I think most people would describe me as upbeat, positive, perhaps even happy-go-lucky.
So you might not know this about me, but I’ve had my “bell rung,” and it led me to some pretty dark places.
In high school, while minding goal for the Pickerington girls’ soccer team, I had my head stepped on. It left cleat marks on my neck as well as in my ear.
As high school teams are heavily dependent on parent volunteers, it turned out that the backup goalkeeper’s dad was running the video camera that day. Watching tape of a game I didn’t remember playing, I heard him cheer when I got hurt.
I had a travel team coach, who called me “blood and guts,” or sometimes B.G. Yes, it seemed an ironic nickname for someone who was just 5’2″. That’s why he also sometimes joked that I’d headbutt an opponent’s knees if I had to.
In college, there was no varsity team until my sophomore year. Playing club ball meant cramped everything, from cramped mini-vans to travel to the games, to cramped schedules, because midweek games weren’t logistically feasible.
Thus, during one Saturday double-header, I dove headfirst into a goal post, jack hammering the back of my skull in order to preserve the tie.
That was game one. I had a shutout in game two.
The next day, I spent in a darkened room with a bag of ice where a pillow should be. That was the extent of my “treatment.”
Eventually, however, Ohio got a varsity program. By virtue of hard work, and maybe more significantly, good timing, I made the team during the inaugural season.
My junior year, I was living with one of my teammates and three cross country runners in a dilapidated mousetrap that passed for college housing.
We had a successful soccer season. I was doing well in all my classes. Yet that spring I became depressed. I’m not talking a little unhappy. My mood was more, “I’m not sure I’ll ever be happy again.”
And it wasn’t just that I was sad, it was that I was sad to the exclusion of everything else. There was no fear, anger, joy. Anything.
I didn’t see the point of it all, and if it hadn’t been for my super strict adherence to routines, I don’t how I would have made it through. Routines aren’t much to hang on to, but they’re something. They kept me trudging along.
I vividly remember an evening when I was laying in bed, unable to find the energy to even get up and turn on a light. My roomies thus didn’t know I was home, and I could hear them outside the door of my room (a converted dining area, because–you know–college housing) speculating about what might be wrong with me.
I still have a greeting card lovingly sent to me by one of my teammates, a freshman named Jen Barber, in which she wrote that she was sorry I was down. She wished she could help.
But how could she help? The only answer I could give when pressed about what was going on was a soulless shrug. I didn’t want to be in such a state, I just didn’t know how not to be.
That brings me to the story of Ohio State football walk-on Kosta Karageorge and all the talk surrounding his tragic passing.
The cold details of what we know are heartbreaking. Karageorge was 22 years old. He sent a text apologizing to his Mom for being an embarrassment. His body was found in a dumpster by a woman scavenging for scrap metal.
If reading that doesn’t make your breath catch, I don’t know what you’re made of.
In a dumpster. With the trash set to go out the next day. The ultimate dark place.
But we also know this, Karageorge was not trash. His life had dignity and meaning. It’s quite possible that he couldn’t see it. His friends and family obviously did.
So where does that leave us? Karageorge’s death at age 22 was not inevitable. I don’t believe that. I won’t believe that.
However, answers beyond that aren’t easy, and as a result, the discussions we should be having now should be hard. They should be hard and uncomfortable and brutally, brutally honest.
As a member of the media, I have wondered what information we can share so that we can have those discussions, yet do so without torturing the Karageorge family.
Are we hypocrites for never spilling an ounce of ink on Karageorge’s life, while counting the page hits now that he’s gone?
I struggled with whether I should write this for that very reason.
But there are some other important questions, and if this serves as an impetus to someone asking them, it will have been worth it.
The questions are these: What will you do if you find yourself in this situation? If you have a friend or family member in that situation?
And what can we do together to shine a light on all the dark places?