Over the course of our regular season, we have had our ups and downs. We have had decisive victories, shocking losses, and some games that fell somewhere in between. We have faced our share of adversity this season, but we have emerged from our defeats and our struggles as a united and determined family that is well on our way to achieving our postseason goals. With two final conference games left, we sit atop the standings as tied for first in the MAAC with a record of 6-1. Our home game this Friday will be against St. Peter’s College and it will serve as our official “Senior Night” in which myself and 5 of my fellow classmates will be honored before kickoff. While this night will be a great celebration of the careers of 6 members of the class of 2013, it will also serve as a reminder to me of one member of Fairfield’s 2013 graduating class that will not be in attendance that night.
I officially met Julia Sill on June 22nd, 2009. It was Fairfield’s freshman orientation and we greeted each other that morning like we had been best friends for years. I guess that makes sense considering we had met over Facebook a few months prior and had been calling/texting/skyping/emailing/IMing each other nonstop since we first found each other on a random roommate survey forum on Facebook. It’s pretty safe to say I loved the girl from the start. I could sit here and ramble off a bunch of adjectives that could attempt to characterize the type of person Julia was, but the truth is, it wasn’t necessarily her identifiable character traits that drew me in, it was the person I became when I was around her. It was the feeling of the profound personal growth and progress that she brought out in me. She challenged me to want more and to be more and to expect more from myself. For lack of a better cliché, Julia changed my life.
“If this were someone else, and I thought it would help, I would say take some time to yourself and take some time off, away from soccer. But I don’t think that’s the best thing for you. I think you need to be here…be around the team.”
This is what my Head Coach, Jim O’Brien said to me one early January morning of my sophomore year. It was three days after Julia had taken her own life in her empty dorm room on campus and it was minutes after I had prematurely ran out of our winter beep test (that was being held inside in the Athletic Center gym) hysterically crying and unable to contain my grief. The spring season (especially the beginning of it) prioritizes fitness and emphasizes the physical development of our players. Fitness has always kind of been my thing and I have always somewhat prided myself on my ability to help motivate and push my teammates to get through even the most grueling of fitness sessions. I heard Jim’s words but I didn’t know how to respond to them. I didn’t think I was emotionally capable to do what I felt I was supposed to do to help my teammates. I felt completely lost and helpless and I didn’t know how I was going to pick myself up and get myself through the rest of the semester. Jim had an answer for that too. “Just show up,” I remember him telling me. “Just keep showing up every day and eventually it will get easier.”
I’d be lying to you if I told you that when I look out at the stands on Friday night and see my friends and family supporting me that I won’t feel the pain of her absence in that crowd. I’ll miss the signs she used to make at home games and the congratulatory texts she would send after our big wins. Hell, I’ll even miss her making fun of me after games when I would angrily rehash every mistake I made and every chance I missed. I guess mostly, I’ll just miss my friend.
It’s interesting how losses teach us meaningful lessons about how to better approach our futures. Losing people, losing time, losing games, losing ourselves- they all challenge us to rise from emotional, physical, and psychological defeats and to move onto something better, something that we believe is truly worth fighting as hard as we possibly can for. Well I know who and what I am fighting for on Friday, on Sunday, and for the remainder of our season. I am fighting to honor the memory of my beautiful, inspiring, compassionate friend who left us far too soon. I am fighting for everyone that has always supported, loved, and believed in me without any obvious reason to. And I am fighting to do everything I possibly can to ensure the continued success of my amazing team.
“For success, like happiness, cannot be pursued; it must ensue, and it only does so as the unintended side effect of one's personal dedication to a cause greater than oneself or as the by-product of one's surrender to a person [or persons] other than oneself."
It is my hope that as my senior year comes to a close, I will be able to help contribute to our postseason success by dedicating myself completely to play for the people that I love and for the person I will always cherish and remember.
May 28, 1991 — January 18, 2011
Breathe. Battle. Believe.
For more information dedicated to raising awareness about mental health among college students, please utilize www.activeminds.org
For more information regarding Fairfield University’s Chapter of the National Alliance of Mental Health, please contact firstname.lastname@example.org