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Dear September

On 8.29 at 12 am. An urgent email stating my placement on Academic Probation — quite the tip off of my senior year — because my GPA the previous semester dropped below the 2.0 minimum. My punishment: a promise to adhere to regular meetings with the academic success center, and an explanation for why my grades had plunged below the bare minimum. AP sounds heftier than it is until you reach the bold, red anchor about being excused from the College of Liberal Arts if this behavior persists. That night, I closed my eyes so tight, my teeth started to hurt.

I ordered school supplies the next morning.

If I say that I’ve been out of all basketball related activity for a month because of a sprained ankle, it will be well-suited for the people who gag on the words “mental health”. Likewise, I don’t want to be your virtual neighborhood cynic, nor the girl to NEVER be left alone out of fear of the possibilities. I’m not fine, but I will be.

September is National Sprained Ankle Prevention Month, even though sprained ankles can happen 365 days out of every year. I dedicated 30 days to nursing my injury that had grown too painful to play on. September, you were good to me.

9.1. Around 8 pm. I forgot how to cry, and spilled my truth all over my living room — it reeked in proceeding days — but ultimately, I would have as long as I needed to get that stench up; I promised to “do the work”.

9.2 Day 1 of my yoga journey. Day 1 of going to another round of classes and taking notes, interacting with people, and not having to concentrate on keeping my rear in the seat, and not in the bathroom where I poked and prodded my drooping eyes, or deeply inhaled the fumes to calm my nerves.

9.5 The day I read an article for english class that made me think about a wordless picture book portraying injuries like mine; I pulled out my copy of Black Boy Fly, and perused.

9.6 Pilates & excessive worrying about bank statements.

9.8 Fragile and frustrated. Celebrated the gold in my bed. Shoutout to the people who sent me money on my birthday — you did that.

9.9 No peace, and I have the chicken-scratched pages, dotted with pen presses and thick inkblots to prove it.

9.10 100% of my not so good nights later, unbeknownst to Auntie Cookie, I enjoyed our seemingly celebratory conversation.

9.14 I shoved my social anxiety into a corner and stuck my neck out for something I believe in, and it worked.

9.15 ‘I Speak My Truth’.

9.17 ‘Am I A Yogi Yet?

9.19 Three hard knocks and a warning because I prefer the company of Donnell, Monica, Jill, and others at 11 am.

9.23 ‘Choose Your Hard’.

9.28 Lexapro. A medication aimed at increasing the uptake of serotonin in the brain, and helping me add weight to my ankle.

9.29 “They’re going to take your scholarship”. No play, no money. No money, no school. Misery. A life of misery and dread and regret. I fixed my face long enough to type a coherent, “I’m sorry for wasting your time” message.

I’ve spared the majority of the unsettling details because clunky monikers like “sprained ankle” don’t warrant any contentious glances, frantic text messages, or cliche catch phrases like, “don’t think about it”. I sat my ass down weeks ago because I could no longer stand up, and if you don’t have the time to support both of my shoulders 18 hours a day, give or take, you don’t get a say in my state of being. People will tell me, and have told me that you have to do what you have to do because you have to do it — welcome to being Black in america. As far as I can see, it’s an exercise in pain tolerance. An exercise that I didn’t sign up for, but a challenge that I am proud to face—the purest example of learned behavior. A moment of “it’s always been done this way”, so what makes this, you and your situation, any different? Maybe I’m on my Gen X bullshit — that’s what I call it anyhow.

Chronic anxiety and depression are not to be normalized in sport.

Self-harm is not to be normalized in sport.

Suicidal ideation is not to be normalized in sport.

I’m not one to judge, nor am I one to spout my naivety all over history, but I know for fact that strong bones don’t mean you can’t sprain your ankle. Brown skin, melanin magic don’t make you immune. Choosing not to acknowledge the pain you feel doesn’t make it stop because at some point, it will render you incapable of being who you want/need to be — trust. I am not fine, but I will be. You may not be fine either, but you will be. Sometimes you have to sit down to stand up, and that’s what I did.

- Jordan Ashley

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