My 100 Days of Sweden Blog.

Friday, June 8, 2012

[THE PITCH] 100 days ago I caught a ride on a major twister.

Day 1. It really was no miracle. What happened was just this ... Through an unpredictable force of circumstances, I was carried away from the familiar blue waters of the Pacific. Flying over the Atlantic Ocean, I imagined what my life would be like in Sweden ... I’ll study Swedish everyday. I’ll read so many books. I’ll write. I’ll take a photography class. I’ll travel every weekend. I envisioned myself filling my days with a plethora of existential soul-searching stuff. Looking 100 days back, I never could have guessed how much I have learned about myself, yet nothing has come from a class or a book. My life lessons have come from an unexpected place: the inhabitance of Oz! I’m happy to say I’ve barely found time to crack a book. The unread Sapolsky novels on my shelf will be there tomorrow, so will Santorini.
Toto, I've a feeling we're not in Kansas anymore. This slice of the international women’s soccer game has really opened my eyes to the endless possibilities up for the taking. For me, a female athlete in the U.S., there seemed to be one track to success within soccer -- one style of play, one finishing point, and all of it began and ended with the national team. But now, I have found a world where professional soccer is not viewed as merely a stepping-stone. There are opportunities to grow and learn and change within the professional game. The league is 12-teams strong. There is Champions League. The best players are as diverse in style and personality as the world itself.

Pay no attention to that man behind the curtain. At 60 days of Sweden, I was standing at a crossroads. My world was not in harmony. The ghost of football future came to me in the form of my head coach pleading with me to change. His requests came in the form of Swenglish: v lopning, in the deep, stå högt… I mean… STAY HIGH! I didn’t know what to make of this, but I did know I was to take on a new role. All the while, the ghost of football past asked, How could you just drop what you know? You’ve had a successful career and have played soccer for almost 20 years playing one way. Can you really just play a different way?

The voice coming from the behind the curtain was doubt. But I ignored the impostor! Okay, so maybe it didn’t happen that quickly or that smoothly, but 40 days later, I look back on day 60 and it feels like I changed my style of play overnight. I closed my eyes and clicked my heels together and changed what I thought defined me as a player.

Upon opening my eyes I realized a parallel transformation had occurred in my personal life…This group of easy-going Swedes have helped me to empower myself off the pitch, as well. Like the Swedish spring, a new me seemed to have appeared out of nowhere. While Swedes like to say that they are not the most welcoming bunch, I have found that they are extraordinarily accepting and non-judgmental company. This culture has allowed me to replace insecurity, vulnerability, and the threat of uneasy competition with a social strength derived from comfort within the team, and that is empowering.
Follow the yellow brick road! There is no one-track, fast lane to success, but many different roads and they are all winding, through both meadows and dark forests. I have had a glimpse at different styles, methods, systems, and cultures of football along the way. I thought my path had led me to Sweden, but it actually led me so much further. The trek down that road has been both empowering and liberating. Ironically, my round-a-bout trail has also led me to the USWNT, but in the most unconventional way. Let's just say, I took the scenic route!

I’ve written about this before, how I am learning to take on a new role on this team, but now I am trying to tell you what the process of learning has taught me. Here it goes…

When I want to do something, I can just do it (after all this contemplation, it seems I could have come to the same ‘revelation’ by just thinking about the famous words written next to the swoosh.) No more excuses like: “That’s just the way I am.” Who I am is a choice, a daily choice, and I don’t have to be defined by my past. I was not resisting out of stubbornness or pride or fear, but rather out of ignorance: ignorance of my own power, ignorance of the power of my own determination. I did not know I could just be different, if I decided to be, until I decided to be. I have discovered that I can be whomever I want even if I wasn’t that person or player yesterday.

After some shaky beginnings on youth national teams and even college, I really thought I was a player who did not adapt smoothly or too quickly to new environments. After a career of checking far into the midfield to pick up balls, I really thought I was a player who did not do well making runs in the deep. After years of slight social anxiety, I really thought I was a somewhat awkward introvert. But now I know that sometimes molds get moldy.

Day 100. It’s been over 100 days of living abroad, 100 days of playing football, 100 days of learning … going with the flow … stepping outside my comfort zone  … looking past criticism for opportunities…incorporating the balance of Lagom … daring to roll in the deep … harnessing the pressure…keeping the faith … letting go … rediscovering a love for the game … thriving on competition. Oh, it’s been quite the journey. And still, the most important lesson I’ve learned so far has been realizing my own power to affect my world and myself. While I’m certainly no Dorothy (although I think I mentioned before my affinity for shoes), I can hear Glinda The Good Witch’s words so clearly now. You've always had the power…but had to learn it for yourself.

On the other hand … there is something reassuring about knowing exactly how I’ll feel next time I head back across the Atlantic, down the Pacific Coast Highway to Palos Verdes. The first time I ever left home for college, I cried, fearing that my life would never be the same. Today I feel differently. The farther I travel and the more places I go, the more I realize that the comforts of home will always be waiting for me. My dad will always be "viewing the sunset" as his BBM status reminds me.  He’ll be there sitting on his balcony, drinking a Hawaiian-style beer, smoking a cigar, and
screaming at a game on the TV. And my mom will forever be drumming up company for her 28-mile bike rides up the coast, or in the kitchen cooking up something fattening and delightful, like her newest dessert, coined “Crack” for how addicting it is. After all … There’s no place like home!

[Stoppage Time] Last Sunday, our team traveled down south in hopes of the club’s first victory ever at Malmö. And while we played a game that both coaches and players have gone on record saying that we dominated, we lost. We kept possession well for most of the game, but our efforts were futile as we had no bite: in this case, nothing to show for it.

In tight games, I always feel like there is a defining moment for each team, when they can take the game or leave it open. During our match versus Malmö, I felt this moment bubble up inside me. I could feel their team getting really tired and we started to dominate the game in the middle of the second half. We had time and space on the field to play, but we kept piddling around … About 65 minutes into the match, it was ours to be had. The game was tied 1-1. We had three corners in a row. I tried to push, to yell out to my teammates, to bring some extra energy, but the moment passed unmarked. When they had their moment, it was clear that they felt it collectively and it gave them power …. Unfortunately, just like the last time we played them in the Super Cup final, Malmö seized the win.

Final Score:
Göteborg FC 1 - LdB FC Malmö 2

[Off The Post!] In a salute to the 100 days of Sweden, I would like to pass along these sage words:

Blott Sverige svenska krusbär har.

•    Translation: "Only Sweden has Swedish gooseberries."
•    My advice: Start a gooseberry export business!
•    Actual Meaning: Sweden is a unique country in many ways.

Alla känner apan, men apan känner ingen.

 •    Translation: "Everyone knows the monkey, but the monkey knows no one."
 •    My Advice: Be careful when signing up on!
•    Actual Meaning: Those that stick out are often both well-known and avoided… ehem ehem: ‘lagom!’

I de lugnaste vattnen går de fulaste fiskarna. 

•    Translation: "In the shallowest waters, the ugliest fish swim."
•    My advice: See previous advice!
•    Actual Meaning: The seemingly most respectable people are quite often in fact scoundrels.
Rookie For Life,

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