Sports. For as long as I can remember, this word has been synonymous with getting hit in the face with balls. (I didn’t think that through before I typed it but now that it’s out there, I like it and it’s true, so it stays.) The list of times I’ve been physically harmed at an athletic event is as absurd as it is long. Some of these injuries occurred while I was participating in sports – a strained gluteus maximus here, a softball to the chest there – but an improbably high number of incidents happened while I was spectating at sports. For example, on two separate occasions, I was hit in the face with an out-of-control volleyball. The first time, my glasses were broken and I got a bloody nose. The second time, my glasses were broken and I got a bloody nose. Last week, I pulled a muscle just putting on sporty clothes. It’s easy to see why I’m drawn to more sedentary activities like reading, writing, and reading about writing.
Given my tendency towards bodily harm in athletic situations, I have worked hard to avoid attending or participating in them for much of my life. Self-preservation is an obvious reason for my avoidant behavior, but there is another factor that has been holding me back: I have long believed that in order to spend time doing something, it is necessary to be good at it. Otherwise, it is a waste of time. If I’m unlikely to score the winning goal, why play soccer? If I’m probably going to miss the ball (or be hit in the face by it) 80 percent of the time, what business do I have playing volleyball?
This distorted thinking has held me back outside of the sports arena as well: If I can’t be guaranteed the right answer, why speak up in class or at the staff meeting? What’s the point in painting a picture if it won’t be hung in a gallery? If I can’t publish the next Pulitzer Prize winner, surely there are better things I can do with my time than write. If I can’t rock skin-tight red leather pants, why even wear pants? Having to be good at everything is an exhausting lifestyle for someone whose only actual talent is organizing office supplies.
But things have changed in the last year. I’ve found myself doing strange things. Dangerous things. For example, I kayaked. Three times. I tennised, which they tell me isn’t actually a word but it has to be because I did it. My husband gave me a basketball hoop for my last birthday and get this…I use it. I’ve gone to yoga classeS, plural, and even made up my own poses. My favorite is “Inverted Yak with Heartburn.”
And now I don’t even know who I am anymore.
It’s not that I’ve suddenly developed athletic aptitude. Goodness, no. I’m still terrible at the sports. But I like doing them. And that’s basically the point. Maybe it’s my kids, maybe it’s my age, maybe it’s my mildly troubling caffeine habit – whatever the cause, I find my beliefs shifting. Perhaps enjoying something is enough to make it worthwhile. I mean, how many golfers do you know that have won the World Cup? Or is it the Superbowl? Wimbledon? Whatever. You get what I mean. If you like something, then it’s probably good for you to some extent. (Exceptions to this rule include cocaine, a sandwich with more than two pieces of bread, and that crazy type of fishing where you blindly shove your hand into underwater crevices with no regard for the safety of your limbs.)
So play soccer. Speak up in class. Write something. Paint that picture. Do what you enjoy. I’m going to. I’ll still probably get hit in the face with balls, but that’s a risk I’m finally willing to take.