August 1997. I’m almost eight, but it’s already my fourth season as a softball player. Yes, I started at four, a bit earlier than my teammates. I was so young when I played the first summer I was proud to tell them I had just learned to tie my shoelaces. Never mind their look, my smile was as big as my determination to hit the ball. I was just very happy to be there, wearing the beautiful softball kit, being part of a team.
Back to 1997. That summer, we were the Cubs. A winning club. Amazing lineup, great coaches, fabulous team spirit. By the end of the season, we were definitely ready for the finales. It felt like the world series, only condensed in a week-end. We were playing in the little stadium my father built with the help of the community, the music was loud, the crowd was pleased. On the Saturday, we easily got through the quarter-finals.
After a good night of sleep, we were up early on Sunday morning to warm up for the semi-finals. It was a tight game, but we did it! We were going to be playing the finals!
The team was high. The atmosphere was electrifying. Our next game was on the same day, in the afternoon. We had to keep up with the positive vibes, we had to stick together to keep the momentum until we would play again, so our coaches invited us all to Pizza Hut.
It was one of the best lunches ever. Next to one I ate in a small trattoria in Tuscany which ended with homemade tiramisu, so you can imagine how good it tasted based on my experience as an eight-year-old foodie. We had pizza with stuffed crust, we could drink all the soda we wanted and then we had a lot of fun jazzing our sundaes with all the candies available in Pizza Hut’s dessert buffet.
We came out of the restaurant on a sugar high, our muscles loaded with carbs, even though we had never heard of sports nutrition (sports nutrition in baseball can mostly be summarized by making sure to drink lots of orange Gatorade, eat a few sunflower seeds if you get to play in the field and recover with ice cream). Here we were, going to play in the finals.
It started all right, but the rival team was fierce. We were making a point, they were making one. It was a tight game. It went on and on, until the last inning. We were the receiving team, therefore we were the last team to bat. We had to make two points to win. There was already two outs, we were very anxious. We were coming back to the beginning of the lineup. I was coming in third place. The two girls batting before did great, they both made it to first then second base. It was my turn. I trusted my coach a lot, which happened to also be the pitcher (we were too young to get someone from the other team to pitch, guess that would have been quite challenging when you don’t even know what a strike is yet). He perfectly threw the ball, and I made a base hit. That was it, the bases were full, and our best hitter was coming to the plate.
You are probably guessing what happens next. Just like in a movie, she did it. She made a home run, sending the crowd into a frenzy. We had won! At that moment, it was the best feeling in the world. We were so proud of ourselves, so happy to be part of a winning team, so amazed by the extraordinary end of a fabulous season.
Of course, we celebrated. With hot dogs and ice cream, friends and family. It didn’t last for weeks, but the uplifting feeling did stay with me for at least a couple of days. It was no big deal really, after all it was only softball in little leagues in a quiet suburb, but it was still something that made us all smile.
Last week, I had the chance to see a professional baseball game. It was a very boring one, but as I was sitting in my uncomfortable seat with old friends, it brought up lots of memories of good ol’ times, when things were simpler. I realized how much I have moved away from the simple joys of winning, or having your favorite sports team win. This feeling of cohesion, of union, that takes much more space than the act of winning itself. The importance of having little things to celebrate, of celebrating the small victories.
I lost that. When I ended my bachelor degree, despite all the time and efforts I had put into getting it, I did not even went out to drink a beer with friends. I was already somewhere else, moving the very same night out of my apartment to settle into my boyfriend’s loft. When I got my first job, I took it as granted, as if of course it was the thing that would happen eventually, as if it was no big deal. When I signed for my home, I had the same emotion as when I am buying a REER. Another thing checked on my to-do list. No feeling of pride whatsoever.
I need to make more space for celebration. I just finished the first draft of my literature review for my master’s thesis, and I feel like I should celebrate. I just don’t know how. After years and years of working hard but also of adding things I enjoy deeply in my daily routine, I don’t know anymore what could make a night special.
I guess I’ll try the usual: champagne and strawberries, a bubble bath, maybe a night out. Wait. No. I feel absolutely no joy, not even a tiny bit, thinking about that plan. I guess my celebration night will look more like wearing old PJs, baking some stuffed chocolate for Easter while watching all the TV shows I missed in the last four months.
It doesn’t matter. I have plenty of time to think about the big thing I’ll do when I’ll be done with my Master’s. Until then, I’ll practice celebrating each milestone. Because it matters. Celebrating is about being able to live in the here and now, only looking back to realize how much has been done to get you there, not even thinking about tomorrow and how much work is still ahead. It’s about being able to recognize that you did great, without wondering about the mistakes of the past or the desired outcomes of the future.
Life is a party if we choose it to be. I have no idea how to throw a great one, therefore I am all opened ears to any of your suggestions to make my life a true, ongoing celebration.