Embrace where life takes you
"Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence."
It has been awhile since I last wrote a column here, but then again it seems just like yesterday when I sat down to write weekly articles sharing the stories of my freshman year. The University of North Carolina was an amazing experience filled with fun times and a new-found extended family that I still keep in touch with to this day. When I said goodbye to all my friends and teammates at the end of the 2007-2008 season, I started my new journey closer to home at the University of Kentucky. I had to sit out the 2008-2009 season at UK because of transfer rules, but got right back to it in the next season as a sophomore. The 2009-2010 season at UK was record-breaking. We received a top-25 national ranking, earned runner-up in the SEC tournament, and made it to the NCAA Elite Eight but fell short to Oklahoma for a chance to go to the Final Four. It was an exciting season for the whole program and we had a lot of fun, but something still seemed missing in my life.
In the 21 years I have been alive, I have learned that life is a long voyage and you will sometimes need to use your heart to make important decisions that will affect your future. If you are not content where you are or feel like you need to be somewhere else fulfilling other achievements, then listen to your heart. Happiness can be easily ignored when people are so caught up in working hard for their lifelong dreams -- like playing big-time basketball. The only problem is that when you get to your final destination, if you have forgotten how to enjoy yourself and be happy, then what have you really gained? Well, after transferring from two different schools and having support from my family and friends, I can honestly say I have found happiness again and it is at a place called Union College.
Union College is a Division II NAIA school located in Barbourville, Ky. It is completely surrounded by the Appalachian Mountains in the south-central part of the state. We are extremely close to Tennessee and Virginia and it is about an hour and a half drive from Lexington. It is a pretty small campus where everybody knows everybody, which makes for a really comfortable atmosphere. I don't know if too many people know this, but I actually play on both the golf and basketball teams. Golf is something I always have loved to do and I come by it honestly because I grew up living on a golf course. The only problem was I never had time to play because of my hectic basketball schedule. If there is one good thing about being at a smaller school, it's the fact that you have more time to enjoy yourself. My golf coach, Eric Wyrick, and basketball coach, Tim Curry, have allowed me to take time to enjoy both sports. I am really excited because I love taking on new challenges and being able to play both sports is an absolute privilege. We now are in the middle of the golf season and I am having the time of my life. I can see myself improving daily but I also see my golf tan getting worse as well. You could say I now have a permanent white sock on my foot.
Josh and I went to high school together and he has played golf his whole life so he is always trying to help me out with my golf game. He transferred here last year and has been a huge success on the golf team. When I was looking to simplify my life and have fun again, Josh helped me communicate with both coaches Wyrick and Curry to see if they could make room for me this year. Fortunately for me, before I could even blink I was signing my letter of intent and shaking hands with our athletic director, Darin Wilson. I am so appreciative to all of the staff here at Union who have taken me in and allowed me to finish my college career under their watch. In a world where things are never set in stone and you never know where you might end up, it's good to know that there are still people who genuinely care about you and want you to succeed.
As each day passes and I go to school, practice, weights, or whatever it might be, I know that I am very blessed and lucky to have such a great life. You cannot be afraid to take a risk and jump out of your comfort zone. Even when people are telling you what they think you should do or you feel pressured to do something, stop and think about your life and your happiness. Only you can live your life and only you can deal with the decisions you make. So, with that being said, you might as well have fun and put yourself in a situation to where you can succeed with people around you that have your back.
Until next time, stay cool and keep ballin' y'all!
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Rebecca Gray is an intern for ESPN HoopGurlz. She previously wrote a column for the website about her experiences as a freshman on basketball scholarship at the University of North Carolina. She transferred to and played at Kentucky and now plays basketball and golf at Union College. A 5-foot-10, sharp-shooting guard out of Georgetown, Ky., Gray was named Miss Basketball in the state of Kentucky after averaging 25.6 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.1 steals and 4.8 assists during her senior season at Scott County High School. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.