From a very young age I’ve valued the sacredness of being alone.
As a self-identified introvert I learned early that I function best when I’m able to steal away time for myself to recharge and gather my thoughts. I had the usual childhood stresses you could expect of any awkward middle schooler and the added instability growing up in a divorced family: constantly jostled between two homes. Amidst all the flux around me, I found solace in a practice and place that was entirely my own. At 13, I took up the game of pocket billiards (or pool in it’s more common day usage). My interest in the game wasn’t peaked by the usual connotations of seedy back room hustlers, cigarettes, whiskey and high stakes gambling, I found in the game purity, comfort and a safe place to cultivate my curious mind.
I found beauty in the myriad of shots that lay before me every time I chalked my cue and stepped to the table. The table bed, the lay of the balls after the break, it was a place where I knew I could resolve the disarray before me, weaving my way in and out of clusters of balls with the most basic of tools: the power of my mind to conceive of the shots and my body to execute each careful and precise stroke.
As I grew through high school, I turned to the game more and more as a respite to clear my head from everything that felt hard, overwhelming or disappointing. I was lucky to have a Boys and Girls Club located right across the street from my Dad’s house. Even on my most busy days, spending 45 minutes as a study break to get on a table, was exactly what I needed to put everything that was cluttering my thoughts on hold. Somehow in the midst of shifting my gaze and mental focus to my practice drills, I was also letting my subconscious take over, mollifying all the worry and anxiety that was ready to detail me. Pool became a sort of social anxiety medicine for myself. I stepped out of my crazed environment, and took hold of something that I had a firm grasp of that I wanted to explore deeper.
I began to claim pool as an almost spiritual like practice.
My family and peers began to recognize the unique relationship I formed with the game. It was a breeding ground for deep self-investigation and a remedy or coping tool for the most difficult times in my life. I found time for competition too as I honed my skills, finding a mentor at 16 and going on to qualify and compete in the junior national 9 ball championships two years later. The benefits though of the game have always come back around to caring for my mind.
The benefits of discovering an outlet to manage overwhelming times in my life have been tremendous.
I’ve dealt with the sadness and disappointments of breakups and deaths, anxiety attacks and depression. Having learned now what it takes to be a caregiver, I’ve begun muse and reflect on the pool practice that I discovered so long ago because it’s proven to be a rock that I can continue to return to again and again.