Ames Barker

If you would have passed me on the street approximately a year and a half ago, you would not recognize me. A bit overweight, head slightly lowered, avoiding eye contact and even conversation. Then an event happened to me that totally changed my life. Growing up I always had a feeling that I wasn’t going to be typical, but coming from a pretty small town and with a narrow-minded attitude I can still remember specific times in my life where my mind and mentality changed. When I was around 7 I knew my ‘preference’, although I was honest about it at the same time I paid for it. By the time I was 13 I can still see it in my mind as if it was yesterday, being in school, the phrase that was spoken. The exact moment where my emotional state shut down and I was going through the motions of life devoid of passion and feeling. I had built a wall so high around myself and would not let anyone or anything in. For the next 15 years I walked alone through life as much as possible. I then found out about the Madison Gay Hockey Association, having an appreciation for sports I was interested. Upon reading more and more upon the website I decided to see what happens and sign up, if anything else I’d be learning another sport. Taking my then quiet self to one of the first open skates I had no idea what to expect, except for what happened. Upon introducing myself I was expecting the usual reaction, but to my surprise I was met with openness and kindness. Throughout the summer I attended more and more open skates, quickly meeting the founder and most of the board members, I was unsure whether to be scared or intrigued. By the time the first skills clinic came around, I remember finishing up and sitting in the stands and watching the others. I was approached by a few people, who I haven’t met before, but seemed to know my name and came to sit next to me and start up a conversation. This happened more frequently as the season started to get underway, I was totally in awe of what type of community that existed and the idea that I could possibly have a place here and be accepted. I could feel a part of myself come alive and the wall that I had built was quickly crumbling away. It didn’t matter that I’ve never been on a pair of skates previous to that summer, or that my hockey knowledge was limited, that I knew no one in the league before I signed up, or who I was as a person. Through constant support, encouragement and positive reinforcement (on and off the ice), I have made such amazing friendships and discovered so much about myself that I never knew existed, everything has been going in a positive direction which honestly I am not used to seeing or feeling. I remember being at an open skate by myself and met another board member, I was working on trying to stop and the one thing that I distinctly remember her saying was “You’ll be fine just keep at it, remember, you get out what you put into it” At that time I only thought it applied to hockey, little did I know it would apply to so many other aspects of my life. If I could tell you the one thing that I’ve learned this season is that life doesn’t happen to you, you have to participate in life for anything to happen. I may have been brought into this world in the 80’s but the summer of 2009 is when I truly was born and brought into the light of life.