Santiago Rivera
4 min readApr 8, 2021

Never there has been something that I hated and loved so much with my heart than soccer. This sport is different from others, that’s why it’s called: ¨the beautiful game¨, however this sport can transform itself and make its roots into you without you even knowing. The first exposure I had to this culture was barely in kindergarten, it was very straightforward, you either played soccer or you didn’t play anything at all. In Latin America being good at this game gave me an opportunity to fit in at many places. This came from my brother that since a very young age taught me how to play,and as I grew up soccer started to become more recurrent in my life; people would come up to me and say:

¨Oh! You are Ignacio’s brother? You are going to be great at soccer, just like him!¨

As I often heard it, I started to internalize it into my personality, it became part of who I considered myself to be.

Fast forward a couple of years, I was new at a school, had very few friends and I really wanted to fit in and I got a golden ticket, but it was a white flier saying:

The Varsity Soccer Team is recruiting members for the biggest tournament.

I didn't even think twice about it. Since that moment I started to work as I’ve never worked before, it was the first thing in my mind when I woke up, while I was in class, even while eating, it became my biggest ambition in my life, or so I thought. However, every day before practice, I would sit on the edge of the locker room chair and my legs couldn’t stop shaking from how nervous I was, it would get so bad that my back would get cold and I would be shivering, in a 38-degree sun. Then why didn’t I quit? Why did I keep going? It was because every time I thought about doubting, I remembered those people telling me:

¨You are going on the soccer team? Yeah makes sense for you!¨

I was addicted to that sense of people telling me I’ve found my purpose and so I kept going and eventually got in, and the tournament started and we started to win. And as I kept winning, that sense of pressure started to increase for me, and I started to get so nervous that I would need to cope in some way; so every time before the game started, I would listen to 5 motivational songs, two inspirational videos, and do zig-zag along the field, all of this in order feel like I had some control over what was going to happen. The fact is, that I had never been a superstitious person in my life.

As we kept winning, the pressure kept increasing and so did these weird rituals, and so we ended up in the finals at the most important tournament, every person that I knew was in that crowd. And the game started, first half passed, then the other half and then the extra time. Now it was time for the penalties, 5 players for each team, if you were one of those 5 people and scored. The question became who was going to be the school’s hero? I was designated to take the penalty, my teammates went in front of me, each of them scoring but so did the other team, then my turn came, and hardly even breathing, I placed the ball, took a few steps back, and shot my best shot. Goalkeeper saved it. We lost the game.

I felt like I was completely devastated. It was more than a sport’s loss, it was the culminating moment in which I disappointed other's expectations, which ended up changing the basis of my self-worth. At that moment, I thought that I was going to be remembered by that forever, however, a few days passed and people forgot about it. Then it took time for me to understand that I wasn’t only playing soccer for me but for others' expectations. And honestly, if I would have scored that goal I am sure it would have been great, sure, but it would have led me to continue to pursue a miserable and deceived idea of who I wanted to be. Thankfully, this experience has allowed me to understand 3 things about my life:

1. My relationship with the people that surround me. When I felt like I had broken expectations that were put on me, I thought that people were going to change, but they didn’t, so I started to ask myself questions about what influence people had on me.

2. When I realized that I wasn’t the one rooting for myself in the field, my basis of what I wanted to pursue changed, and so did my ambitions and passions. I became free from other’s expectations.

3, and most importantly, if I have learned anything from this experience is that no external factor should define your self-worth, being a person, group of people, or an activity, and if you do have that in your life, let go of it. Because when you do, you will start to develop a healthy relationship with your passions and most importantly with yourself.