From time to time =PR= hears inspirational stories and awesome ideas that we share as Guest Blogs. We’d like to invite you to read Michelle’s journey of becoming an athlete!
I was always picked last. I mean dead last; I was chosen after the kids that picked their noses, the kids with broken legs, and the overweight. In other words, even amongst my people, I was the most undesirable. In sixth grade, the most popular best friend duo, Dean and John were often the team captains. I still remember that Dean would sweep his perfectly winged hair out of his eyes after each choice and John, with a shorter more boyish haircut, would crinkle his eyes as he chose our fate. Mine was a fate well earned. I couldn’t catch or throw. I spent most of gym daydreaming about how I could get ahold of an inhaler. Kids with asthma were treated more kindly by the gym teacher and even more importantly, they were allowed to quit with just a flash of aluminum. Good thing this was before the internet and the easy access of foreign drugs, because nothing would have stopped me from getting a ticket out of gym.
I can hear some of you now. Poor baby, you got picked last. I can almost guarantee that anyone who says that was not actually ever picked last, because you would know that it is at the least, embarrassing. To a kid with an odd sense of humor that didn’t help her fit in any better than her lime green Zips from the local Thom McAn store and to a kid so uncoordinated that she tripped over air- getting picked last was a the perfect physical and public reinforcement that there was something the matter with me. Uh, and no, there were no school counselors in the 70’s to tell me I’d be a fabulous and witty adult. I just walked slowly to the team that got the short stick, blinked back tears and vowed to never tell my mother. My mother, who had been popular, would only remind me that the lime green Zips had been a bad choice and that she had wanted me to pick the Nikes with the pink swoop, as though she could create for me a uniform to fight these sort of battles.
My mother found out anyway and thus began her wayward and feeble attempts to make me into an athlete. My parents had fully embraced the 70’s, so they took a wait and see approach to let our aptitudes emerge naturally. Instead of starting me young, when it was easy to learn new things. This created problems like when I wanted to be a gymnast, but I should have started tumbling at 4. My dad taught me to skate and I was good, but they never gave me lessons. I think they knew that my lack of grace and a very weak left side would cause me to wash out. Something I loved would become something I would learn to despise.
Once at a parade, I proclaimed I wanted to be a baton twirler and somehow I ended up in a dusty church basement learning to Irish dance. Turns out the baton twirlers’ costumes were too skimpy and tacky for my Irish Catholic mother graced with the maiden name, Kennedy. I have to give her some credit, because there was no way I could have caught a flying object after spinning around in sequins. Irish dancing bit the dust, as I was placed, as an 8 year old, to dance with the 4 year olds in the Washington, DC St. Patrick’s Day Parade. “She should have started earlier,” was Mrs. McDemon’s excuse, but I knew what she meant. I was, at the tender age of 8, already a hot mess.
Oh and then came soccer, a game just chaotic and fast enough for me to blend in. I played defense and was constantly off sides, which confused me because I played a right oriented position and I stayed on the right. It wasn’t until later that I understood that I had been called off sides for crossing the halfway line into the rival’s territory as a defender. My parents were in their late 40’s and 50’s and believed in a laissez faire method of parenting. In other words, they were no help at all. The opposite of helicopter parents, my mom dropped me off to practices and some games to go to the local Magruder’s grocery for produce. I never knew if it was out of boredom or embarrassment, but I gather it was probably a combination of both. One year though, we had a team that lost big time-even our uniforms were a sad slate grey. My competitive teammates couldn’t take it and stopped showing up for games. Natural born loser that I was, I loved it. I got to play every game and all different positions. I learned was a good mid-fielder. I would rush the rival team’s forward player, no matter how big she was, and kick the heck out of the ball, so it fell right to our forward players who would simply tap it in. I was fearless, but being short with tons of freckles and uneven, frizzy pigtails, I was underestimated. That moment of misjudgment was exactly what I needed. Unfortunately, I was put on a better team the next year and while goofing off, I accidentally headed the ball into the back of the new coach’s head while he was giving us a pep talk. Sadly, there went soccer.
Finally, my parents grew tired of my bumbling around and I was allowed to quit sports and after my final year of gym, I began to breathe easy. I did ride long distances on bikes until I was 30 and even made it 11 miles into a practice run for the Marine Corp Marathon before the fear of coming in last caused me to quit training. A year later, I married my husband and we gained weight as many couples do once the hunt to pair up has been called off. Poor health followed, so I have been training for a 5K. I‘ve lost 45 pounds in the process. I did drop out of one in early December; you had to finish in an hour and that old fear of being last crept back into my psyche.
This fear of being last got me thinking. Why isn’t there an award to the one who comes in last in a distance race? Now before you start slamming me, because that is like giving everyone a trophy- you just chill. Shouldn’t there be something for someone who doesn’t give up? I’d like to call it the “Damn award” as in “Damn, I made it!” Unfortunately, some people are offended by that word, when they really should be appalled by the phrase, “The Biggest Loser”. The only biggest loser is the one that doesn’t try. The biggest loser is the one who can’t stop playing the “picked last” mix tape from childhood and sacrifices his or her health as a result. More importantly, the biggest loser is the one who thinks that there can only be one winner- in a foot race and in life. Still, not to offend, I offer you the BAM award, which stands for Beyond All Measurement. I like the sound of: “You thought I couldn’t do it- BAM- I did.” or even better, “I thought I couldn’t do it- BAM- I did.” or “Yeah, I didn’t train hard enough, but BAM, I made it.”
Maybe they are right; I should get over being picked last. It is no longer the physically perfect Dean and John who get to decide if I’m worthy or capable. It’s up to me and I say, damn right, I am. I’m an athlete, now. BAM.
If you or someone you know want to return to an active lifestyle or you are just getting started, at =PR= we’re here to help you do just that. From our store employees who will welcome you, to our coaches who make accomplishing a new goal FUN, we’re here for you! Make change happen.