It’s your heart—desperate—begging to burst out of your chest. The air scarring the tiny vessels in your lungs as they rush in and out. Your body drenched in sweat, mind pounding. All around you, they’re screaming for a pass, for a goal. Opponents closing in, ball on your toes, you finally take that shot, and you miss. Game resets. You now have about three seconds to catch your breath, fully aware that the other team is now closing in on your goal.
I got into football solely on the premise that it was something that I wanted to try out. Armed with the cheapest boots money can buy, I stepped onto the pitch, not knowing how the next two hours would drastically change the way I lived.
At work the next day, I caught myself writing on a sticky note the same words I wrote to myself on a sleepless night back in University. It stuck out among dozens of other notes, formulas and to-do lists posted on my computer screen. I went to the woods because I wanted to live deliberately. I wanted to live deep and suck out all the marrow of life. To put to rout all that was not life; and not, when I had come to die, discover that I had not lived. I remembered the quote from literature class. It was from a movie they showed this one time I decided to attend. The words stuck, and they were now staring back at me—a bunch of dead poets had come to take back what was left of me. I let them.
It took a while, but in the end, against the promises of professional and career growth, engineering excellence and expertise, I admitted to myself that I was dying. I died a little bit every day in front of my computer, endlessly crunching in numbers and struggling to meet deadlines. I died a little bit more from all the hours working overtime, dreaming I was someplace else. I died every time my peers and I distracted ourselves with alcohol and late nights out. We were young, at the prime of our lives, embodiments of health that often remarked how the night was young and how we would seize the day. In reality, the truth of it was that I felt like a dying man sharing the company of rotting corpses.
Life is more of what we experience, it’s not all about what we do. Life is out there on the pitch, with your whole body screaming, lungs bursting. It’s in driving through 100-year old forests, ten hours away from the city, realizing how you’ve been living your whole life without truly knowing the colour green. It’s in listening to music so moving you start to soak in every note and every sound from every instrument in the background.
Being truly alive is knowing the difference between listening to music and experiencing music. Life should be a force that moves us, rather than us forcing ourselves to move, to just keep going, to just get on by.
While playing football, we are told to have fun, to enjoy the game. At the very end of it, it does not matter how many goals you score or how many brilliant passes you manage to make. At the very end of it, we are thankful that we get to play the game, that we have a field we can run and jump and lose our breaths on. Football is a beautiful game; life too is a beautiful game, but whether or not we choose to play it to the utmost is entirely up to us.