I started bowling in 1998 because, per my home school curriculum, I needed a physical activity. I always enjoyed bowling beforehand, so before I knew it I was on a league.
Bowling may have been as equal as an obsession as racing when I was really young. I think I wore out several VCR's by watching and rewatching taped PBA tournaments. To me, it was pure sensory bliss watching the spinning ball collide with the pins and watching the pins go flying. It still is!
I bowled on the junior leagues for three years and I feel these years were critical in my life. Being home schooled I had zero chances at socializing. Add on top of the fact that I didn't really want to socialize and the ingredients were there for me to go fully isolated. Bowling, however, forced me into social situations and slowly (painfully slow) I started to talk to me junior teams.
Last week I had the story of how I met Emily and this was from meeting her at bowling. Being at the bowling alley truly was my only outlet for social situations. I enjoyed this and it was easier for me to talk at the bowling alley because of the flow of the game.
In each book I have written I talk about the importance of my "game theory" in that it is easier for me to socialize when an event, like a game, is the centerpiece of the activity. I may still be reserved, or as I do now complete the South County Times crossword puzzle, but I do interact. When I first started I didn't talk at all and for ten week my team and I didn't say one word to each other. It was SO awkward! My mom felt sorry for us.
Over time it became easier and in 2001 Emily and I moved up to the adult leagues. We bowled on the same team on Monday nights and I joined a scratch team on a late league on Wednesday nights. Those late nights at Sunset Lanes are some of my happiest times because, during those years of the early and mid 2000's, I didn't talk to too many people except at bowling. Those nights at bowling made me feel so close to fully normal.
2004 was a rough year for me because Emily and I were no longer together and I was worried that I would lose the team I was on for Monday nights. Thankfully she decided to bowl elsewhere and I kept my team. Because of this my routine didn't feel out of whack and when the season started back up all was right with the world.
I was getting better and better as a bowler and kept flirting with a perfect game. All I wanted was a 300, but I kept getting, what in my mind is the most depressing score in bowling, 279's. In 2005 I broke through and had a chance at a perfect game. I had the first 11 strikes and all I needed was one more to achieve bowling immortality. My shot was good despite the adrenaline and increased heart rate (seriously it felt as if all my veins were going to burst) but the pin that I loathe the most remained after the chaos of the ball hitting the pins. The 10 pin was still standing and I was sure it was laughing at me. I would get a ring for my 299 game, but perfection would have to wait.
That season of 2005-2006 had me get two more 299's, but in the first week of the next season it happened. A 300! I always joked that once I got a 300, and my ring to go along with it, I would retire from bowling, but I thought about this and realized if I did I would never leave the house, so I continued on.
In 2007 I had a racing crash in a kart and went through a steel fence. My right hand took a huge hit and over the next two years my wrist started to hurt greatly. My average went from 215 to 210, to 205, to 180! I used to be really smooth and precise, but now my shots were labored. I used to have a real nice hook, but now I barely had the strength to throw the ball without dropping it. I was miserable, but I kept bowling because I needed the interaction with people.
With one week to go before the 2009-2010 season I made my mind up. I would sit out a year because it simply hurt too much. Writing on the computer was getting hard and I had to start using my left hand to use the mouse (I still do out of habit now). My wrist needed a break and it was one of the hardest decisions I ever did, but I did and Monday nights were a fog.
The first Monday I was home during the bowling season was one of the roughest nights of my life. Perhaps I am luck if I can say something that would seem so minor to you would be bad for me, but because I am so routine based I truly was lost. It felt weird to be ale to hear the commentators on Monday Night Football. It was weird to be home before 9. Most of all, it was weird knowing that bowling was going on without me and that I had no one to talk to in person.
With each passing Monday I became more and more acclimated to my new schedule. I didn't like it and I dreamed of the times that used to be. I realized just how much I took my previous routine for granted. After a decade of bowling the sport became mundane and I didn't cherish the interactions, but by mid December I wanted nothing more than to go back.
I subbed on a team twice in March and I felt like an alien in the bowling alley I had bowled at for so long. I was nervous that the place would have changed and not be the way I remembered it. I was so scared about this, but after one of the three games that night I felt back at home.
Last night was my return to a team. It wasn't the team that I had bowled on for so many years from 2001-2009, but it is a team I had bowled with on Wednesday nights in the early league (for three years I was on three leagues!) so I felt at ease and welcome.
This entry may have been long, but it is, to me, very important as I didn't realize the importance of just one socializing event a week. Last season I didn't have a job and I became extremely depressed, especially on Monday nights, because of the lack of personal interactions. As bad as last year was this year is just as good. Once again I cherish the sport and the interactions. Bowling is once again a sport and not a chore. I may still do the South County Times crossword, but I am still there, part of a team, and loving every minute of it.