by Jake Lans ’12 –
I knew something was wrong when Coach Corrigan approached me after practice. He was usually upbeat, always wearing a smile across his face. Even when we lost a big game, he didn’t look as grave as this. “I’m sorry Jake. This year the team has a lot more talent. This wasn’t an easy decision.” I blinked my eyes, not believing the situation. This was real.
I have always loved playing hockey. I started skating at the age of six with my older brother. In middle school I began playing on organized teams. I continued playing when I left home in 7th grade to attend boarding school. Hockey is a large part of the New England preparatory school culture. Schools pride themselves on many things, mostly academics of course, but the talent of their hockey team is a major part of the school’s reputation. I never played hockey to just fit in; I played because I loved it. I loved the excitement of stepping onto the cold hard ice. I checked players into the boards to relieve me of everyday stress. I embraced the thrill I gained from making clean crisp passes. I had been on the team as a sophomore and, although I knew there were many talented players junior year, I was sure I would make the team again. Seeing all my friends and past teammates suit up for the next practice while I was cleaning out my locker is something I will never forget. I felt like I didn’t belong at prep school unless I was part of the team. My heart broke; it seemed like I didn’t have any pieces big enough left to focus on something else.
My options were limited. My drama teacher suggested trying musical theater. I had a lead role in the fall play but the only experience I had with musical theatre was playing percussion in the pit for earlier productions. I got a small role in a production of Urinetown, a comedy with a large cast. I loved every minute of that experience. I learned how to sing and I developed meaningful and intense relationships with the director and other cast members. Singing in a musical isn’t exactly the ideal Pomfret School way; not that it wasn’t supported but not many students regarded it as a high achievement. Throughout rehearsals, I realized I didn’t share those values. Attending Pomfret wasn’t about being a ‘preppy kid,’ it was about making the most of my opportunities and growing from the experiences offered. I was inspired and began writing my own songs. I already was a percussionist in a concert band, jazz band and orchestra and I had been playing bass and guitar in several contemporary music bands. Still, I had never dreamed that I would write my own songs and perform them at various ‘open-mics.’ With the confidence I achieved from the musical, it felt natural, like a bird’s first descent from its nest, wings begin flapping, elegant soaring follows.
Now with renewed confidence, I took on other art forms. I participated in evening poetry meetings and began expressing myself through the written word and verse. I also enrolled in a dance elective and joined the Pomfret dance company. Dance was another great way to learn about different cultures and meet people through expression. Every dance move was like an extension of myself, whether I was doing a simple plié or a ronde de jambe, I was opening myself to pure emotion and connection from those around me and from within me. It was like nothing I had ever experienced before. I felt vulnerable, like I was being born again, but I was comforted by my fellow dancers.
Hockey still is my favorite sport. I learned about determination and team play throughout my years on the ice. The unfortunate situation that ended my hockey career seemed at first to be the worst experience of my life. I felt useless and rejected. I took these strong emotions and turned them into creative energy. It grew to be the best experience of my high school years. Things don’t always turnout the way we hope or expect, but that doesn’t mean we should give up. We can open our eyes to new adventures and try new experiences. I have found my passion in creative self-expression.