You know that feeling when someone kicks you in the stomach, that feeling of pain so bad that it takes the life right out of you? Two weekends ago, I experienced the most painful emotion to hit me in a really long time. Along with my 2005 senior, state-bound volleyball team, I played in the state-qualifying game. We had cruised through the rest of post-season and we were ready to get out admission tickets for the final four tournament. This was something that we had been working for our whole four years of high school. We were the dream team, the team that was going to get Notre Dame another state championship banner to hang on its wall. Every circuit, every push-up, every bus ride, everything was done in order to go to state our senior season. As I walked the long hallway back to our locker room, it hit me. We lost. We had actually gotten knocked out of our spot to go to state. Someone else was fulfilling the dream that had been ours for so long.
As soon as they had scored the final point that ended the game, tears began to fill my eyes. And those tears didn't stop for a long time.
We all just sat in the locker room, shocked. Now what? What else was there to do? It was over. The thing in our life that was bigger than anything else, the thing that had become embedded in our souls, was gone.
As I sat and thought about the game, I began to say, well, when we get back to practice, then we can work on this and that, but then it hit me again and that stomachache returned. There would never again be a volleyball practice. Then, as I reached down to take my knee pads off, it kicked me in the gut again. This was the last time I would take my knee pads off. I couldn't deal with it. I just sat there crying. I really didn't know what to do. As I saw my teammates try to collect themselves and exit the locker room one by one, I thought about how I would never be on a team with these people I had spent hours with after school for the last three years. Eventually, I was the only person in the locker room.
I gathered my gear for the last time, stood up and walked out of the room. And the feeling as I closed that door behind me became unbearable. That was my volleyball career. All the nervous tryouts I have been through, all the wins and all the losses, and every bit of effort I have put into that sport, were over. I have gotten offers to play volleyball in college, but I am not going to take them. And up until that night I had not even thought about taking them. But now that I know that I will never play again, the reasoning behind the decision doesn't seem so clear. You never know what you have until it is gone.
After making my way to the bus and talking to people along the way and listening to people tell me that it was OK and we had had a good season, I began to calm down. And I was fine until I walked into my room and saw my good-luck balloon. Our coach had given us all balloons the night before districts. That balloon represented the success we were supposed to have. And once again it felt like someone had kicked me in the stomach. But I think I'm going to have to get used to it, because senior year is a year of endings.
Amber Karnes is a senior at Notre Dame Regional High School.