I haven’t done archery in a long time, so to say I was a bit nervous about taking it up again is quite the understatement. My mom had noticed that ever since my boyfriend of two years had broken up with me, I’d been a little out of it. She didn’t like seeing me mope around the house so sad all the time, so one day she called me into the kitchen and we had a little heart to heart. My mom’s a boxing trainer, so she’s not usually the “heart to heart” type, which told me that I must have looked seriously depressed for her to be talking to me about it. I listened patiently while she told me that she thought I could use something to take my mind off my shredded relationship and my shattered heart, and when she suggested going back to archery, it was hard to tell whether the little flutter in my heart was a sign of excitement or jittery nerves.
As soon as I showed up at my old practicing range, I realized it was the latter. I hadn’t been out there for nearly eight years, and I suddenly had this very strange feeling that I didn’t belong. That wasn’t all that was bothering me, though. I had become worried that I somehow wouldn’t remember what I had learned and been trained to do for all those years as a kid. I had brought along my old bow from back in the day, even though I was sure I had outgrown it a long time ago, and it hadn’t been used in years. I could only find two of my favorite blue arrows at home, but I’d brought them with too so that I looked like I had at least some idea of what I was doing. When my old trainer came out to greet me, his face broke into an enormous smile when he saw me heading for the range. He wrapped me in a giant bear hug, and it almost felt like some of the anxiety had been squeezed out of me.
“Look who’s back!” he cried, “Last time I saw you here you were no bigger than the bow you were learning to use.”
“It’s been a long time,” I agreed nodding, “but it’s good to be back.”
“And why exactly have you come back?” he asked as he hooked an arm around my shoulders and ushered me towards the office, “Just for a friendly chat about the good old days with your favorite trainer?”
“Uh, actually,” I stammered, “I was hoping maybe you’d be willing to train me again.”
If the way his eyes popped open was anything to go by, my trainer was very surprised by my admission. He recovered quickly, though, his smile brighter than ever.
“Then why am I steering us towards the offices, huh?” he asked, swerving us to the left so that we were headed for the door to the range, “We ought to be going out back to see what you’ve got!”
“Well, I can’t promise I’ll be able to pick right back up where I left off,” I muttered, a bit embarrassed. “I’m not even sure I can use my old bow anymore.”
“Is that what you brought to shoot with?” my trainer asked somewhat incredulously. “Uh, no, I don’t think that will do, but luckily we’ve got plenty of training bows that I think will fit you pretty well for now.”
He took me back toward the equipment cabin, where we took a look at all the bows he had hung up on the wall that were available to practice with. The first one I grabbed felt a little too heavy, but the second felt pretty good. When I raised it and pretended to aim, a little thrill went through me at being able to hold a bow again. I was surprised when my trainer tapped me on the shoulder and, upon turning around, I saw him holding a whole other case of my favorite blue arrows.
“I bet you thought I’d lost them, huh?” he asked with a grin, “But I knew you’d be back someday.”
Next, we headed out to the range that I remembered so well. The same three giant targets were set up at various distances from the firing line, and the numbers on the lanes were still the same ugly orange color. I made my way into lane two and began getting into position. When I had an arrow picked out, I raised the bow out in front of me and notched the arrow, closing one eye to get a more accurate aim. Then I let the arrow fly…
…right into the ground. It had gone a solid ten yards, which was unimpressive for even a beginner and the look on my trainer’s face told me so. I could feel my cheeks turning red from the humiliation.
“Hey, kiddo, it’s ok,” my trainer called, smiling encouragingly at me, “just take a few deep breaths, remember to pull back long and strong and to let the bow do the work.”
I repeated the process I’d performed the first time, but before I let the arrow go, I took a couple deep breaths and prayed that they would somehow calm and center me a bit. They didn’t. When I let the arrow go this time, it sailed way over my intended target. Then I felt a warm hand on my shoulder.
“Listen, kid,” my trainer said, giving me a knowing look, “I don’t know why you came back now, or what you hope to accomplish by starting back up with training, but I need you to think about it right now. Think about what brought you here, put it right where that target is, and have at it, yeah?”
I nodded as my trainer retreated to the safety of the sidelines. I took up the bow and a new arrow, breathed those deep breaths, then I put a mental picture of my ex’s face right where the target was, and let go. I don’t think I’ve ever made a perfect bulls-eye in all my life. I did it again and again to the cheers of my trainer and couldn’t help but cheer inwardly to myself a little, too. I’d like the sport just fine as a kid, but who knew archery could be so fun?