55 With Love, Always and Forever
This chapter is dedicated to my family. Thank you for inspiring me to wake up everyday determined to accomplish something new. Without you, I would not have accomplished my goals and dreams. You are the ones that have taught me the real meaning of the word, love, and how important it is to keep it alive in my everyday life. Thank you for guiding me through the difficult times in my life and reminding me that I am full of love and I have so much to offer to this world. This chapter would not have been possible without you guys.
Keywords: Tennis, Passion, Religion, Challenges, Faith
Thank you for being a part of my life for as long as I can remember. Since I first learned how to play, there have been a lot of ups and downs. I have experienced moments of glory and accomplished dreams that I have had ever since I was a child, such as winning my first Gold Ball or being a top ranked Division 1 collegiate player in the country. These moments have made me feel as if I was on top of the world. I have also faced many drawbacks though, such as losing many heartbreaking matches, ones that I had chances to win; or having my first collegiate season being cut due to a global pandemic. These challenging moments have made me have self-doubt and have made me question: why do I even play tennis? The answer to this question always remains the same though. The simple answer is that I love to play tennis. There is nothing I love more than competing and taking on new challenges with every match that I have had to play.
Tennis has allowed me to have experiences that not every child growing up gets to have, such as attending IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida, where I had the opportunity to meet athletes from all over the world with the same dreams that I had. It has brought me closer to people and has allowed me to put myself out there in ways that I can never imagine having without the sport. It has also made me reflect on my values, such as my religion and faith in God. Without love for the sport though, none of these things would be attainable. The act of love has made me resilient in the most difficult of times and has made me appreciative and thankful in the greatest ones as well.
The rhetoric of love as it relates to ethos or emotions has impacted my overall view of tennis even through my darkest times of playing the sport. The emotions that have stemmed from love have affected my actions more than just my words and I hope that people can find a true love for a passion that they have like I have. The word love has been studied in philosophy, religion, and communication. Over the course of my tennis career, I have been able to connect with these three ideas through the love that I have with tennis.
The word love is defined as, “To have or feel love towards (a person, a thing personified) (for a quality or attribute); to entertain a great affection, fondness, or regard for; to hold dear.” (Oxford English Dictionary). Most philosophers such as Aristotle and Plato have studied and related love as it relates to loving another person. In fact, there are three different forms of love: eros, philia, and agape that Plato and Aristotle have studied. Eros is defined as “romantic love” that comes about when two people are physically and sexually attracted to each other. Philia love refers to friendship and describes how people have a fondness for one another. This is demonstrated through empathy or showing kindness to a friend. Agape love is described as loving everyone regardless of whether they are a stranger or an enemy.
When I play tennis, I first and foremost see my opponent as an enemy, as I am trying to beat them. However, when looking deeper into my heart, I feel respect and compassion as I am sharing the court with someone who is just as competitive and determined to win as I am. Tennis has also made me understand the importance of getting to know someone for who they truly are. When I am playing in a tennis match, I let my competitive spirit come out as I physically and emotionally show that I am a strong-willed person who wants to win every match that I play. Typically, my opponents show the same level of tenacity as we are playing, however, I understand that I, myself, and my opponent are different people when we are not playing tennis. This has allowed me to appreciate my competition while also giving myself the opportunity to learn more about someone else’s life, besides the fact that they just play tennis.
I think that people have forgotten what it means to find love in a passion, an idea, or a dream. Eric Fromm, who is a social philosopher, said that, “Love isn’t something natural. Rather it requires discipline, concentration, patience, faith, and the overcoming of narcissism. It isn’t a feeling, it is a practice” (Fromm 116). When I look at my past, I initially think that my love for tennis did come naturally. However, as Fromm points out, there are a lot of other factors such as discipline, concentration, patience, and faith, that are essential to learning how to love. At times I feel as though I have experienced more frustrations than satisfactions in playing tennis. The goals that I loved achieving are what kept me grounded and determined. What Fromm is saying is that love is something that comes over time and is an art. I have had to learn to love tennis and its different challenges while being comfortable in uncomfortable situations. To love something is a craft, as it comes with its own set of challenges.
Tennis has challenged me in regards to continuing to have faith in myself and God when things have not gone my way. In the Roman Catholic Church, there are many references to love in the Bible, and how we should “love our neighbor as thyself.” In “Contact Rhetoric: Bodies and Love in Deus Caritas Est,” Jon Radwin discusses how the Church has taught people to love one another in different ways. Pope Benedict XVI wrote “Deus Caritas Est- God is Love,” how people unite together when they display a love for one another. Pope Benedict XVI quotes the First Letter of John, “‘God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him’” (Radwan 56). Pope Benedict includes this in his speech when he makes the statement that being Christian and believing in God is a privilege, for when we acknowledge and believe in God’s “gift,” which is His love for us, we can easily reciprocate that love back to Him. I reciprocate this love with God by utilizing the talents that he has blessed me with.
I truly believe that God blesses people with certain gifts and talents for a reason. When a person utilizes that talent or capability, that in turn is their gift back to God, and that is what I am trying to do through playing tennis. The purpose of acknowledging love in this form is to understand that the Christian religion believes that when we act in ways of love, love will come back to us in some form.
My love for God has not always been this easy. I have often questioned God’s love for me when He did not answer my prayers and requests. I believe that in these moments not only was love in question, but my faith was too. Faith is a part of love. In order for one to have a love for a person, object, or idea, they must have an undeniable trust. This trust is built upon being challenged and knowing that the unexpected could happen. According to Fromms, “To have faith requires courage, the ability to take a risk, the readiness even to accept pain and disappointment” (Fromm 188). I obtain these qualities every time I play tennis. I step into a new match with the courage to compete even though the outcome is unknown. I take risks when I make difficult decisions knowing that failure is a possible outcome. With this failure comes the emotions of disappointment and dissatisfaction; however, I still try my best and know that God will do the rest. This trust and faith that I have had with God even through difficult times, is my way of showing Him that I not only love him, but my gift of the ability to play tennis.
I have come to understand love through playing tennis because it has made me appreciate the people around me whether they are my friends that support me, my family that encourages me to always try my best, my coaches that challenge me to be the best tennis player that I can be, or my opponents that make me a fierce competitor. Tennis is a competitive sport that has made me love my enemies and love to always work hard, no matter the circumstances. It has moved me to develop new friendships and explore my relationships with people in more ways than just sharing the commonality of tennis.
I love tennis not because it is easy, but because of the emotions that are affiliated with being so dedicated to a sport. It has made me look back and realize how I am so lucky to be able to share the court with another person that has the same love as I do. It has made me realize that I am a gifted person with something to offer to this world. While tennis is not my identity, it has brought an enormous amount of love into my life that I have been able to share with other people. The purpose of love is to unite people together using our actions and words. I have found love in my life and have hopefully been able to bring love into other people’s lives, through my forever gift of tennis.
With love now, and forever,
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