Sometimes You Just Have to Smile

This morning I write to you after it has been so difficult to find the words.

I have been pretending. Pretending that the transition from a life filled with structure and routine to a life absent of that has been a walk in the park. Nothing too challenging.

Here is the raw truth: it has kinda sucked. 

I went from feeling like the top of the world, playing hockey in front of thousands of fans every weekend, training with strength coaches, going to school, meeting with advisors, having classmates know who you are–“a Badger athlete”–signing autographs, attending community service events, throwing pucks to fans and tapping the glass to make them smile during warmups, to a much different version of myself:

A part-time color commentator who waitresses on the side to supplement income.

While the newfound part of my identity is nothing to belittle, wrapping my mind around the concept has been difficult. As I trained for my waitressing job I was continually asked about my story–the usual get-to-know-someone questions. “What brings you to Milwaukee?” “What college did you go to?” “Have you ever worked in the service industry before?” “You played hockey, really?” “Was your team any good?”

The plethora of inquiry consumed me. I was back to square one. As much as I tried to smile and answer politely, I broke. My energy shifted. The negatives in my day seemed to outweigh the positives. I felt lost, lonely, and without reason or meaning. It became increasingly harder to have confidence in my capabilities. Often my mind battled a single phrase I know has haunting qualities: What am I doing here?

The other day I almost did not go to work. Almost decided not to show up, just to give up and find something else to do. I felt I did not belong, did not know how to do the job right or make any friends. What might seem like such silly fears for someone who has captained a team before, were so real and deep in their simplicity at the time.

As soon as my boyfriend picked me up for work, engulfing me in a hug, the tears poured. He squeezed me and told me to take a deep breath. “Give it two weeks,” he said. “If you do not feel happy after two weeks, then you can look elsewhere.”

Stubbornly accepting his guidance, I wiped away the residue of makeup on my face leftover from the watery mess I was, put on a smile and my apron and walked through the restaurant doors. Because sometimes in life, you just have to smile the darknesses away. 

And you know what? I had the best time. 

I laughed throughout my entire shift, grew closer with my coworkers–some I even now hangout with outside of our job.

A week later, I was color commentating in my first game for the Milwaukee Admirals, feeling the adrenaline and excitement that being a hockey player once brought me.

The more I reflect on the change that took place so profoundly within my heart the other night, the more I find a commonality among all of humankind.

We all crave to know the unknown. We all lie in our beds at night going over every detail of the day, analyzing what problems the following day will bring. We fixate on the big pictures, seemingly stuck on what we will end up to be.

We forget to live in the moment. We forget that who we are, right now, is pretty darn awesome. The power to continuously grow as a human being, to experience changes and redefinitions of our identities, is liberating. We need to embrace that. I know I have to work on it everyday.

I am a waitress with the coolest crew and a color commentator with the coolest hockey team.

I am Baylee Wellhausen–I am my past, my present, and my future. The best is not yet to come. It is right now.

P.S. Thank you to my amazing love who has constantly reminded me of my worth, and to my family who has been my foundation through all of this as well. I love you guys.

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About the Author

Baylee Wellhausen

Growing up in Wisconsin, Baylee dreamed of being a Badger since she was a little girl. Her dream became a reality as she was fortunate enough to play for UW Madison for four years, captaining the team in her final season for her senior year. After graduating, she decided she wanted to explore the other aspects of her life that she has yet to tap into, stepping away from being a competitor in the game. Baylee currently lives in Milwaukee where she is a part-time color commentator for the Milwaukee Admirals AHL team, hoping to someday be involved in sports broadcasting or sports PR. She enjoys the new freedoms of the retired life, spending time with her friends and family, and writes a blog called The Next Stride, where her goal is to provide a means of connection among individuals who are facing transition into the real world as well.