Hi ya’ll, well here is a completely vague explanation to many peoples questions. Some people are curious, some may not even care, but here is a little look into my brain and the journey I took on my decision to leave. I started writing this in January and since then I’ve been adding bits and pieces of random thoughts that have gone on in my head these past 4 months. I’ve edited out some of the more irrelevant things and I’ve fixed up the order of events a little bit for your reading pleasure. I’m sorry in advanced for the language I choose to use (I say “sucks” a lot in this for no particular reason). So here is a completely random look at my thought process:
In my 19 years on this planet, I’ve learned so much. Like a sponge I’ve seen and heard things all around me, and I’ve taught my mind how to adapt to certain things that I’ve come across in my experiences throughout life, such as when it’s cold, I put on a jacket, when I see a fire, I dare not to touch it. But I’ve also learned much more. Like the simple fact that sometimes life just sucks, and the world is unfair, you don’t get everything you ask for, and sometimes unfortunately, people are going to be mean to you. These are things that our brains, even though it may hurt, learn to adapt to, to role with, to keep reminding us, that life sometimes sucks, but it is what it is, and to keep moving forward.
Here in my 19th year, I’ve been stuck in a mental plateau.
I was raised in a world full of yes ma’ams, no ma’ams, yes sir, no sir, please’s and thank you’s spoken with a subtle southern drawl. This is the world I left behind, never knowing how much I took for granted the waves and polite smiles complete strangers would give me as I walked down the road.
I was 15 when I planned out my life.
When I was 15, I had no clue what I was going to eat for dinner after I came home from school everyday, much less what I really wanted from life.
I sit here amazed how kids, younger than I was, can decide where they want to spend their futures, assuming it will be the best years of their lives. So much pressure is put on babies to make such a huge decision that can impact how they end up. I was no baby, but I was not even close to being old enough to know what I really wanted.
Regardless, I don’t regret going to USC. The friends I made, and the people I’ve met, have created so many wonderful memories for me in the two years I lived in California. USC is a great school, and I’m lucky that I had the opportunity to play there.
It’s hard for me to really explain the reason for my departure, I have been tormented with this decision for months. Should I leave? Should I go? What will happen when if leave? Will I regret it? Will I fit in wherever I go? What if I stayed? Will I be happier? Will things get better? Or will I have to conform to a numb comfort for the next two years of my life? I’m not physic, I can’t see the future. I didn’t have the answers to any of these questions. I fought myself, tortured myself, for seven months.
The fact is, I miss my home, I miss my family. I miss my little brother who is having to grow up without me around. I miss my mom who is having to support me and my brother, and having to pay for his monthly hospital bills all by herself. I tried to make this work, I fought my own mind for this to work. I sought out help to make this work. But it simply didn’t. And for that I am sorry.
I’m not ashamed to admit that I did go to our student health center to receive weekly counseling from our expert psychologists. It is something that I wished more athletes did. Every week, I’d go in and cry and talk and listen. I felt like she understood me and she became one of my best friends. I feel so much better now than I did months ago. She helped me heal my broken mind so much, and taught me how to cope with so many things. She taught me that depression and anxiety are things that all athletes go through, however when it occurs for more than a couple months, then there is a problem.
My internal battles continuously fought with my external ones. I don’t want people to get confused and think I’m leaving because of volleyball, because I’m not. There are three things that have to come before a sport for me. And that is God, my family and my health. It was a hard year. Obviously, physically and mentally this year was almost unbearable for me to handle, I couldn’t do the things I wanted, yet I felt like I had to force myself to do what was expected of me. And I learned that without volleyball, who am I? Who is Ebony Nwanebu without the name and the criticism and the expectations? It was hard for me really, I struggled so much with my identity. I’ve spent so much of my life wanting what people have wanted me to want, and doing what other people have been telling me what I should want to do… but what do I really want? What do I really want to do? Who am I? Well, I’m a teenager, from a small country town in Texas, currently I am thousands of miles from my biggest supporters and my sickly little brother. I like the color pink, I skip everywhere I go (literally), I’m still stuck my Disney phase and occasionally will burst out into song. And I’ve learned that moving far, far away, forces someone to grow up pretty quickly. So that’s what I did in my sophomore year. I grew up.
I am now old enough to know that our brains can adapt to sucky situations, but it shouldn’t always have to day in and day out. I am old enough to know that depression isn’t a myth, it is a very real thing that many athletes go through. And chronic anxiety is crippling. Food tastes good, and crying makes you tired. I learned to make my own decisions. At the age of 19, I finally knew what I wanted out of life, and what wanted to pursue in my future. And unfortunately the things I want aren’t at USC.
Recently my grandmother passed away. I missed my last week of classes at USC and went to Iowa to be comforted in the arms of 24 of my family members. The thing about Iowa is that not much goes on there, which means it’s quiet. I can think without constantly hearing sirens, or voices. It’s just me and my mind out there. I got to thinking. The months and months of torturous conflict that I put myself through, was not my own. I was never really conflicted, somewhere deep down I knew what I wanted, and I wanted to leave, to be closer to my grieving family in the midwest, and my little brother in the south. The conflict was in fact the school (USC) itself. I didn’t want to leave behind the group of girls that I considered my sisters. I didn’t want people on the outside to assume things that weren’t true. I didn’t want the thousands of USC fans out there to be disappointed in me.
And as a human being, that is my biggest problem. I put others wants before my own needs. I don’t like confrontation, and I hate when people are upset with me. But, as I’ve said before, I’ve grown up. It’s time for me to be a big girl and step out in the world, and be happy, and be carefree, like I once was once upon a time, and grab what I want and what I need. I need to be happy. We get one life. And I want a happy one. And I hope those of you who are out there still reading this understand and can accept that.
So here is the answer to many peoples questions. I am leaving USC with a heavy heart. I don’t know what lies ahead, as I’ve stated before, I can’t see the future. It is all in Gods hands. I’m in a bit of a rough patch right now, but He will help me get through this. I’m beyond excited to see what is in store and what life holds for me and my volleyball career down the road. I’d like to take a moment and thank my USC family and supporters, thank you so much for these past two years. Your devotion and constant support has been one of the things that kept me rooted here. To my teammates, words cannot express how much I will love and miss you with everything I have. Thank you for being my second family and my sisters, and for accepting without (to much) judgement, the thousands of unnecessarily random hugs I annoyed you all with every practice.I love you all so incredibly much and it hurts me so much to have to say goodbye to each one of you. My heart aches so much and I will cherish all of our memories together. To my coaches, thank you for teaching me everything you know and for helping me grow so much. To all the babies out there, try not to force yourself to grow up to fast. Be young and carefree while you still can. And to all the NCAA college athletes out there fighting an invisible battle, you can get through this. Trust me I know. It will get harder before it gets better, but it will get better, I promise.