I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned this here before, but I’m the black sheep in my family. My brother was born with a football in one hand and a baseball in the other, while my sister was a young Mia Hamm in the making. My mom played softball growing up and my dad was on the wresting team.
I’m the least athletic person you’ll ever meet. I was born with two left feet and zero hand-eye coordination. I’d participate in neighborhood games of kickball and baseball but I have never, nor will ever, be the sporty type. I was much more the “creative type” that pursued dance and art, acting and poetry.
In a desperate attempt to make my family proud, I decided to join the tennis team in seventh grade. It seemed easier than baseball, there didn’t seem to be too much running involved and I really loved that the girls got to wear cute little skirts.
As the tennis team was brand new that year, and nobody really knew each other’s talent level, I elected myself as team captain. Mind you, I had never even played a game of tennis in my life.
I’ll never forget my first match, going up against the opposing school’s captain. A kid who clearly knew what the terms “love” and “fault” meant. I had spent the week leading up to the match finding the perfect navy blue tennis uniform, with crisp white visor and sneakers to match. I figured looking the part was half the battle.
Boy, was I wrong. My mom sat there clapping for me on the bleachers as I embarrassed myself over and over and over again, unable to return the ball and get a point for our team.
After the season was over, I decided I wouldn’t be going back.
Sports are completely unnatural to me. They make me wildly uncomfortable and bring out a lot of my weaknesses. Which is why I wanted to put “play a sport” on my 213 in 2013 list. Part of this entire process is about facing the things that I wouldn’t typically have the nerve to do.
It sounds so simple, right? Playing a sport that is.
Mike and I’s apartment complex has two tennis courts and rents out balls and rackets for free. With the beautiful weather over Memorial Day weekend, I thought it would be the perfect time to seize the opportunity and go out and play a game or two.
I threw on some oversized yoga capris and a t-shirt, put on my soaking wet (and filthy) sneakers (see my previous post about paintballing), and threw my hair up in a bun. In other words, I looked like a hot mess. But I told myself that it didn’t matter considering I was going to be running around on a court, not strutting down a catwalk.
One of the two courts was open and there were a few kids sitting on the benches around the fences. The last thing I wanted was an audience, but Mike told me I couldn’t yell at them all to go away, so I sucked it up.
After refreshing my memory on how the scoring works for tennis and getting myself in position, I served the ball. Fault.
Lots of faults.
Lots of missed balls.
I think I even tripped a few times and nearly fell on my face once. Oh and there was that time I hit the ball so hard it flew into the next court and hit someone on the head. Woops.
My shoes were bothering me so I took them off and played in my socks. But the ground was too hot from the sun, so it resulted in me jumping back and forth a lot. My hair was still wet and kept falling out of its bun into my face. My pants were too big and kept falling down. And I was out of breath and out of shape and sweating like a pig.
All the while Mike and I looked like fools as we couldn’t even hit the ball back and forth to each other more than once or twice at a time and the kids outside were snickering.
So I did whatever I do when I’m frustrated and things aren’t going as “picture-perfect” as I had planned. I threw my racket down and I quit.
And I walked away grumbling and angry and annoyed and embarrassed.
99% of my experiences for this 213 in 2013 have been positive ones. I’ve learned to relax, or let go or find more balance or happiness in the small things. But every once in a while, things don’t go as planned. And my weaknesses and my fears and my insecurities are thrown in my face and I can’t hide from them.
And I like when it happens.
I soak it all in and I take a good hard look at myself. And I think about how I can get over these insecurities to become a better person. While it may be something as trivial as a tennis game that brought all of these emotions to light, it tapped into a much bigger issue, and that’s my problem with accepting that I can’t be perfect at everything, or even good for that matter. Or my frustration when something doesn’t come as easy to me as I want it to and instead of working hard and pushing through to learn it, I choose to quit instead.
I will never be an athlete. Nor do I want to be. But I hope that this experience has taught me to not give up so easily, to have fun instead of always seeking perfection and to challenge myself with things that continually put me outside of my comfort zone.
Because that’s the only way to grow.