Picking Up the Pieces

If any of you know me well, you are well aware I am currently in possession of four or five diar- journals. They’re journals.

I’d be in possession of six if I could find the journal I wrote in fifth grade when I recorded my feline endeavors at recess as “Blackstar”, leader of Thunderclan, but I think I must’ve done a great job hiding it because I’ve been looking for years now to no avail. One of my high school friends will undoubtedly bring it out just in time for my engagement party within the next ten years. Thanks! ❤

The first journal (alright, it really should just be called what it really is…a “diary”) is a spiral notebook with a hard pink cover. A flower adorns the cover and “MY JoUrNaL” is printed sheepishly around the stem, as if an afterthought. My first entry is dated November 18, 2005.

Once inside (if you could unlock it, that is), you’d realize all of the entries are pretty mundane- unless you were my younger sister at the time. The diary included the classes I went to in seventh grade, Venn diagrams of my crushes and their strengths/weaknesses, and random song lyrics I had been feelin’ at the time (Duran Duran). Basically, anything you would imagine would be in a journal which has, “THIS BOOK BELONGS TO NO OTHER THAN THE GREAT KRISTIN, NOT YOURS SO DEAL WITH IT” scribbled on the front inside cover. Yes, it was scrawled proudly across the page in sparkly gel pen. It was 2005, man. A hell of a year for any millennial.

The most satisfying part of having a diary (or several) is being able to glimpse back to a time where memories might ordinarily have become muddled by time or bias. Having the ability to look back at written material has served me well. When I wasn’t meticulously recording my crushes and their daily interactions with me (“omg Alex saw me in the hall today, I think he looked at me”) or showcasing the spelling fads of 2007 (“i no i shouldnt b saying this but i ❤ jordan. his eyes r awesome tho”), it is interesting to see how my brain processes information at the time.

Though my spelling has gotten much better (I still struggle with “i” before “e”, except after “c” or whatever the hell it is) and I’ve become less boy crazy since the days I hid behind my bed to scribble down the events of the day, parts of my thirteen year old self carried over into my college years- for better or worse.

Hidden between the hundreds of pages I’d written about volleyball, soccer, and crushes was a girl struggling with self acceptance. She just didn’t quite realize how much this struggle would impact her late teenage years quite yet.

Middle and high school can be remembered fondly to some, while others bask in the glory of having the class bully unclog their toilet forty years later. To say the least, it may be a time best described as having many highs and lows. :.)

Our innocence waned as we learned cuss words on the bus from the older kids, we finally figured out what Chat Roulette was while at a sleepover, and broke curfew…again and again.

My childhood was somewhat more sheltered than most in the sense it was mercifully uneventful until my teenage years.

My diary entries noticeably shifted as 2005 slipped to 2007, then 2008. I continued to sporadically write into high school, but did not write much beyond a few entries in 2008 and two in 2011 (one had been ripped out). I began writing less about my crushes, favorite songs, and daily encounters with my teachers and family.

The girl whose biggest issue was worrying about not making the soccer team now drew a picture of herself pointing out her flaws, writing “ugly” repetitively over the page. I was pale, fat, had too large a nose, regretted cutting my hair, overdid my eye makeup, and hated my freckles. The date above the crudely drawn picture was March 21, 2008. I was sixteen.

Why couldn’t I look like the pretty, popular girls at my school?

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Above: Teenagers tend to be a bit hard on themselves when encountering a herd of their own kind at school. It’s a time often characteristic of trying to fit in- I was no exception.

It was the beginning of a long and difficult road, a struggle not singularly unique to my life.

The girl who looked back at me in the mirror continued to remind me of everything I failed to be. Not only was my appearance unsightly to me, but my perceived personality flaws were now under scrutiny as well. Bashing myself became a cruel hobby, the innocent child in me struggling to stay afloat with compliments I now felt were lies.

I was under the impression nobody liked me, I was a weak leader who constantly underperformed at volleyball, I was a failure/benchwarmer at soccer, and I was selfish. Coaches constantly told me to “fix my face”. Why did I look sad or bitchy one minute then become overly cocky the next?

Unbeknownst to me or anyone else at the time, I was in the early stages struggling with some mental health challenges. While it is normal for a middle or high school student to feel awkward and unconfident, my brain had been in overdrive and had convinced me I was an evil, horrible person undeserving of affection. While not an excuse for my behavior at the time, it definitely gives some insight looking back. It didn’t matter how much my parents and siblings loved and cared about me. I had convinced myself otherwise.

The insecurity, anxiety, and pessimism I had been feeling was further amplified when I thought I may not just be attracted to just boys like the other girls in my grade.

My hometown was a great place to grow up, but is not the forefront of progressiveness like many larger cities. Sexuality was viewed as a choice by many and the church I had attended since I was in preschool condemned gay marriage. I spent much of my junior year worrying someone would think I was disgusting, repulsive, and gross for feelings I had recognized since seventh grade. Taunted by upperclassmen in the halls, I spent time overthinking my every move while with my close friend.

At the time, I didn’t find solace at home. My sister and mother had correctly guessed I was in a relationship with another girl at school and I was terrified. Was the comfort and happiness I found while with my best friend and confidant worth the constant stress of being an embarrassment to my family? I didn’t have time to make the choice myself, as my friend chose to end the relationship before she graduated that spring.

Not only did I loathe myself, but now someone I had trusted deeply had denied we had ever been together. Heartbroken and confused, I began confessing my feelings through a Word document on my MacBook. I had to hide everything from my friends who had no idea any of the previous events occurred. Steadily, my writing became more dark and poetic, but pulled me away further and further from reality. I had no idea what was substantive in my life. I didn’t know if I was drowning in pain or if I was just numb. I began self harming to feel something- anything.

I continued writing at college after a year break. My freshman year had been a whirlwind of social events and stimuli, but I picked up the hobby again my sophomore year in the fall when my past relationship became a breaking point. I felt alone, insane, and didn’t know where to turn.

Entries became sloppy, ink trailed off pages, mixed with tears. An entire entry consisted of an untidy scrawl wherein I tried convincing myself I was another person. I had repeating the same phrase countless times until the page ended. Another page contained confused last rites. I was drunk nearly half of the nights I wrote entries. The same girl who worried over her appearance at sixteen had gotten carried away into a never-ending cycle of self loathing.

Writing had once been a fun release, a way to express myself not unlike my favorite characters from Meg Cabot books. My confessions and heartbreak had morphed into a twisted monster, threatening to finally convince me I was insane and unlovable, a worthy candidate of ending life as I knew it.

However, years later it serves as a reminder of how incredibly sick I had been during this period in my life. Though the entries are painful to read, it truly shows far I have come and how far off the rails I had gone during this period of my life. I had convinced myself of an overwhelming multitude of entirely false information. I lived my life off lies, overreactions, and misconstrued encounters. My illnesses had twisted my outlook on life and stolen years of happiness off my life. It took me awhile to realize my writing was not beautifully tragic, reminiscent of existentialist heroes like Sartre, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche before me, but instead a clear sign I was not well. 

Though some of my behaviors are still evocative of the girl who loved to hate herself, it is more clear to me than ever how much I had needed help at the time. I was lucky to have friends and family who sought out help for me. I’m grateful to this day, because the girl in high school and college had no idea how hard she’d fight to find happiness- and how much progress she’d make by the time she turned twenty-five.

Self loathing had been built itself into the core of my being as a teenager, but I’ve changed this after years (yes, it took me years) of therapy sessions. More recently, I finally took a chance and let myself truly believe I wasn’t a horrible person. It didn’t come easily to me and is sometimes still a challenge, but by learning to dismiss the cruel voice in my head (not to be confused with schizophrenia), I am becoming happier. It turns out life is easier when you’re not trying to cut yourself down (wow!).

So although we don’t have a choice what challenges we are born with (or being born at all), we have a choice of who we become. With the right tools and attitude, humans can be remarkably resourceful. These tools and attitude will come more naturally to some, while others will need to fight more to gain the necessary skillset to be happier or even survive.

I was born into this world with some odds stacked against me (acknowledging my privilege as I am white). A few mental illnesses loomed on the horizon of my late teenage years when I was a kid, but I am incredibly lucky to be surrounded by a loving family and friends who wanted to see me succeed and gave me the resources to do so.

It hasn’t been an easy journey, but I’m learning to accept myself instead of resorting back to maladaptive behaviors and constantly putting myself down. Instead of allowing myself to get caught up in a tailspin of obsessive, pessimistic thoughts, I recognize my brain doesn’t interpret everyday events like a mentally healthy adult. Though it won’t always work right away, the fact I recognize my thoughts and behavior as unhelpful is a start.

Hopefully, I have a long life ahead of me (gawd willing). I might as well learn to like myself if I want to live my life to the fullest.

***

I’ve written less in journals or diaries as the years go on, but every once and awhile I take time to recount my day- no matter how mundane or uneventful. My journals have served as markers of my mental health through the years and continue to remind me that while life is ever changing, my overall positive attitude about life doesn’t need to.

In striving to find whatever positives I can, I’ve become healthier and overall happier. Even if I’m not entirely happy (who can honestly claim they’re happy all the time, let’s be real), I’m also learning through pain and sadness.

I’m not quite there yet, but I can say with confidence I am much better than I had been a year ago at this time. When morale gets low, I remind myself I’m not just living for myself, but I’m doing it for those I love. I know I want nothing more than to see my loved ones genuinely happy, so I try to put honest effort into becoming a happier, healthier person each and every day.

So far, it’s been working- because everyone deserves a chance at living their best life– one which includes true happiness and self-acceptance.

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The Benchwarmer

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Being a benchwarmer ultimately led to my verbal commitment to Binghamton University my junior year of high school.

Though the gym was a comfortable seventy-three degrees, I shivered. Whistles chirped at odd intervals across the length of the gym. Cheering reverberated across the cold walls and snapped my attention back to the volleyball court in front of me. I tugged on my jersey’s sleeves until the ends were balled up in my slightly purple fists.

Brrr…

Self consciously, I sidestepped in front of the three teammates that clapped enthusiastically beside me. I sifted through the pile of warm up jackets on the chair adjacent to them until I spotted a label with a hastily written, “#13”.

That’s me, I thought.

The number didn’t stand a realistic chance of making the regular starting lineup sheet yet, but I felt a little flutter of pride all the same.

A few months earlier, I accepted an offer as an outside hitter on the top club volleyball team in the state of Wisconsin. Though I had experience as an integral part of my previous club and high school teams, I now found myself ridin’ the pine on a regular basis. Feeling deflated, I realized I had gotten accustomed to watching the sport I loved most from the sidelines.

***

My sophomore year at Binghamton University.


Being identified as a “benchwarmer” is not an easy concept for every athlete to learn. It doesn’t matter if you’re sixteen on a club volleyball team, twenty on a Division 1 team, or thirty on a professional team. It can be an intensely emotional experience, especially if communication between an athlete and coach breaks down.

After reminiscing about my club volleyball experience, I was curious to see how my colleagues’ experiences on the bench compared with mine. Admitting they weren’t always the star player or part of the starting lineup, many launched into personal recollections that included rejection, increased motivation, shame, confusion, and bitterness.

Even though I’ve been involved in athletics since the age of five, I never considered giving the psyche of the benchwarmer much thought. To me, it just seemed like a self-pity party I threw for myself on the sidelines as an angsty teen in high school. After more deliberation, I realized my time on the bench impacted my life more profoundly than I had previously given credit to.

The semifinal game at the America East Tournament. We won the championship game and received the automatic bid to go to the NCAA Tournament in 2012.


Two social psychologists from the University of Virginia had a similar interest into the psyche of the benchwarmer and decided to study the phenomena in more detail. In their article, “The Social Psychology of the Benchwarmer”, Robert J. Rotella and Douglas S. Newburg come to the conclusion that some benched athletes “may experience [an] identity crises, the impact of which may be long-lasting and far-reaching for them”. In their report, the psychologists also offer suggestions for athletes, coaches, and sport psychology consultants to help respond to these situations effectively.

Overall this article has great intentions which I can give credit for piquing my interest. On the flip side, the authors come to broad conclusions based on a small sample size of athletes from the late 1980s. It also may have been supplemental to mention the possibility of an athlete who can learn positive lessons while sitting the bench. As always, hindsight is 20/20.

While the combination of prolonged bench time and poor communication will not likely impact the athlete positively, a lack of playing time can serve as an opportunity for some athletes.

This in mind, I can find no better example than former Ohio State basketball player, Mark Titus (of blogsite Club Trillion). He scored nine points during his entire four-year career but established a way to become indispensable off the court. He served as a practice and “pump up” player to the starters that won an NCAA Championship. His book Don’t Put Me In Coach is hilarious account of his journey “from one end of the bench to the other”. I’d highly recommend it.

On a more personal level, my experience offered opportunities to learn valuable lessons that easily translated to the workplace. Now that I’m about three years removed from the volleyball court, I have the ability to see how my role as a benchwarmer during high school impacted my life on an athletic and personal level.

Signing day, my junior year of high school.


After spending time as a six-rotation, front row and practice player through both club and high school, I decided to verbally commit to a mid-major Division 1 school as a high school junior. Overjoyed, I verballed because there was an opening for a four-year starter at this prestigious university.

The offers I had from universities with more competitive volleyball programs didn’t offer a four-year starting position like Binghamton University (NY). Though it’s nice to be a part of a winning program, I decided I’d like to have an immediate impact as a freshman. Without my time on the sidelines, I can’t say with certainty I’d make the same decision again. This is definitely a positive takeaway I wish co-authors Rotella and Newburg took into account in their article.

During my later club volleyball years, sitting on the side was tough. I felt cheated and unimportant, but I will maintain those who coached me had valid reasons for playing others before me if I wasn’t on the court. To this day, I hold no bitterness towards any of the people who impacted my journey as a player, whether I played or not. Feeling like you’ve been rejected is a hard aspect to swallow, especially at the ripe old age of sixteen, but it’s something that offers countless opportunities to learn from.

Not only has my time on the bench impacted my life athletically, but also personally. It’s nice to be an integral part of a team, but it helps to learn humility and perseverance as a player. This translates well into the professional world and your coworkers (and anyone you encounter, quite honestly) will thank you.

Squad of 2013.


As my mother told me from a young age, you’ll find ninety-nine point nine percent of the time there will be someone out there more talented than you. Sometimes you’ll be the star, other times not. Whether this is true in the athletic, real world, or both, there can be many opportunities to grow from.

If I could go back in time and tell my 16-year-old self anything, it would be to 1.) stop using so much eyeliner, 2.) invest in Apple, and 3.) let this time on the bench serve as motivation, not a sign you’re not good enough.

This isn’t to say every coach will have reasonable cause for keeping one athlete on the bench as opposed to another. As I’m sure we’re all aware, coaches are also human. Some humans have better intentions than others, but sports have seasons that end. This lesson certainly comes in handy in the real world while dealing with difficult managers and bosses. As my college sports psych professor often claimed several times per class, “sports are a microcosm of society”.

I had to include this photo, grainy or not. I’m now living in Providence so it’s a small coincidence!


In the short term, riding the pine may seem disappointing. Long term, I can say it eventually made me a stronger person and helped determine where I’d be happiest during my undergraduate degree. It’s exciting to be a starter or to feel important, but there’s also a chance to grow while off the court. What you learn through athletics often translates well into the professional world. I can definitely vouch for this!

Whenever you’re feeling bummed out about playing time, just remember you have the power to make what you can out of a situation. Sports have seasons, seasons end, you grow older and your knees and back will sometimes fail you. It’s times like these when I appreciate the lessons I learned on the bench more than I could’ve realized when I was sixteen. Though a very slim amount of players can say they aspire to sit on the bench if given the chance to be on the court, it’s not always a bad place to be.

Ride that pine with pride, athletes!

#12 was my favorite player to play against. She now coaches at University of Albany.


Here’s That Long Ass “About College” Post- Another Bullshit Story Told By Yours Truly, <3 K Hoves Jr. <3

Well slap me in the ass and call me Betty. As you may know, I’m done with college. In fact, you may only know this due to my ridiculous amount of instagrams, facebook pic uploads, and my nostalgic drunk tweets about how much I love my friends and Taco Bell. Awesome. But since I’m now graduated, I feel the need to sum up my college career so I feel like I did more than just binge drink four days a week in spring and struggle to make it through three hour volleyball practices every day in the fall.

Alright. Big picture first because people have 3 second attention span.

HERE’S WHAT I LEARNED:

I am not the same person that I was when I walked onto campus for the first time in August 2011. I look back on my freshman self and think, “Jesus Christ tweeze your eyebrows, stop dying your hair black, boys don’t have cooties, dumbass, and I am not the same person anymore”.

LOL but before I go into a bullshit story about how “Binghamton has really become my second home” or “I wanted to transfer my freshman year but really swagged out and liked it after awhile” type thing, I have to start here. Here’s my bullshit story.

When I left Neenah, Wisconsin in the summer of 2011 for preseason, I was not sad to say goodbye to my family. Alright, a little sad, but I was never homesick for the next year. High school left me in a difficult spot. My junior year was a constant tug of war with Reedo and Karen for extended curfews, time spent with friends, and a bad relationship choice. Of course, as those of you out of high school now realize, most high schoolers are complete dumbasses. We just don’t recognize it till we get older.

Though my relationship with my parents fluctuated, I was pretty close to my siblings. My brother, Logan, and I got along well because he was the mediator between my youngest sister, Alli and I. Alli and I were close but I spent much of my time comparing myself to her making sure that I was the best at everything. When she made Varsity volleyball halfway through her freshman year, I didn’t rejoice. I saw her as a threat to the “legacy” I was trailblazing as my high school’s first freshman to make the Varsity squad. It’s incredibly sad and pathetic.

Oh my god, teenage angst!! Me junior year of high school.

Oh my god, teenage angst!! Me junior year of high school.

Alli and I continued to butt heads my junior year of high school as she (and my parents) didn’t approve of the semi-secret relationship I was in (only considered “semi” because no one really knew we were together except my mom and sister who had their doubts- a couple kids guessed at school but my friends didn’t know and neither did the other party’s parents). They were scared and I was scared too. I still remember a senior taunting me about being in a relationship with the person I was with and I spent the rest of the week freaking out that everyone knew I wasn’t exactly in a “normal” relationship. Add that to signing to a school 13 hours away from home and you have a SHIT ton of teenage angst.

Me signing spring of my junior year of high school

Me signing spring of my junior year of high school.

Junior year ended and it was onto senior year. I made some great friends that I still have to this day, but struggled with the fact that my lifeline and essentially, my entire “world” had left for college. Senior year was pretty great, however; I joined track and field and was able to compete in high jump. It was fun to be good at something and not have a lot of pressure on myself to perform- it was a great release for me.

Alright. So now that I’ve had a glass of wine and can now look back on my high school experience, it sucked. I know I always whine about being 22 years single, but it’s actually a lie. THIS IS IMPORTANT BECAUSE: I attached onto a person who in the end denounced the entire relationship and left me when they clearly should have pushed me to get help at that point. I didn’t get over this person until the beginning of THIS year (yes, THIS year my senior year of college!!!) and it ruined many other opportunities to date other people at Binghamton. This affected my happiness at college. (I figured I’d make sure I put my points in all caps for emphasis and also some sassiness~)

So let’s fast forward a little to college. Freshman year was mostly uneventful. I always tell anyone I meet how you don’t realize how much freshman year of college sucks until you’re done with it. I didn’t go out much, but I had a successful freshman season of volleyball and made some friends on my team. My next year was one for the books, however.

If you’ve read my previous posts or seen me play volleyball, you either know I’m a literal psychopath or am bipolar II/depressed/OCD and also semi-lactose intolerant. My sophomore year is when everything I dealt with in high school with the poor relationships I had with my family to the termination of my “secret” relationship came to a breaking point.

Some day in November (can’t remember approximate dates) I was drinking with my friends which clearly later impaired my decision making skills. I had been wandering off into the woods or into empty bathrooms on campus to cut and burn my wrists on a regular basis and covered it up at volleyball practice with prewrap and tape. That night, however, my friends found me in either the bathroom or in my bed with blood all over my wrists up to my elbows. I don’t remember much except being taken to the hospital in an ambulance and begging them to believe me that I wasn’t drunk because we would have to play Penn State in the NCAA Tournament that week. All I do know is that if my friends hadn’t found me and called for help, I would have committed suicide that night.

Me sophomore year- wrists taped up at the Cornell match in attempt to hide what I'd done.

Me sophomore year- wrists taped up at the Cornell match in attempt to hide the cutting and burns.

During sophomore year, I had seen four different therapists, tried at least ten different medications, and had seen a little improvement. I spent much of that winter break debating whether or not to go back to school in the spring. I’ve been told that most people that struggle with Bipolar Disorder take time off. I couldn’t imagine not going back to school with my friends, so I went back and struggled through a grueling preseason while my friends, family, and coaches watched me closely. Who knew when I’d fly off the handlebars again? Not even I knew.

Sophomore year at conference tournament- even though we won the whole tournament I still struggled with self-harm at the time and much of this period was unremarkable for me.

Sophomore year at conference tournament- even though we won the whole tournament I still struggled with self-harm at the time and much of this otherwise “happy” time was unremarkable for me.

Sophomore year ended and Alli committed to Binghamton that spring. Unlike the high school me, the college me was thrilled. My near-death sort of deal ultimately made us much closer than before and I was extremely happy to have her with me in New York. REMEMBER WHAT I SAID BEFORE ABOUT CHANGING? I’M DOING IT HERE, PEOPLE!!!

My last two years of college were some of the best years I’ve had my entire life. Junior year I made friends on my own and became closer to my friends Lex, Amanda, and Jordan. (Heyyyyyy gurlz there’s a shout out! <3) I spent much of my volleyball career sidelined due to various injuries and such, but overall, I was happy. (Like ehmahgawd, I could sit on the bench and do my hair and look fab without it risking getting messed up!)

Things getting better for me as Alli joins me at Bing

Things getting better for me as Alli joins me at Binghamton ❤ ❤ ❤

As senior year approached, I was in a much better place than I had been two years prior. Though I struggled with sort of “hating myself” I hadn’t cut myself in awhile and was starting to come out of my shell around people. After I played my last volleyball of my collegiate career, I didn’t cry. I felt relieved. As I’ve probably told you on a Tuesday at JT’s at 1am, I have cried way too much during the past four years in the West Gym wheelchair bathroom stall to be able to muster up a single tear to justify my athletic experience at that point.

As for the rest of my college experience? Spring of my senior year was the best time of my life I’ve had yet. I had five classes I was more than excited to take and the time to enjoy other pursuits. Even though I’ve continually struggled with mania, depression, anxiety, OCD and beer shits the morning after a great night out, I was finally figuring out who I was and becoming more comfortable with myself and being less apologetic about it.

Myself with my closest friends (minus Steph and David) graduating

Myself with my closest friends (minus Steph and David) graduating (cray crayyyy!)

So essentially, I believe at this time that life isn’t worth living unless you experience those highs and lows. God knows that if you don’t have them you might as well be an emotionless robot.

So where in the world is our dear little Kristin Hovie now?

I’ll stick my now empty wine glass where the sun don’t shine if you ask me what I’m doing after college but I will tell you this:

When I left Binghamton University a couple days ago, I was sad. And you know what is so absolutely precious about that? Being sad means I cared. Being sad means I made some great friends and had some great experiences I’ll never forget. So before I get all existential on your ass, I’ll just sum it up to this since I’m all about the capital letters now~

COLLEGE WAS GREAT IT WAS AWESOME I HATE LEAVING BUT IF I COULD TURN AROUND MY SHITTY HIGH SCHOOL/SOPHOMORE YEAR OF COLLEGE, I HAVE A LOT OF GREAT STUFF AHEAD OF ME.

So that’s that. I’ll bet you didn’t bargain on me “in vino veritas”-ing all over you on a Tuesday night, but I did. (It’s probably because I know I should be doing $1 pitchers at JT’s right now and bitching about their $3 cover.) I had a helluva ride and am happy to say $%^&, I made it. Because I did- I did with a little help from my friends.

xx

ACE~

😉

P.S. Big thank you to my coaches, family, friends (Lex, Manz, Jojo, Steph, and David amongst others) for being there for me when I needed it- because I did need it. Thanks for being great listeners.