Letter To My Younger Selfby Nia Dorsey
Senior Nia Dorsey pens a letter to her younger self on the doorstep of graduation
Dear 18-year-old Nia,
Be where your feet are.
This is a simple saying, but it’s very difficult to do this when you’re always preparing for what’s next – the next practice, the next game, the next class, the next exam. So right now, I want to tell you to take a breath, enjoy the present moment and learn something from every experience … the good, the bad and the ugly.
It’s probably hard for you to imagine that soccer, the actual game itself, is not the sole cause of your joy and fulfillment for the next four years. But it’s your job! It’s what you spend five hours of your day doing … and the rest of your day thinking about! It’s what gave you the opportunity to go to Vanderbilt in the first place.
Let me tell you that soccer is only half of your story. You’re coming into Vanderbilt feeling excited and grateful for this opportunity that most people can only dream of, yet you feel anxious about the high level of SEC soccer. You’re wondering if you’re good enough. You’re wondering if you’re physically and mentally tough enough. You’re hopeful that your teammates become your lifelong friends. Sorry to spoil it, but they do.
I’m about tell you something else that you probably will not believe. You’re going to play in every single game that Vanderbilt has for the next four years. You are going to wear the Star V and step on the field for every match. All 83 of them. And you’ll do this with Grace Jackson right by your side.
The last time Vanderbilt soccer would have played a game without you two would have been in the spring of 2016 … while you were still in high school.
I could go on for hours about how that statistic shocks me, how proud I am to have accomplished that and how blessed I am to have never experienced a serious injury. However, I’m telling you this to relieve just a little bit of pressure that you’re feeling right now. I’m telling you this to give you the confidence that you need at the age of 18. You are capable. You are consistent.
But don’t let this be a reason to take your foot off the gas. Your career was still full of ups and downs. You will not always perform to satisfy your own standards or your coaches standards.
The fact that you accomplished something so great is because you showed up. You worked hard.
You won’t be a leading goal scorer, you won’t lead the team in assists, but you will work hard and dig deep. And I love that about you.
All that being said, your work ethic is not what I want to talk about. It is your confidence. To be honest, I do believe that your confidence would have grown over time and with age. But I don’t believe that you would have reached your potential as a soccer player if it wasn’t for your spiritual mentors from Vanderbilt. Brother B and Courtney Grah, the leaders of WhoUWith? Ministries, pour into Vanderbilt athletes with endless love and give them a home away from home.
As a freshman, you had a great first season. You played in every game and started a good amount of them, too, which is more than any freshman would ever imagine. But throughout your freshman year, you did not have the joy and fun that you used to have when you played soccer.
Instead, you felt constantly drained and consumed by the pressure of being a college athlete. Your sister was a junior at Duke and you wanted to live up to her standards. You wanted to prove to your coaches that you deserved to be there and that they did not make a mistake in recruiting you.
During the spring of your freshman year, you experienced the most exhausting and mentally challenging four months of your life. Darren and the rest of the coaching staff knew where they wanted the program to go and they had to push us harder than ever before to get there. You will always be grateful for that. Your class will always joke about crying during those horrible workouts in the weight room or breaking down in the locker room after a grueling practice. It’s funny to look back on now because we came out stronger than ever before, but it was agonizing in the moment.
Back to Brother B and Courtney. You were invited to their ministry and I can tell you right now, that that was the single greatest thing that could’ve happened to you. One group meeting with them changed the entire game of soccer for you.
They talked about having an Audience of One. You took notes during this meeting March 28, 2017, and you still look back at them today. They told you to change your audience.
As athletes, our performances are the most important things to us. We want to compete and we want to succeed. But Brother B and Courtney said that when we keep Christ as our center, our identity changes. Our identity should not lie in our own performances, it should lie in God.
Our performances will always be changing, just like our situations, but God is constant and faithful and loving at all times. Once you hear this, you will feel an immense amount of pressure come off of your shoulders. You don’t need to focus on playing for Darren, your parents or anyone else. You will realize that as long as you play for God, your audience of One, that everything else will follow.
During your sophomore year, you transition into your new favorite position of outside back. SHOCKING, I know! After playing as a forward for your entire life, you will now be living on the backline. Along with each year came newfound success for the program and for you.
In the coming years, you will gain more confidence than ever before.
You will look up into the sky and say “Audience of One” before the whistle blows for every game.
You will discover an entirely new joy in playing the game you’ve always loved. It was the most exhilarating thing to be a part of. But it was during your sophomore year that you really became, “more than an athlete.”
Before this time in your life, you strictly identified as a soccer player. When you’d introduce yourself in classes your “fun fact” was always that you played soccer, which isn’t a very fun fact at all. But your newfound identity in Christ altered your desires and passions.
I know that community service has always been important to you, but you have no idea how much it will enrich your life in the following years.
During your sophomore spring you will start to volunteer weekly as a mentor and tutor to first graders and during that summer you will intern at a non-profit that
provides services to Nashville’s homeless population. During the fall of your junior year, you’ll be that annoying girl asking all of your teammates for their hotel toiletries at away trips so that you can donate them to that same non-profit. Then you’ll still volunteer there weekly in the offseason because you absolutely love interacting with and serving your friends that are experiencing homelessness.
Lastly, you were baptized with one of your teammates by your mentor on Easter. Your teammates and family were all there to see it. Savor that moment and cling to it because special moments like that are hard to come by.
You’ve also always talked about how badly you want to travel and explore the world. What if I told you that during the next three years you’ll travel to four different countries? Costa Rica, Japan, Switzerland and Italy. I won’t give too much away, but these trips will be the most amazing experiences of your life and they would not have been possible if soccer did not bring you to Vanderbilt in the first place. Though I will tell you that the best parts of these trips were the people that you get to share them with.
You may not see it now, but the girls in your class will be some of your closest friends in life.
You’ll soon come to realize that if you ever want to have a deep heart to heart conversation, Taiana is your girl. If you want to break out in song and dance, go visit Kaylann. If you want to explore new places, Hannon will be right by your side. If you need some honest and trustworthy advice, call Lauren. If you need a genuine laugh and smile, Caroline will always brighten your day in unexpected ways. If you need to have a meaningful conversation with a few laughs here and there, go get ice cream with Grace.
Since soccer is what brought you to Vanderbilt, I want you to experience the next few years without knowing the WHOLE story, so I will spare you all of the details. However, I will say that you will be OK. Take a breath and remind yourself that you are exactly where you need to be. There is always a purpose to your pain, as long as you’re willing to be open to it. Use your platform as a Division I student-athlete to make a difference. Inspire and empower young girls that look like you. Encourage them to follow their dreams.
You’re about to experience, be a part of and lead some historic growth in Vanderbilt’s program. Whether that means some SEC Championships or All-SEC recognition, remember to be where your feet are. You will be a senior before you know it. Embrace the rush of playing on your home field in front of an ever-growing fan base. Appreciate your teammates that will fill your life with constant laughter, fun and love.
Rejoice, be grateful and thank God when things are good. Feel your feelings completely and wholeheartedly, lean on your teammates and seek comfort in God when things are not so good. Learn from every experience that you have.
Your family is just a phone call away. They will support you throughout your entire journey. They’ll make that crazy 11-hour drive plenty of times just to hug you tightly and cheer you on.
Just know that I am proud of you and you will come out so much stronger and more confident on the other side.