Roles Redefined

Photo: Derrick Johnson

Photo: Derrick Johnson

Lost….do you ever spend time reflecting on how you got to where you are now?  We start our lives in the care of our parents developing our personality, character, interests only to have these shift as a result of our own experiences and choices in life.  

One of the most, if not the most, trying times in my life was directly after college.  I grew up a baseball player.  Like legitimately, my grandmother bought me a left handed and right handed baseball glove while I was still in utero.  It was my destiny.  From the time I could walk and throw, baseball was life.  We watched the Baltimore Orioles games every night at my grandparents’ home.  Once I was old enough to start giving a crap about practicing (8ish), my dad would hit me 100 grounders every night sometimes even in the rain or freezing temps.  He would toss me batting practice in the church field across from our house (until I started hitting the ball far enough where there was a solid chance that I would hit a porcelain statue of Jesus on the cross…don’t want that kind of bad luck).  We got a family membership to a local batting cage when the cold weather began to move in.  All summer, neighborhood friends would arrange backyard ball games.  It was life.  This carried into high school where off-season weight training became important.  My family would travel nearly every weekend from May to September to chaperone me to games on Saturday AND Sunday.  All the effort and time led to two Delaware First Team All State Selections and eventually a partial scholarship to a Division I college (every ball players dream…aside from getting draft to the Majors).  

In college, I had 3 pretty successful seasons including a top 100 batting average in the country my junior year.  I thought maybe I had a shot at taking this to the next level.  Then two weeks before my senior season, it happened…I got hurt…season ending.  I took a fastball to my wrist, breaking it and rupturing some ligaments (doc thought the ligament tears might’ve been some old injury exacerbated).  At first, no big deal, I thought.  I can red shirt (take the year off of baseball) and still play the following year.  In that time period, I had to make a call that at the time didn’t seem that big of a deal but would significantly change my life.  I had to decide between spending the next year finishing up a degree to be a school teacher OR take two summer classes and start a Master’s Degree.  I chose Master’s.  When I made this decision, what I didn’t realize was the impending changes and time dedications that it would entail. 

College baseball was a full-time job in itself.  2-3 hour practices 6 days a week, on top of 1-2 hours of weight training/conditioning 3-5 times a week and because I wanted to be the best, an extra 1-2 hours of hitting and fielding outside of practice at least a few times a week, if not daily.    What I didn’t anticipate is the extra time my internship would take, travel time to and from it, extra workload because, well, it was a master’s degree.  This resulted in missing practice from time to time and those extra hours outside of practice started to become non-existent.  I was tired; it was a lot.  After our season ended, I had to continue to work into the summer to make up some of my internship hours.  I saw my batting average drop well over .100 points from the previous year.  I went from starting nearly every game for my first three years to seeing some bench time.  It wasn’t the best way to end a lifetime in baseball.  But it was over.  I was done playing. 

I managed to hang on to team sports for another year as I was offered a graduate assistantship for the athletic department.  It basically meant that I was in attendance of all sporting events to help setup chairs, clean floors, rake fields, do all the things need to make the games flow.  The behind the scenes stuff.  I’m forever grateful of this experience.  It helped a lot to keep me in the flow of sports but wasn’t the same.

I promise I’m not writing this to, not so humble, brag all my baseball accolades and accomplishments.  I didn’t write all that to give you the insider on how to become a collegiate athlete or the rigors of college sports.  I wrote that to show you how much baseball was my life.    I honestly did not go to college to get a degree; I went to play baseball.  Legit.  It worked out that I did end up getting a couple degrees, but I went to play ball.  So hopefully the above illustrates how invested I was into a single thing.  My second hope is that this may be somewhat relatable to you.

See, when my baseball career was over, I had no idea who or what I was.  I was always Trey Bell the baseball player.  That was my role; that’s what I did in my free time; that’s what I dreamed about and what kept me up at night before I went to sleep.  Baseball, baseball, baseball.  Once school was over, I was totally 100% lost.  I was lucky enough to do some international traveling to somewhat avoid defining who or what I was.  Then I moved around a lot, across country a couple times and through different jobs/potential careers.  For a moment in time, I was a crossing guard, maintenance contractor, food server…all with a Master’s degree.  

I didn’t know what to do, and I feel like a lot of people go through this.  Whether it’s transitioning from being an athlete to an employee, a mother/father to an empty nester, “midlife crisis,” single to married, married to single.  There are tons of questions marks out there.  The transition SUCKS sometimes.  But it happens to pretty much all of us.

So what do we do?  

Search.  We have to search.  We have to be open to try new things.  We have to be open to new experiences.  We have to be open to….CHANGE.  

Ultimately, the key to all of this is not defining ourselves by our activities, by our job, by our role in the family.  We are all defined by our values.  What we are to one person is often quite different than what we are to someone else.  It’s ever changing, but if we stick to our values, our morals, and keep an open and curious mind everything is going to be pretty dag on good.  We learn a lot of skills through our earlier life experiences our last “roles.”  Both what to do and, maybe even more importantly, what NOT to do.  And we can use these to pursue further life situations and stances.  We often find that the search is the destination, and as long as we’re true to ourselves, we’re going to be just fine.

Oh and in case you’re wondering, I found my path…for now.  After trying my best to avoid any careers in the social services field, I realized that it’s been my calling all along to help people through tough situations in life.  I’m an outpatient therapist/wellness coach helping people with their mindset around life as well as food and fitness interventions to create an all encompassing feel good human.  On occasion, I’ll still dust off the glove and play some slow pitch softball, but I found some new hobbies in rock climbing and surfing (would’ve never guessed that twenty years ago).  I currently live in a van, sometimes down by the river, climbing, surfing and sharing the word of well!