I returned back to my mom’s house on May 25th, the day after Graduation. I had known since late April that I had received a Fulbright grant to teach English in a university in Sri Lanka beginning in November 2014, and so I had six months without any definitive commitments. I was just coming off of my fourth and final collegiate tennis season, which was in many ways a capstone on my athletic experience at Bowdoin and the culmination of many years of ardent dedication to competitive tennis. Throughout the season, I had struggled to keep focused on the present and “leave everything on the court,” while preparing for the inevitable next steps in my life. Given the immense allocation of my energy toward tennis, I tentatively decided that I would use this interim period of time before my Fulbright grant started to compete in low-level professional and prize money tennis tournaments. There were three Futures tournaments in the greater New York area in the month of June that I had my eyes on, and I was planning to use my mom’s house in New York as a home base for my training.
But when I came home, I experienced the feeling of retreating into a realm of stagnancy and co-dependence that was unfulfilling after my literal and figurative launch into adulthood. I remember muttering on my first day back that, “I can’t ****ing be here.” In addition, my motivation to train for competitive tennis had clearly waned. As I connected with local players and attempted to simulate a regimen that would prepare me for these professional tournaments, I realized that tennis itself as an individualized athletic pursuit was not what I’d been so viscerally passionate about for so many years. It felt empty. Rather, college tennis had been a platform through which I could confront immense physical, emotional, and psychological challenges with a group of guys I absolutely loved, and work together for something greater than myself and my own narrow aspirations. As I separated the sport of tennis from the experience of interconnectivity with my team and a common purpose with others, it became clear that the tremendous passion I had channeled toward my college tennis team reflected a more latent “why” motivation inextricably bound to the experience of interconnectivity, sacrifice, and purpose. Coupled with the reality that I could not get into any of those three New York area tournaments, I decided to hang up the racquet with my team and channel my energy elsewhere.
More existentially, I came to question my conception of “home” in and of itself. I had returned “home” to my mom’s house–the place where I had spent the better part of my adolescence–and yet I felt out of place and struggled to manifest the growth I’d undergone during my years at Bowdoin. I retreated into familiar habits within a realm of comfort, and psychologically tried to reconcile that launching point on Graduation Day with what appeared to be a withdrawal into a static appropriation of years past. This was not home anymore. I came to introspect – where had I experienced “home” before? In the bustling neighborhood cul-de-sac of my childhood home. On the Armonk Indoor tennis courts with my Altheus Tennis Program training group. In my Peruvian host family’s mountainous abode in the shadow of Incan ruins. On the Bowdoin quad in the middle of the night after finishing a long paper. In my Sri Lankan host family’s home in the midst of the Kandyan jungle. In a candid conversation with good friends.
I realized that for me, “home” is not so much a static physical place but a dynamic interplay of space, the presence of people I love and value, and a worthy purpose invigorating my actions at a particular time in my life. As I develop and grow, I recognized that my conception of “home” will inevitable change along with me, and I knew that at this transitional time, I needed to fight for a redefined experience of “home” in order to experience contentment and fulfillment in my life. As a quote a friend would later share to me reads, “Growth is painful, Change is painful, But nothing is as painful as staying stuck somewhere you don’t belong.”
I was stuck, but willing to confront some of the “pain” of the “Real World” in order to find home.