As we assembled in line, I felt the sweat well up on my nose as it always does when I’m anxious. I looked down at me feet, anchored into the wooden, beer stained floors of the “Senior Soccer House.” Glancing back up at my friend, Katie, I mouthed, “Are you really going to do this?” My face flushed red.
I was panicked.
I had gathered in line with the 10 or so other freshman soccer girls on my team. Despite the promise of no initiation rituals, we were waiting to chug the contents of an old soccer cleat. It was filled with whatever old, rotten foods could be found in the seniors’ fridge: mayonnaise, mustard, yogurt, pickle juice, meat, the list goes on.
As I shuffled forward in the line, watching each freshman girl take back the blend of liquid, I grew more and more unnerved. There couldn’t have been more than a few bodies ahead of me before I turned and bolted for the door. I couldn’t do it. I could not be humiliated like that. I hurried home, ignoring the calls from my teammates to my gold Samsung flip phone. This is the very first instance I can remember of alienating myself from others because I felt what they were doing was wrong. It just wasn’t in me.
I’ve always had a very strong personality, confident in my decisions and values. Even as a child, I was outspoken. I would never allow someone to define my place. If someone told me girls couldn’t play football, I’d score the first touchdown. “No” always meant, “I’ll show you otherwise.” But throughout life, I’ve learned that strength and confidence don’t come without consequence, but neither does complacency. The consequences of complacency are far worse and, I’d imagine, strike in the form of regret toward the end of life.
I am almost entirely sure my strength, my need to do what’s right, was gifted to me by my mother. I’ve seen her demand justice endlessly. In adopting this trait and demanding this justice, I’ve felt isolated, which often happens when you don’t abide by majority rules. Accepting that everyone doesn’t have a voice or doesn’t feel comfortable using that voice has been difficult for me, and I question, at times, if I should silence mine. This has been a pattern throughout my life. I still struggle now, but I’ve been told these are the risks that leaders take.
There have been women who have kept me from compulsively questioning my decisions to remove toxic people from my life, to fight for justice, even if it’s just for a few of us, to stick to what’s right, to trust my morals.
It’s those women that lead me to be this way. They remind me that who I am is ok.