“If you love something, give it a rest”
I remember my first love. Hockey. Starting at the age of five, every waking moment of my life, nay, every moment of my life even in my sleep, was devoted to hockey. It’s all I talked about to my older sisters. It’s all I talked about at school. I collected hockey cards, watched hockey games, played hockey; I thought, dreamt and fantasized about it constantly. Obsessively.
At first it was a simple relationship. I played at the local ice house against other youngsters. Then after a few years, I joined a travel team. That meant five practices a week. I can still remember the smell of the rink at five in the morning. That meant tournaments in Michigan and beyond. That meant fifty games a season as well as off-ice training in the summer. That meant parents going berserk, coaches freaking out, and kids planning their professional hockey careers, all at the age of ten.
By the time I turned twelve, something changed inside of me. I stopped caring. I didn’t realize that I stopped caring for a long time. Then one night, it was as clear as the ocean. Oceans are clear, in case you’re wondering.
Tell me if this hasn’t happened to you: You do something well past the point you’re actually enthusiastic about it. In your head, you start to justify to yourself why it is you’re doing whatever it is you’re doing. I can’t stop now. They depend on me. I depend on them. It’s who I am. It’s what I’m supposed to do. I’ve put so much of myself into this, how can I quit? What would I do without this?
Then one night, the story falls apart. Your heart has made the decision long ago— you’ve only just now caught up.
The night I quit hockey I was in the car with my mom driving home from a game. (Shout-out to my mom, who’s reading this now and knows what’s about to follow). During all those years of hockey, we drove in the car together to all those games, all those practices. She was as invested in the game as I was. I looked to her and said, ‘I don’t think I want to play hockey anymore’. It was raining. We pulled the car off the road into a parking lot next to a play ground. ‘Come on, Ben’. She opened her door and ran out into the rain. I followed her. She took off her shoes and started dancing around the playground. I did too. We played, laughing and dancing and running around. We were free, free at last! From hockey.
I still have a tendency to obsess over whatever it is I love to the point that I don’t enjoy it anymore, to the point that it’s not good for me. I’ve done it with running, drums, weed, philosophy, and work. I’ve done it with reading, writing, meditation, relationships, tea, food and chess. None of these things are bad in and of themselves. But the way I do it is to the extreme, to the point where it’s not fun. I end up losing my enthusiasm, and eventually I don’t care. Then I quit.
Part of me gets down on myself, saying I really need to stick to something for the long haul. That I need to make a sacrifice in order to accomplish anything great. But the other part of me is dancing in the rain, celebrating the transience of life. Maybe that will be my next love. Dancing. Transience. Because the real problem, if there is any at all, is that I suck the life out of anything I love, hoping it will give me, what? Meaning, certainty, immortality…