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Bloom Again
by Christen Press, April 7th, 2013 7:16PM

TAGS:  americans abroad, sweden, women's national team


[THE PITCH: Blog 7] It feels like only yesterday that I put on an oversized black T-Shirt reading, Mästere SV-Cup as my former teammate Olivia Scough danced wildly for the crowd while holding a bouquet of flowers signifying Swedish Cup Gold. And then again … it is such a distant memory. Since that time I have traveled to South America and hiked Machu Picchu with my sister, I have added a digit to my age, celebrated a California Christmas, my parent’s 30th Wedding anniversary, and reined in another year in fine Press family form. I have switched teams and moved back to Sweden but now to Stockholm, I have earned my first cap and scored my first goals with the USWNT, I have survived the thick of a true Swedish winter, and I have traveled to a Portugal where we won the Algarve Cup. More recently, and true to the circle of life … I stood opposite my former team, amongst the yellow and red, as we watched the petals fall from their bouquets as they danced victoriously wearing black T-Shirts reading, Mästere SuperCup.

I’ve found that often in life, the way I feel does not align with what is happening to me. Last year, I moved to what felt like the end of the world in the middle of nowhere to play for a team that I knew nothing about. I was alone both on and off the field. I played as the lone forward in a defensive-minded team. We finished a disappointing fourth in Damallsvenskan, and, I loved every second of it. I felt invigorated and free and substantial somehow. Through the dead of winter, I frolicked through an endless poppy field.

This year, I moved to Sweden’s grandest city to play for one of the best women’s teams in the world (in my not-so-humble opinion.) Once as I passed the ball around jauntily during pregame, I looked up and thought, I’m just kickin it with two of the best female players in the world. In actuality, I have a fantastic coach and live in The HoH, filled with laughter and an endearing combination of broken Espanswenglish. Not so infrequently, my team amazes me as players dance with the ball, moving fluidly, and attacking dynamically.

Yet, regardless of all of these blessings, I have struggled tremendously with this transition. Despite being surrounded by the constant exhilarations of my new adventure and great life right in front of me, I’ve been riddled with a deep longing for home. The thoughts of my family, my friends, and my former life rattles in the back of my mind, no matter how hard I’m laughing or well I’m playing. Despite having the opportunity of a lifetime to play for a fantastic club team and the USWNT, which really is my dream come true, I’ve struggled with the choppiness of moving back and forth and always being on the go. Over the last three months, I’ve caught myself releasing a little scream/squeal from time to time, perhaps my only acknowledgment of all of the emotions festering inside. Like a tulip bulb buried beneath the cold hard ground I longed for sunlight and struggled to push free ...

I know that my state of mind is my responsibility. I’ve been scrambling in search of a solution to these stressful feelings. It’s simple: if you have a seed and add water, sunshine, and a little TLC, soon enough a bud sprouts up, right? Well, what happens if it doesn’t? I don’t do well staring at a pot of dirt.

So, over the past weekend, I ventured back to my old Swedish city of residence to catch up with some familiar faces and find some respite from the emotional slump I had created for myself in Stockholm. In the end, the weekend away gave me the introspective time I needed. No, I did not find the fairy dust that makes the magically seed grow. But instead, my emotions came to a peak, and I realized that I was exhausted from the hunt, from the effort put forth to change my state of mind.

After my brief emotional breakdown, I returned home to my roommates, who had made a lovely Easter brunch, and for the first time, it felt like a lazy Sunday at home. Sometimes the answer is to fight—fight the sadness, the anger, the discomfort—and sometimes the answer is to stop fighting … sit back and smell the roses ...

As the sweet sugary goodness of Easter brunch and the fine company cheered me up, I began to remember just what it is that builds companionship. Of course, teams and friends can bond over the good times -- the wins, the fun nights out … but often what allows these relationships to dive deeper than the surface are the opposite. When you have a bad day and someone offers you a daisy.

Monday marked the Supercupen final, the start of the season, the first signs of spring (yes, we had some positive numbers on the thermometer), and a rivalry match against my former club, Gothenburg. Surely this would be the turnaround… For the first time, I felt connected with the team as we kept the ball and created a stream of dynamic attacks. I always knew Tyreso was great, but now, I was a part of it. As the game wore on, we got better and better, and thrived in our fun style of soccer. But, as the Soccer Gods would have it … it was not enough. We lost the game in penalty kicks after ending overtime 2-2.

Our plan to play a perfect season and win the Swedish trifecta (Super Cup, League, Swedish Cup) ended before it began. But as the Yellow Machine slowly rolled off the field, I know in my heart that this is the moment that a team’s character is revealed. When I was little, I anxiously watched the metamorphosis of a butterfly. Each day I’d run into the classroom to see if what once looked like a fat worm to me had turned into a bug angel. In reply to my impatience, my teacher told me that a caterpillar’s cocoon (actually it’s chrysalis) was so hard to break through, so that by the time it could break free, the butterfly’s wings would be strong enough to fly.

Last year was a fantastic experience; one I will always cherish. But, it is time to put a wreath on the grave of yesterday’s life and move forward with the wonderful life before me …"The calla lilies are in bloom again.”

1 comment
  1. James Madison
    commented on: April 8, 2013 at 6:18 p.m.
    You rock, Christen! "When you have a bad day and someone offers you a daisy" is absolutely the tops!!!

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