was I thinking?
I finally found the courage to quit, but it backfired a little
So when they were selecting the team to compete in our high school athletics tournament, I knew that I didn’t want to go. But I was too terrified to admit that I didn’t want to go. I thought about quitting at the worst possible time but I didn’t want the responsibility or pressure anymore when there was too much at stake. I thought that the only way to get out of the situation was to craft some bogus story that my mother didn’t want me to go because we couldn’t afford the trip.
I wallowed in anxiety for days before I gathered the courage to walk up to my coach who was on duty to ring the bell that morning. I finally walked up to her and told my bogus story. She then told me that this actually all works out because they were planning to take the goalie from our sister school, anyway.
I will not deny that it hurt when she told me that. It SUCKED to find out that they were planning on bringing someone else. To ease the awkwardness I quickly just laughed it off and said, “Oh good, I was worried you’d be upset.” She gave me a hug and I casually walked off to my first class but I was so numb from the adrenaline.
I realize that I shouldn’t have been upset, I mean, I didn’t want to go. I was finally off the hook Also, our coach had to do what was best for the team. But I was super pissed. Because had I done what was best for me from the beginning I could have avoided all of this. I had sacrificed so much of my high school life to this team and I wasn’t going to get that time back. I vowed from that time on to only do things because I wanted to do them.
It is never too late to refocus your energy on what matters most, you
A story about being a goalkeeper on a high school team seems pretty trivial but this was the first moment my eyes started to open.
My misery wasn’t anyone’s fault but my own. Had I just quit when I wanted to, all of the anxiety, anger, frustration, injuries, and time invested could have been avoided. But I was so worried about making someone upset that I was willing to put up with it, even though at the end deciding to move on would have been better for both parties.
In the last decade, I have slowly but surely learned that doing things to make other people happy at your own expense is not the right way to live or structure your life. It is EXHAUSTING and causes more harm than good on your mind, body, and soul (if you have one).
So I challenge you to just for a moment, think about some of your goals and ask yourself, are they your own? Do you feel like you are devoting a ton of energy into something or someone for reasons that are unclear?
If so, now is the time to say no and start the journey to refocus on yourself.
It’s not easy. Sadly, I needed a few other events to wake up and realize that this habit of doing things for other people instead of myself still needed to be broken. My most recent wake-up call was when I realized I was in a bad friendship that required me to reevaluate where I was dedicating my energy. When I should have devoted all that energy into myself, I instead devoted it to one person.
Always remember that you have the power to decide where your energy goes.
It’s a NEW YEAR. 2017 has already proved to be very, very, eventful. There is no time like the present to do what is best for you. Refocus your energy and believe in yourself, because when you do, you will be unstoppable.