Note to Self: Doors Will Close But Others Will Open

Here is An UNSCRIPTD Journey written by Sofia Roman:

Dear determined girl,

I gaze into your eyes and see the enthusiasm and excitement for what’s ahead. Congratulations on your commitment to Dartmouth! You should be proud of your accomplishments. I know the recruiting process for you wasn’t easy. You have gotten a glimpse of how the “process” works— waking up at 4am for workouts before school, extra lifting and conditioning, extra efforts to reach out to college coaches, sacrificing social life, recurring ankle and hip flexor sprains, slipped disks, etc. Naturally, your passion and determination have led you to a good career at White Plains High School, and as a bonus, you became a member of the 1,000-point club.

With all your academic and athletic accomplishments, you might think that you will do just as well at Dartmouth. But manage your expectations because Dartmouth is a different world. Apart from the wilderness where it is located, it is teeming with smarter people. Your basketball commitment will take a good deal of your time. All year round, including the cold and grey winter months, you will be away from the warmth of family and hometown friends.

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When you set foot on campus and have your Dorothy moment; when you realize Jack Roger sandals are in and your Jordans are out; when you barely pass the GPA eligibility mark to play on the team; when you get annoyed that people mistake you for an athlete on the tennis team, you will begin to doubt yourself. In moments of doubt, you will choose to be strong. They say to learn, you have to be humbled first. These experiences will ground you— make you realize where you are— and that beyond your circumstance, you are still getting a top-notch education and playing Division 1 basketball. As time goes on, you will put in the extra effort to do better in class, whether that means staying up later, extra office hours with your professors, tutoring, reading and proofreading. Rise above your circumstances.

When you go through more pits — have to withdraw from classes, run the risk of not graduating on time, and overload on classes — these times of discomfort eventually produce your best academic terms. You will gain more confidence, and this will help you speak up in class, less worried about whether or not your words mean anything or are worth saying. One day, your words will inspire. By senior year, you will be a panelist in a couple of key events on campus where you will talk about finding the balance as a student-athlete and your experience as an Asian-American woman. Your words will be heard beyond Dartmouth. They will be heard in the Philippines, where you will have the opportunity to inspire others in pursuing their passions and never giving up. Embrace your identity and your uniqueness.

When you get discouraged that you aren’t getting any burn on the basketball court, focus on getting better and working harder. You owe it to yourself to get better. Give your all at practice and put in extra time to develop the mental and physical parts of your game. By sophomore year, you will get more time on the court by being the defensive stopper on the team. Put more value on what you give, not what you receive.

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When you get released from the Dartmouth team during the pre-season of your junior year; when you weren’t a right “fit” for the team; when you are making calls to high school coaches about transferring; when you even contemplate quitting, breathe and find your peace. You aren’t leaving the team with any regrets because you know you gave it your all. In fact, you pass the repeat-mile runs with your personal best records. You will eventually find your fit elsewhere. Time will lead you to a new opportunity right before senior year— playing for Perlas Pilipinas, the Philippine National team, in international competition. Your team will level up from Level 2 to Level 1 in FIBA Asia Championship for the first time in your team’s history. You will be the shooter and a spark, bringing energy, scrappy defense and hustle. There will even be a documentary about your basketball journey in the Philippines called “The Pearl.” Things happen for a reason.

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How does a graduate year at Wagner sound? A second chance at playing Division I basketball? I can already feel your excitement. At this point, you have more experience and maturity under your belt. You won’t take this opportunity for granted. From day one of pre-season, you condition yourself to give 100% effort every day. You don’t miss any sprint times, you put up extra shots after training. You are happy someone else is giving you another chance, and that you fit the system at Wagner. You are counting down the days until the first game.

When you tear your ACL, MCL and meniscus two weeks before your first game, you will go into a state of depression. You will feel alone. But even the darkest hour only has 60 minutes. After that, you will pick yourself up. You learn to stand and eventually walk again. That walk becomes a little jog. Then that jog, a run. Then that run, a sprint. Along the road to recovery, you will meet incredible people and realize your true friends. You will grow spiritually with God and realize you were never alone. You will learn how injury heals. You become a much better and stronger person from this injury. With more energy to focus on school, you devote it to your studies. You will eventually graduate with a Masters degree at 22, and as a bonus, receive the Highest Academic Achievement Award for having the highest cumulative GPA in your program. In losing what you want, you gain what you need. Circumstance has allowed you to travel to Europe for the first time, immerse yourself in its rich history, learn about heroic saints, kings and queens. You will hear a lot about the Roman empire, their cross-continental influence, and how they built a successful empire. From your trip, you will realize this— success can’t be purchased. You can’t buy the appearance of success. You have to invest in yourself and your potential to succeed. Rome wasn’t built in a day, so you need to be patient.

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And now, when you are wondering and feeling anxious about “what’s next”; when you apply for jobs and don’t hear a response, remember that all things will workout in the end. Have faith and don’t give up. That will be your greatest achievement.

Doors will close but others will open… as long as you keep on knocking.

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This is my UNSCRIPTD Journey,

With love,

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