Red, white, and blue. Patriotic colors fly through the sky as we celebrate America’s independence. Scurrying out the door to enjoy the fireworks, the phone echoes through the empty house. Usually this call would be ignored, but an overpowering force turned me back to the recently vacated house. My curiosity peaked to unmask what crazy telemarketer would call on July 4th. “Upadhyay residents,” I answer in a prankish tone. A serious voice asks for “Rena Upadhyay’s parents.” My persiflage nature suddenly turned to overwhelming distress. After an eternal moment, my curiosity was placated by the news that I was going to Dallas for a national tennis tournament. That empty house turned into a frenzy of phone calls and chatter to book flights and hotels.
While on an amazingly smooth plane ride, my mind emerged into turbulent thoughts. My palms began to sweat as nerves seized every aspect of my brain. Was I good enough for this tournament? How will a wild card player compete in this unsurmountable pressure?
The scorching Texas sun ignited my Floridian skin! This sweltering heat made Florida feel like a nippy spring morning. After we arrived at the host hotel, Marriot Solana, the tennis immediately started- lectures, practices, coaching, and drills. Our bodies ached, sweat trickled down our already drenched face, and our deep breathing can be heard in synchrony. Coaches scream instructions as we hit hundreds of serves to prepare for the Herculean task of winning the upcoming matches. Every exceptional athlete hustled past their customary limits- running, jumping, throwing. The level of commitment and focus undoubtedly surpasses what I had ever witnessed in local tournaments.
Six a.m…. the vibrant buzzing of the alarm clock encompasses the room and transitions my deep slumber into a heart racing anticipation of the day to come. I eagerly arrive at the Southlake Tennis Center only to see endless array of tennis courts already encroached by ambitious players. My first few taxing matches illustrated that even hardworking dedicated athletics succumb to defeat. Will my previous apprehensions truly be a reality? Will my teammates shun my subpar performance? To my surprise, they full-heartedly supported me and never ceased to cheer me on. A very special friendship and bond was created day to day of these grueling matches.
Five am…. my weighted eyelids relentlessly struggle to even forge a squint. Why so early? The unfamiliar sound emerged into my consciousness now resembling a phone ringing… repetitive ringing. Breaking news had occurred only 30 miles from us- five police officers were killed by a sniper overnight. My paralyzing worries about tennis transposed to concerns about humanity and safety. We proceeded with our day battling through rigorous matches, while thoughts of innocent selfless lives shamelessly taken away rambled through my introspection. Our tennis team struggled through the somber day and ultimately concluded the week strong and victorious.
My sports trip transformed into a thought provoking experience surrounding America’s crumbling unity. My family stories have always entailed gratefulness of the opportunities both of my parents obtained when their parents moved to America. My father moved from Zambia and my mother from India. Both continuously guide us to work hard and celebrate differences of the melting pot of America. I hope Americans can stand together to fight the hardships, just like my team did. Memorable images of an endless line of various people- black, white, Asian, all waiting to hug the heroic police officers warmed my heart and gave me hope of what will become the greatness of America. Red, White, and Blue will prevail!