65: Unexpected Friendship

65: Unexpected Friendship

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Just Us Girls

Unexpected Friendship

In a world full of people who couldn’t care less, be someone who couldn’t care more.

~Author Unknown

When school started on that warm August day, I was ready for it, maybe even excited about it. It was senior year after all. I threw myself into everything I did for those first couple of weeks, including playing volleyball, which I loved.

I decided that year that I was going to fix myself. So I started my quest for perfection. I was desperate to be successful. I had to become beautiful, or at the very least, skinny. I stopped eating completely. I knew what anorexia was, but somehow I looked up to the girls who could do it. I was jealous of their willpower and drive. I knew I would never go that far. I had control.

After a while, my newfound diet started to take a noticeable toll on me. I was losing weight, which thrilled me, and I even grew to love the lightheadedness and tiredness that came with my poor diet, because those feelings meant that I was winning, that I was overcoming.

As the season progressed, things had become tense between my head volleyball coach, Coach Smith, and me. She was becoming suspicious. I felt like I was losing control. She confronted me about my eating and was angry that I wouldn’t listen to her when she tried to make me eat. She knew I had a problem and yet she couldn’t understand it. I was angry and hurt and she was suspicious and worried. We fought constantly. She just wanted me to eat, and I wanted to prove that I had control over this.

My malnourishment started to affect my performance. I was so tired that practice and games were becoming a struggle. I was still trying my best, but my best was slowly declining. Every practice, every game, I felt myself being watched. I hated it.

Then one day, with hurt in her eyes, Coach Smith approached me after a game.

“Why are you doing this to yourself? Do you want to lose weight?”

I felt like I had been slapped. I fumbled for an answer using my usual excuses, but I could tell that she didn’t believe me. She felt sorry for me. This was something I didn’t know how to handle. I could argue all day long, but it was the pity that I couldn’t stand. I stood there and did my best to convince her I was fine. She asked me what I had eaten and I told her nothing yet, but I was going to. She looked at me, disappointment in her eyes, knowing she couldn’t make me stop, and walked away. I didn’t stop. By the time our last game of the season rolled around I had lost twenty pounds.

A couple of weeks later I attended the volleyball banquet. I didn’t eat anything, but I sat and listened to the awards and laughed at the prank gifts. I even stood there as my coach managed to say something nice about me. I realized then that I had ruined my senior year by being disrespectful and hateful, and I had probably ruined hers as well. Volleyball was supposed to be fun and instead it had turned into a battle.

After the event ended, I approached her and apologized. I had to admit that I was the one who was wrong and that even though I wasn’t going to change, I told her it wasn’t the way I wanted the year to go. She just looked at me with tears in her eyes and gave me the biggest hug ever. I couldn’t believe she was being so nice after all of the terrible things I had done. Then she said it. She gave it a name. “Eating disorders are hard,” she told me trying not to cry. “If you ever want to talk let me know.”

“Thanks, but I don’t have one of those,” I responded. She just looked at me with sympathy and heartache and nodded, knowing she couldn’t change my mind. She thanked me for the apology and we went on with our lives.

Right before graduation I was thinking about all of the people who had influenced my life and I thought back to the volleyball season. I decided I had to let her know. So I wrote her a letter apologizing and thanking her. I gave her this letter on the last day of school, at the end of the day, and left thinking I would probably never see her again.

The summer after senior year was all about college. I had so much going on that the last year was almost forgotten for a while and I was glad to be getting away from it. Then one Saturday, I felt someone gently take my arm and say softly, “Lynne Jones… how are you doing?” And I looked up to see that familiar face. “Thanks for the letter,” she said. “It meant a lot.”

When I think of a coach, I think of someone above me, someone who gives instruction — not a friend. But Coach Smith refused to give up on me, and like any good friend, she confronted my problem even when I hated her for it at the time. I didn’t deserve her kindness, but she gave it anyway. I will forever be grateful for her help, and now for her friendship.

~Lynne Jones

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