I’m leaving for my first trip to Africa in less than a week, and yet it seems like I have to climb a mountain before I even think about getting there.

I’m not even thinking about packing 2.5 years worth of stuff here in Oslo, or saying goodbye to friends that have become like my family away from home. I have a thesis to deliver before then. And it is consuming me.

I am writing about education systems in Norway and Canada for elite female soccer players and comparing how women in both countries combine the pursuit of the top level of soccer with their education/career. I feel like a total geek, but it is so fascinating, even though, I no longer care what I look like, or feel the need to do normal things like cooking meals (I’d honestly take a food IV at this point). I feel like I am engaged in a mental marathon, but I’m so lucky, studying what I am passionate about and its ..for lack of a better word (trust me I think I have used all my words for a very long time)….rad.

Part of what inspired me to write this thesis, was when I got here, and I was learning about the Norwegian system, I thought it was so cool how top teenage players had the chance to go to soccer high schools. Basically the majority of the top players based in Oslo attend 2 schools called NTG and Wang. They train 3 times a week in the morning and then with their Toppserien teams in the evening for our equivalent of grades 10-12. After, most take their time getting settled into a job, taking their time to start school. A little different to what I experienced on all fronts, growing up in Canada, with mostly coaches who had never played the game at any kind of a high level. Being the soccer junkie that I was/am, it sounded like a pretty good system to me and a chance to get the opportunity to learn from former world class players and play daily with older top players.

I’ll save my findings for the next few days, and random thoughts about what I have learned in the meantime, but the big thing that has come up in my research is the sacrifice and focus that women in both countries put into their soccer ambitions, and how sadly enough at the end of the day, very few of us are able to make a comfortable living out of it. Very few.

So then it seems logical that we should put our time and energy into things like education, and jobs and just forget the whole soccer thing (I think I hear my parents voice somewhere tuning in right about now…). But in doing that we’re not able to dedicate ourselves 100% to becoming the best that we can be (this by the way is the struggle that boys in numerous countries struggle with as well, as I have found by my mountains of reading and research), as for all the ones that make it and take that risk, so many don’t.

The crazy conclusion, that my research has led me to, and that I can attest to in my own personal soccer testimony, is those few beautiful moments on the field, when you accomplish something great, with others around you sharing the moment, or you do something on the field, that you only dreamed of, or you accomplish something you’ve worked so hard to achieve despite mountains of adversity to reach that point, make it all worth it.

There is no job, no stability, no amount of money, that can even capture what that feeling inside brings. Its the feeling of being alive. It’s like a drug. One little taste of it and you don’t care what you give up, you want more.

Looking at this from the point of a researcher, I think we’re crazy. But then I think of those special moments, some so completely obscure, and all I want to do is grab my ball, find any wall to kick against and recapture those hours upon hours of craziness that has led me on my adventure to this point.

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