Writing My own Story

By Jorie Allen

There was a time in my life when I hardly had a single thought in my head that didn’t revolve around basketball.

To be fair, I didn’t have much of a choice.

My dad was a fantastic player and played for the Hall of Fame coach at DePaul in Ray Meyer.

Needless to say, I had a basketball in my hands before I could even walk.

I’ve always loved the game, but it hasn’t been without its sacrifices.

In high school, I used to eat lunch with my English teacher because I didn’t have a core group of friends to sit with since I was always playing basketball.

I missed prom one year because of basketball, which doesn’t sound like the end of the world, but try telling that to a 17-year-old girl who didn’t get to wear a corsage on her wrist like all the other girls at school.

I don’t say all of this to make it seem like I’m complaining.

Trust me, basketball has been a blessing in my life.

I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without it.

But there came a moment in college when I asked myself, I’ve given so much of my life to this sport.

What is it giving back to me?

It wasn’t until I arrived at my dad’s old stomping grounds at DePaul that I came into my own and discovered who I am both on and off the court.

While I wouldn’t be the first Allen in the family to wear a DePaul jersey, I realized that I’m not my dad, nor does basketball have to define my life.

I have a pen in my hand, just like everyone else, and I set out to write my own story.

Getting back

After my freshman year at Indiana, it was difficult for me to even describe, but I couldn’t shake this feeling of unfulfillment.

I was 19 at the time, and all I had done for the entirety of my conscious life was play basketball.

I felt stuck, and I knew I had more to offer the world than dribbling and shooting an orange ball.

Coach Bruno at DePaul was the first coach I talked to when I entered the transfer portal. I loved talking to him because he resonated with my journey and understood exactly where I was coming from in regard to that unfulfilled feeling.

At the end of the call, I’ll never forget him telling me, “No matter where you end up, just make sure you get back to the girl who loves to play the game.”

I burst into tears when I heard those words.

If there was any coach and university that was going to get me back to loving the game and loving my life outside of the game, it was going to be Coach Bruno and DePaul.

Finding an outlet

When I got to DePaul, I knew the best thing I could do was to just let myself be a human being. Throughout high school and IU, I never allowed myself to step away from basketball and have fun.

Chicago’s such a magnificent and beautiful city that is enriched with culture, art, music, architecture, etc., and I couldn’t wait to explore the city and get more involved in activities on campus outside of basketball.

I’ve also taken a strong interest in creative writing in the last few years, which likely never would have happened without a final project I completed for a multiculturalism course.

Long story short, I was racking my brain trying to come up with a great creative project.

I happened to be home for the weekend helping my dad clean out my grandmother’s house, who had recently passed.

I was helping him clean when I came across some WWII memorabilia from my grandfather, who passed ten years prior.

I spotted these postcards with the Imperial Japanese stamp on them and Japanese caricatures. I was completely puzzled.

Why would Papa keep these around?

The postcards were in Japanese, and I was so intrigued by what these soldiers had written 70 years ago.

I couldn’t let it go.

Not only did I get the postcards translated, I wrote an essay on the letters for my final project. It became so much more than a grade at that point because it was a remarkably rewarding and enriching experience.

No matter what race you were or what country you fought for, none of them wanted to be there, and they would’ve given anything to be home safe, surrounded by their loved ones.

Right then and there, I became infatuated with creative writing and telling people’s stories.

For me, there isn’t a more powerful or impactful feeling in the world.

When I got to DePaul, I knew the best thing I could do was to just let myself be a human being. Throughout high school and IU, I never allowed myself to step away from basketball and have fun. Chicago's such a magnificent and beautiful city that is enriched with culture, art, music, architecture, etc., and I couldn't wait to explore the city and get more involved in activities on campus outside of basketball.

Pushing through adversity

I physically couldn’t compete.

I ended up missing the entirety of my junior season in having two ligaments reconstructed in my left ankle. If that wasn’t enough, since my ankle wasn’t functioning correctly, the cartilage in my knee got torn up as well.

What made it worse was that I was feeling so great about who I was as a person and player heading into my junior season.

But after that injury, I went into a bit of a tailspin.

Throughout the rehab process, it became so grueling that I seriously questioned ever coming back to play because it didn’t seem worth it.

I started to hate the rehab process more than I loved basketball, and that sent me to a dark place.

I’m not sure how I would’ve gotten myself out of it if it wasn’t for Coach Bruno. He told me something I’ll remember for the rest of my life when I was struggling so much with rehab.

He said, “Listen, I know this absolutely sucks. But you’re going to look back on this in a couple of months and realize this wasn’t that hard.”

I thought he was out of his mind at first, but the more he explained, the more I began to believe him and knew he was right.

I didn’t have to be superhuman, mentally strong, or even physically strong. All I had to do was take it one day at a time and do everything I needed to make it back on the court.

Identifying my self-worth

In my fifth and final season now, I can honestly say that I’m starting to love the game again, which isn’t a feeling I’d had in a long time.

It’s not even because of the team’s success or my own personal success; I just enjoy putting in the work each day at practice.

I love my teammates dearly. I’ve never felt closer to a group of girls than any other teams I’ve been on.

It’s also unbelievably freeing to not define my self-worth based on how many points I score or how many rebounds I get in a particular game.

I carried the burden and pressure of defining myself on those things for far too long, and I’m grateful DePaul helped me recognize that I have other interests and talents that define who I am.

It’s undoubtedly made me a better person and player.

While I’m not certain about my immediate plans after the season ends and I receive my master’s in writing and publishing, I’m confident in my ability to continue to write my life story that will fulfill me and make me happy.

I can’t wait to see what the next chapter holds.

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