Annual Pigeon Racing Cured My Depression

March of last year, I did not feel comfortable where I was in my life, in my body, or at school. It was my second semester at FIT, and I was homesick for Chicago, under more stress, anxiety, and depression than ever, and had some pretty severe acne to top it off. All of this is presented to say: I needed a change and it had to be drastic.

So what did I do? I went shopping. My purchase was a vintage sweatshirt off Depop. It was my favorite color, navy blue, and more notably, had two screen-printed bug-eyed pigeons gracing the front next to the words, “83rd ARPU Annual Convention.” Intrigued, I did a little googling to discover that this convention is actually the greatest gathering known to mankind.

The ARPU stands for the Annual Racing Pigeon Union, of course. What does an annual pigeon racing convention entail, you ask? It’s exactly that: a pigeon race. Well, people race the pigeons (a very, very small group of people). And, in 1993, my very home of Chicago opened its gates to the pigeon racers of America for their 83rd convention! Sweet Chicago! 83 years! That’s a lot of pigeons.

I’m not a pigeon racer, nor do I know anyone that is, but this sweatshirt commemorating the wonderful event turned out to be just what I needed. After all, the ARPU does warn on their website, “Be careful, you may discover that the allure of these amazingly athletic birds is overpowering.” (Wow, that is so frightening! Yet thrilling.)

Besides its obvious claim to fame, this sweatshirt is perfect- the perfect weight, size, feel, and color. It matches with anything and layers over everything. Many days I’ve hopped out of bed in the morning, thrown it on with trousers and a jean jacket, and I looked and felt like I could do things. And, for  the days when I sat in bed, my body exhausted from school, gray-eyed with no motivation, it was the perfect comfort blanket. It has absorbed countless tears and more than a handful of stains, but they’ve always washed out, and they always will. This sweatshirt feels like home, softness, and forgiveness; it probably deserves a therapy bill.

Now as I enter a better place, every day I wake up and know that I don’t need this sweatshirt as a comfort blanket. But for the days when I do, it’s always there. I can pull it over my head, feel the weight lift off my shoulders as I look down at those “amazingly athletic birds,” and smile.

So thank you, American Racing Pigeon Union, maybe your pigeons do have an overwhelming allure after all.

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