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Turning the Page

Blow off the steam

Published: Friday, Jan. 3, 2014 10:51 a.m. CDT

Stress eats away at all of us. Whether it’s your job, relationship, family or anything else that plays an instrumental role in your life, it comes with a certain level of stress.

As people, we adapt and change with what challenges are presented to us. Stress is one of those challenges that is persistent. It never relents, or goes away. It’s an ever-present theme of our existence. So, instead of conquering stress, we learn to deal with it.

It’s little things for most people — playing video games, listening to music, going for a drive — that help relieve stress to a point where we can function as our normal selves. For me, there was a distinct point in my life when the stress was so great, I needed an outlet for my frustrations, which I found in sports.

I was a month into my freshman year of college. I was 1,000 miles away from home and had no idea who I was. A little socially awkward and still trying to figure out where I belonged, I got off to a slow start making tons of friends, but I was still having a good time being on my own in a period of discovery in my life.

Walking back from a psychology class, trying to decipher what the native-German professor was trying to say about parts of the brain, I felt my phone vibrate in my pocket. It was my mom. She told me that my grandpa, who had played an instrumental role in raising me and without whom I wouldn’t have even had the opportunity to go to the University of Oregon, had collapsed on the tennis court and was in critical condition.

Needless to say this did not help my social anxiety. For about the next week, I didn’t do a lot. I skipped classes and ate my way into a food coma on more than one occasion. I was watching a movie in a friend’s room when the phone rang again. At age 80, Auldus Turner had passed away.

I collapsed to the floor in tears, unable to comprehend how someone so lively could be taken down so quickly. Another depressing week went by, and I figured I needed some way to vent, to alleviate my stress and clear my head, which is when I found my therapy — a hoop, a ball and me.

In an empty gym, with a basketball in my hands, I found peace and calm. After an hour or two of taking jump shot after jump shot, everything seemed like it would be OK. Thoughts and fears for the future fell by the wayside. I lost myself in the game.

From then on, that was my church. Religious people always talk about this feeling of enlightenment they get after walking out of a service. I never had that when I was going to church as a child, but I get that feeling every single time I step on a basketball court.

Had my grandpa never passed away, I’m not sure I would have found that outlet. While I miss him to death, it’s comforting to know he had one last lesson for me.