Back when I was figuring what to call my blog, I eventually landed on Barcelos Knows for two reasons: I love a good slant rhyme and I’m known for being an insufferable know-it-all. While writing what you know is one of the oldest pieces of writing advice, I don’t know everything.
But you know what? There’s nothing stopping me (or anyone else, really) from writing about what I don’t know. In that spirit, I’m starting a new series on my blog: Barcelos Doesn’t Know. I’m pretty clueless about some things but I want to change that, one blog post at a time.
First, Some Excuses
Yep, I’m definitely behind on this. One of these days I’m either going to stop overcommitting myself (unlikely), learn to set more realistic goals (somewhat less unlikely), or just accept that I may not meet every goal I set (most likely).
This actually started out as an experiment I started back in January when I still had an hour and a half commute to and from my internship. I was messing around on my phone instead of reading like I had planned to do, so I told myself, “Maybe reading on your phone will work!” I have iBooks and Kindle on my iPhone and iPad, the two biggest culprits behind my lack of reading time, so it seemed like a good idea.
I went to my first SJSU Quidditch game (okay, it was unofficial preseason scrimmage) where I was a spectator and only a spectator. Not a ref, not a TD, just a Quidditch Mom with a lot of feelings and love for my kids that I know are gonna have a great season.
A great season without me. While SJSU had a version of the community/college split rule already in place before this season, this year I’m joining a far larger pool of players than ever before that are being forced to transition from a college to a community team. As a college player, I believed this was a necessary transition. Having the same players on a team for four years and more would stifle the player pool, keeping new players from ever making a roster. Turnover may not have been great for individual teams, my own included. but it was necessary for the pool of players as a whole to grow. Now I’m on the outside looking in, missing the team that I still slip and call “we” or “us.” Yes, even around my new team, the Skrewts.
The funny thing is that at this time last year, I thought I had a whole year of undergrad ahead of me but that I was gonna transition out and do as little as possible. I definitely practiced as little as possible. (And boy, am I paying for that now!) Last fall, I played only one tournament because we were desperately shorthanded. Then I started focusing more on being a referee, tournament director, conference commissioner, and regional coordinator. I was looking forward to graduating in the spring and transitioning from being a player to a non-playing volunteer.
I went to Snow Cup saying that I’d stop playing when I graduated, that I would never join a community team. A friend replied, “This just in: Elizabeth Barcelos announces that she’s joining the Silicon Valley Skrewts!” We laughed about it but I would soon regret it. Before I even got home from Utah, SJSU decided to graduate me a semester early without telling me. My first thought was, “I can’t play for SJSU anymore?!”
There’s nothing like losing something to make you realize how much it means to you. Luckily, I was able to get back home and sign up for credential classes, making me an SJSU student once more. I still didn’t practice nearly as much as I should have, but my team indulged me and let me get some minutes in, including letting me keep for a few possessions so I could say that I had played all four positions before I left SJSU Quidditch. I even managed to play not terrible at the NCQC Championship, doing my small part to get us a fourth place finish. I had been expecting us to finish sixth. My kids proved me wrong.
I did a whole lot more not practicing this summer, telling myself that I would totally make up for eating my feelings all summer. Well, September is here and PSL season is upon us along with the new USQ season. Time to pay for my sins.
This is the most out of shape (or most round shaped, I guess) I have ever been in my life. I hit 160 pounds when I was twenty-five, decided to make a change, and worked my down to 130 in about six months. I’m thirty-one now and I just tipped the scale at 170. I contemplated making this the new normal before accepting that I am too eternally displeased with the status quo to take anything lying down. Yeah, even if lying down and watching YouTube makeup tutorials (ugh, who have I become?) sounds so much more appealing than running around with some of my favorite nerds for a few hours.
I’m not on a team that’s just gonna allow me to do what I want because I’m #TeamMom anymore. I know that. That’s one of the biggest reasons I chose the Skrewts; year in and year out, they keep taking the roster they have and developing them to their highest potential. Fucking off is not an option. I need to work harder. I can’t just accept that being the oldest woman on a USQ roster (until proven otherwise) is an excuse to settle. If Michael Phelps can keep winning gold medals at my age, the least I can do is go to practice is not complain. Too much, anyway.
It’s gonna be a good year. The Skrewts are good people and a great team. Soon I’ll be able to say “we” and “us” about them instead of calling them, well, “them.” I’m not there yet, though. But I’m working on it.
In case my mother reads this: in spite of my rare church attendance, no, I have not actually become a godless heathen. I’m still as Catholic as I was before this epiphany. I just came to understand atheists better… though Sharks hockey.
Let me backtrack a little bit. A few days ago, during those glorious days for Sharks fans when we’d finally made it to the Stanley Cup Finals but hadn’t started playing (if you can call what’s happened in the past two games playing) in them, I was hanging out with my boyfriend, brother, and my friend Sarang. Sarang asked about my altar to the Hockey Gods.
Every year during the playoffs, I would clear off my dresser and build it. I would carefully stack the pucks I collected from every playoff series, drape my collection of rally towels in an aesthetically pleasing manner, fan out the tickets I had saved from the few playoff games I had been to (that the Sharks had all won), arrange pins and other Sharks paraphernalia. Finally, I would present my sacrifice: a plushie of Wildwing, the mascot of the hated Anaheim Ducks, hung on a noose tied to a Sharks hockey stick. That wasn’t even the extent of my hockey superstition. I also did the usual things of never saying the s-word during a game and never reusing a shirt or jersey I wore when the Sharks lost. (Luckily, I own a lot of Sharks shirts and a handful of jerseys.)
I laughed at the question, not because I thought it was silly, but because I hadn’t even thought about my yearly tradition. Well, almost yearly; last year the Sharks didn’t even make the playoffs at all. “Oh, I stopped doing that,” I replied. “I guess I don’t believe in the Hockey Gods anymore. Does that make me a hockey atheist?”
“WHAT?” Sarang asked. I might as well have said I didn’t believe in the Immaculate Conception anymore. (Not to the confused with the Virgin Birth, the Immaculate Conception is the idea that the Virgin Mary was conceived without sin. Yes, Mom, I do still believe that.) Even my brother looked concerned.
“I mean, it’s not like I’m gonna start saying shutout in the middle of a game or something. That’s just rude.” I continued.
“Yeah, like a real atheist,” my hitherunto silent and actual Atheist Boyfriend™ said.
I probably didn’t pause for long, but it certainly felt like a long time. I’ve been with my boyfriend for about a year now; it’s been a great year. I’m not going to beat you over the head with how ridiculously compatible we are (but we totally are and it’s gross and wonderful), but I’ve always had one concern about the future. He’s an atheist. I’m Catholic. I may not visibly practice all that much, but it’s a core part of my identity and irrevocably tied to what it means to me to be Portuguese.
I always worried that it would blow up on us in the future. If we got married. If we had kids. (We’re 31. These are thoughts we have.) Yes, religious-nonreligious marriages have happened before and will continue to happen, so really, we’re not all that special. It was just that the atheist mindset was completely alien to me. I didn’t think I’d be dumped for my beliefs; I worried that the intolerant one would be me.
Then, I got it. The Sharks were doing well because they were finally clicking, working hard, and yes, getting lucky sometimes. I just didn’t believe that luck came from capricious gods that needed to be appeased. I didn’t believe that luck would be revoked for breaking a taboo. After all, hadn’t the Sharks finally made it to the Finals without my help?
All at once, those worries that I would give up a good thing because of my inability to understand were gone. I did understand, at least a little bit. “Yeah, exactly.” I replied. “I’m not going to be a dick about it.”
“Exactly,” he echoed.
So, thanks to the Sharks for helping me understand my boyfriend (and so many of my other friends!) better, and thank God for making sure that the two of us were in the right place at the right time to find one another.
(Seriously, we were never single and in the same place geographically until we met. Even though we’re the same age, grew up in the same city, had friends of friends, and mutually nerdy interests. I can set aside the hockey gods, but not my Catholic and cognitively dissonant belief in free will and fate.)
I know I joke about being or feeling old a lot, but it’s a relative kind of old. Going to college in your late twenties/early thirties and being involved in a sport where players over twenty-five are a rarity will do that. It’s less that I feel old and more that everyone around me just seems so young in comparison.
That being said, I have been lucky enough not to look my age. I laughed off my white hairs as they came in. They first appeared in the underside of my hair before spreading across my forehead, forging a silver tiara of experience. Two furrows dug into the space between my eyebrows, shallower lines started crossing my forehead, and crows feet began to radiate from the corners of my eyes. None of this bothered me.
So why is it now that I can’t get over the two curves that have carved themselves around my mouth? I didn’t notice them at first because I only spend so much time staring at my face. I think I only noticed because I got my makeup done for my graduation pictures and the foundation I was wearing settled into the creases.
Now I can’t stop staring at these two parentheses around my mouth. Yeah, parentheses. It’s like they’re surrounding everything I’ll ever say for the rest of my life, making my words superfluous additions to a sentence that you could ignore if you wanted to.
If I could do anything to make them go away, I would. But I can’t. They’re not going anywhere. If anything, there’s just going to keep getting deeper every time I smile. All my thinking wrinkles never gave a second thought; it’s the lines born from smiles that are making me frown. The irony is definitely not lost on me.
Thirty-one isn’t old by any means. But it’s not exactly young anymore, either.