The Deep, Dark, Ocean / by Academy Monthly

As the anesthesia began to wear off, and I slowly started to regain movement throughout my body, I found myself surrounded by several machines and filled with the aroma of the old musty hospital gown around my body. As traumatic as my shoulder injury was for my playing career, I really didn’t mind all that much being able to lie in a room alone without anyone trying to talk to me. The moment I would step out of Sherman Memorial Hospital I would have to face what seems like a brutal reality. The hundreds of paparazzi flashing cameras and the swarm of screaming fans. It all seemed too much for me at the moment. I wished Dr. Shay could have given me more anesthesia, so I could go back to sleep.

After I managed to make it back to my hotel room, I was overwhelmed with the sight of hundreds of bright flowers, sappy “feel better” cards, and plush teddy bears. Still coming off the anesthesia, I felt tired. My eyes hurt from the brightness of the sun coming through the hotel window and my head was pounding from the shouts of kids asking for my autograph as I got out of the car. I slowly, but eagerly walked toward the bed to lie down to rest. Several hours catching up, but completely ignoring film from the previous game and an adequate room service meal later, I started to get ready for bed. As I drifted off to sleep, I began to reminisce about my life. As a little boy, being a professional soccer player was all I had ever dreamed to be. Aside from my deep love for the sport, I was also so interested in the authentic jerseys, the expensive cleats, and the soccer field surrounded by thousands of loving and devoted fans. It was everything I

wanted. Now, here I stand as the man I used to dream of becoming, but something doesn’t feel right. I spend every second of every day dedicated to the sport. After dreading soccer for so long I constantly I find myself contemplating why I am still playing. For so long, I have felt pressured from my coaches, parents, and fans to be the best all day, every day. The only break I’ve had from the sport in the past twenty-one years, was my shoulder surgery. Already, every source of contact on my phone was blowing up, talking about the moment I would be able to step right back on the field and continue on with my career. But did I really want too?

Soccer was fun as a kid, but for so long it has felt like a job. Well, it is a job. Without it, I don’t know how I could afford my lavish lifestyle. Shouldn’t it feel more to me than just a job? After all of the love I had for the sport as a child? Being the single child of parents who fought constantly, soccer was the only thing that took my mind off of the issues at home. Now, it seemed like soccer was bringing back those harsh memories, like negative nostalgia. The truth is, I didn’t want to take pictures with fans 24/7, go to training three times a day and follow a strict diet anymore. I didn’t want to be constantly analyzed by and critiqued by individuals watching or scrutinised by the media. Overtime, all the pressure from soccer was slowly leading me back into my childhood depression, and this time, I wasn’t sure if I really wanted to get out of it. I woke up to the chimes of my 6:00 AM alarm clock. A notification on my phone read, “press conference with Sports Illustrated”. I roll back over in bed and bury my face back into the pillow in distress. Oblivious to my significant injury, I land right on the stitches in my shoulder, reluctantly letting out a huge, “F**K!”. I reach for the Percocet, which the team’s doctor prescribed to me in abundance, resting on the edge of my bedside table. I eagerly pop a handful to stop the shooting pain that plagues my arm. The regular dosage just wasn’t cutting it, plus I’ve got incredible

tolerance....I know going to the meeting in my current mental state may not be the best idea I’ve ever had, but I decide to go anyway. As I stand up, I instantly become dizzy. Not thinking anything of it, I walk to the bathroom to brush my teeth. Just as I look up to the mirror I notice my vision starts to blur. All of the sudden, there were four of me standing in the mirror. At the time I reach for the handle to turn the faucet on, my body instantly collapses onto the floor. A bright light shines before my eyes. My whole life flashes before me. Visions of my Dad buying me my first soccer ball, the sound of my travel soccer team’s pregame cheer, and the incredible feeling of the first championship I had won. I lay there unconscious, my mind completely shutting off until it wandered into a delusion...

I was a dolphin now, swimming carelessly through the ocean. As my fins glided against the unfamiliar, I found a sense of relief. All of the stress and aching muscles in my body was gone, and I no longer had shoulders, so the weight of world needs a new place to rest. I swam with schools of fish by crowded beaches, but nobody knew who I was. For the first time in a while, I was just a nameless face in the crowd, and it felt fucking awesome. I was just a dolphin. Relaxed, carefree, embracing every part of the ocean I could, I finally felt happy. I was engulfed in complete serenity both emotionally and physically. Unable to hear the cheering from the large crowds, the harsh yelling from my training staff telling me to “go quicker” or “ that is not enough”, or the intensing flashing cameras, I finally found myself in bliss. The deeper I swam, the darker the ocean became, but I wasn’t afraid.

The voices of several doctors slowly started to rise...”J-James can you hear me...James, I need you to wake up now...James!”. My eyes slowly started to open. I woke up in the same room, in the Sherman Memorial hospital. Except for this time it wasn’t for my shoulder. The

copious amounts of pills I had taken had driven my body to go into a comatose state. My body ached more than ever, I didn’t have any idea of what was going on. The doctor told me my coach found me, he had security break down my door because I had been late for the meeting. I guess I hit the ground pretty hard because I can’t seem to remember much of what happened. I found it hard to breathe and I wanted to go to bed. The doctor told me I needed to stay awake so they could monitor my heart rate properly. Everything seemed like a blur and I couldn’t wrap my head about what was happening. I am tired and my whole body feels drained. I want to go to sleep so I don’t have to realize that not only is my physical battle beginning, but so is my mental one. I feel afraid of the truth, and no longer want to face society. I want to go back into the mirage, where everyone and everything around me is completely gone.