Mental Marijuana

I am not a normal player. The thought of game day, most times, does not make me feel hype, I usually feel my stomach in my throat and also get this weird paralyzation action where my mind is so spazzed out I move at the speed of an average-paced turtle. After not playing in actual games since my collegiate season ended in December 2013, I forgot how nervous I got. This season I have really struggled with performing my best in games, but I have started to find some great solutions to this problem.

If I listen to loud, screamy music and if I scream and yell during warmups, I get way too jumpy and spazzy for the game. At Michigan, we read this leadership book and this chapter was about finding your “number.” All of the yelling and getting hype stuff makes my number skyrocket to a 10. It is funny to me, because I can totally feel it. Every play seems so much harder and I somehow get the lung capacity of an infant, taking the shortest breaths of all time. I need mental marijuana before I play. I don’t actually smoke (that would make things really difficult), but for me, to find my appropriate “number,” I need to get to a complete state of relaxation. I need to sing songs, slow, relaxing songs in my head while I am standing waiting for the other team to serve. I need to basically numb my mind, or else it will think way too much about every tiny thing. My point of this whole randomness, is I have finally found my mental marijuana, relaxing state in games (only 7 months out! LOL). In all seriousness though, my practices and games are starting to look very similar, which is just groovy.

The past months and the next months, my life will be pretty much only volleyball. So, if this bores you, I am sorry, I don’t have any good travelling or foodie stories.

Here in Finland, I have had a lot a lot a lot of alone time. I have realized things about myself that I might not have discovered had I been in the states with all of my friends.¬†First: I did not realize how much FOMO I have (FOMO: fear of missing out). In college, I had a FOMO for sure, but the thing is, in college if someone says, “oh you missed out on so much last night,” you can always go out the next night or weekend and have so much fun it didn’t matter how much you missed out on the weekend before. In Finland, I get to see all of these great parties and events back in the States, and now, instead of making up for missing out the next weekend, I tell myself that soon, in 150, 85, 68 short days, I can make up for it.¬†Second: I really love the grocery store. I don’t know why, but I don’t feel like my day is complete without going to the grocery store. I am laughing at myself and maybe I am in such a small town that the grocery store is a banger of a time for me, but I love going. Third: When I get excited about something, I drop everything and have an excitement panic attack. For example, I had this idea that my christmas present to my dad should be a brewery tour in Houston. I spent all afternoon researching the best ones and texted him a ton of times to see if he would want to go with me, etc. I also get little spurts of excitement looking for jobs. If I get excited enough, I spend all day researching jobs and e-mailing companies. On the other hand, If I ignore the excitement, I get tons of butterflies. This has been particularly hard, because when I get back to the states, the first thing I will be going to is a college reunion-ish thing, and when I get excited about it, I get so much energy before bed. It makes sleeping hard.

We just played a game yesterday against the 3rd place team in the league and won in 5. I discovered I am kind of a bad-ass, but it is all 100 percent internal. So, there are a few girls on this other team that appear to be very cocky. Cocky in volleyball is like yelling through the net at the other team when you get a point or laughing at the other team when they lose a point. I am aware that many athletes, athletes of all sports, are cocky and this helps them have the confidence they need to perform, but if you are cocky, chances are I hate playing against you. I am my hardest critic and never feel satisfied about my play, so seeing people who act like they are all that and a bag of chips really pisses me off. I know this is wrong, but it’s me. Anyways, these girls are just straight up yelling through the net and in my mind, I’m thinking I appear to be giving off the vibe of “yeah bitch, you wanna yell through the net? Check the score and how many points you have actually scored in this game.” In my head, I think I look like this tough, hard ass, but what I actually look like is this calm, smiley, gentle player. My coach is teaching me some bad-ass italian hand signals that I can start to use in the game to improve the gentle giant exterior.

We have one more month left of regular season, and are doing really well. We are currently in second, which is awesome. I am learning more and more italian hand gestures each day. I also am learning a lot of Finnish words, but only ones that start with a P. I learned the word “butterfly” in Finnish because we do a drill called butterfly almost every other day, and it is “perhonen.” My teammates name is Piia Kerhonen, so naturally I started calling her Piia Perhonen. Then, my other teammates started giving me new P words to add to her name, so that’s the logic behind my Finnish vocabulary.

I will be watching the Super Bowl next weekend with my roommate who is the biggest Patriots fan of all time. She loves Tom Brady, so she secretly goes blue even though she went to BC. Have a great week all!

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Fun Fact: I spent 15 Euros on candy last Sunday

I realize it has been a long time since I have posted anything.. and so much has happened since my last post. I haven’t really had much time off lately, so I will try to catch y’all up briefly.

First – I got to visit my cousin in Berlin. Long story short, my team made it to the second round of the EuroCup, which was to be played in Russia (against a kickass team that won the thing), but my visa would not go through in time for the game, so I had a few days to travel. This ended up being an amazing foodie adventure. I LOVE food. I freaking love all of it, crazy food, ethnic food, breakfast food, any food. I follow more food accounts than human ones on Instagram now just so I can see the delicious food of America waiting for me (out of those food accounts, most of them are donut shops). Eating out in Finland is not cheap and I think I can count on my hand the amount of times I have eaten at a restaurant. When I went to Berlin, food was incredibly cheap. My cousin and I dedicated my last day simply to going to the Christmas Market and tasting all of the food (pizza, cheesy bread, pancakes, mulled wine, you name it). It was great to get to central Europe and relax, I really enjoyed my time there.

Second – for EuroCup we played the Russian team; first in Russia, then they came to play here. This was by far the best match I have been a part of in my life (and we played Penn State twice every year!). On this Russian team was apparently the world’s top outside hitter, a lot of members of the Russian National Team, and a Brazilian who had won the gold medal in the Olympics. I definitely felt like a peasant playing them, but it was a really cool experience to play such great players.

Third – Christmas. I did not have much time off for Christmas break either, but the time I did have off, my team/staff were so nice to invite me to their houses, so I could celebrate with them. In Finland, Santa comes and the whole shebang happens on the evening of the 24th. Imagine as a kid having to sit through dinner to wait for Santa to bring your presents! (Fun Fact: in Finland, people sometimes hire a dress up Santa to come to their house for their kids!) So, on the 24th, my trainer took me over to her house for some glogi (mulled wine, vodka, and spices) and dinner. It was really nice and I really loved glogi. I loved glogi so much that during the Christmas sauna, I decided to try a typical Finnish swim in the snow to cool off. The next day my teammate, Noppi, picked me up in the morning to go to her mom’s apartment. They recreated the typical Finnish Christmas (as if it was the 24th) for me, which was so cool; I am really grateful for them. The meal (this is the same every year, the foods don’t change): first, we had a lot of raw fish like lox, herring, etc. Since wine doesn’t go well with this stuff, somehow Noppi’s mom already knew I liked beer (I guess Noppi had told her we had drank a few together) and insisted that I have the best Finnish beer there is: Sandel’s. Then the next course was hams and cheeses and salads. Finally, the actual dinner was ham, a lot of casseroles (cabbage, carrot, potato), and beets, pickles, etc. After dinner, I was sitting on the couch when Noppi’s mom was teaching me these Finnish Christmas songs. After we sang a few, out comes Noppi’s sister dressed as Santa and this Santa brought me some sweet Finnish gifts, like a Christmas cookie cutter in the shape of Finland and some Finnish Fazer Chocolate. She also got me a kid’s book with all the Finnish Christmas songs AND it is a music book so if I press buttons it plays the tunes of the songs! Another Finnish tradition is visiting the cemetery. If you have had a family member pass away, you light a candle and say a few words on Christmas. When we went, the cemetery was so beautiful with the snow and the candles. We went back to Noppi’s house and on the table was all kinds of cookies and pastries. My favourite was this date bread. I really have no portion control, so if you leave out 1 cookie, I will only eat 1, but if you leave out 30 cookies, somehow my stomach can handle all 30. It’s a blessing and a curse. Impressive, but dangerous for one’s health. I am really so thankful for the people who made my Christmas here so memorable. Yes, I did get soft talking to my family back home, and my mom made me say hi to every single family member while that was happening, but what can I say? Who doesn’t look hotter when they are crying?

Fourth – the rest is kinda just random. Personally, I can honestly say I have never felt more exhausted (physically, mentally, emotionally) in my life. With all of the injuries on my team, I have been lucky to be healthy, but this also means that I have had a lot less time to recover. With that being said, yes I do workout a ton, but Noppi, Riikka, and her boyfriend Panu find time to celebrate another week of survival by buying candy and drinking wine. I have this limit I usually set at the candy store (my life is so exciting!) of 2-3 Euros because it is by the weight of your candy (3-4 euros was obviously a bad day, 3-4 euros plus a mini ice cream.. you can probably guess). Last Sunday we played a hard game in the Finnish Cup Finals, and so we went to the candy store naturally. The lady told us the store was closing, so we all got really nervous like the world was going to end if we didn’t try everything and our bag ended up weighing 15 EUROS! How does this happen? I tell myself it all went to my boobs or some body part like my tiny calves or head that really need it.

3 months until I am back.. crazy. I cannot say it enough, but I would really like to think I have the best family and the best friends back home, because they have been so great to keep me in the loop with their lives, make sure I am surviving, send me funny jokes (that mean tons, I usually laugh out loud), etc. I am so excited to see everyone in person, but also gonna Finnish strong here (I am so punny)!