Monday, October 28, 2013

Holding on for Dear Life

I hate losing.

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not one of those die-hard competitive people who stops at nothing to win. But I definitely have a competitive streak. If you watched me play basketball as a kid you probably wouldn't know this about me as I was one of those players who would rather just hand the opposing side the ball than fight for it, much to the chagrin of my coaches and my father. I started playing when I was in the sixth grade. Evidently I had more skill than just my height as I was 5'9" even then. I started as a first string player for three years--and hated every second of it. And I lived in large communities where there were several kids to choose from. I have always wondered why I was picked as a first-string player as I did my best to "fool" the coaches. Now don't get me wrong. I didn't have any faith in my ability to play basketball.

But I guess they saw something in me that gave them faith that I would pull it together in a game. I never did...except for once. It was the last game of the season of my 8th grade year. I was exhilerated that night, knowing I wouldn't have to go through any more basketball torture until the next year--and I was secretly trying to figure out a way out of playing basketball. So in my head, this was possibly the last  game of my life. And so I played with gusto. I stole the ball, I guarded the other team with passion, and ultimately I fouled out in the fourth quarter. And as I walked out of that gym for the very last time, my dad gave me the only compliment he's ever given me about the way I played: "You actually played basketball tonight."

Desperate for a way out of the competitive world, I chose to  go to Parkview the next school year--a very small Adventist day school where my mom taught. It was a game changer for my family as Dad no longer had a reason to stay around. He left my mom that November and never came back. But the weight of the world was off my shoulders in some weird twisted way. Basketball was that stressful for me. I had other dreams.

My senior year of high school, one of my teacher's wives asked me if I would rather watch a game of basketball or play in it. "Oh, I would definitely rather play," I lied. I didn't want her to know what a coward I was on the court. I thought she would judge me harshly if she knew the truth. But she just laughed and said, "That surprises me! I pictured you as someone who would prefer to watch."

She knew me well.

Now that I'm middle-aged, I look back on those years with irritation at myself. I wish I had just let it all go, enjoyed the ride. I wish I had played with the same energy and confidence that I had in the last game of the season. I wish I'd given myself a chance instead of wallowing in self-criticism and hatred.

I wish I had seen in myself what my coaches saw in me...and my dad.

But, of course, I didn't. My dreams took me far far away from basketball, from the world my father envisioned. For the past 30 years, I've steered clear of the competitive life. I am far removed from those "glory" days. But once in awhile, that competitive streak that reared its head in the last game of basketball I ever played comes alive. And that's what happened yesterday.

One of my students from the good ole days of Wisconsin posted a riddle and said to message her with the answer. If  you messaged her and got it wrong, you had to change your profile picture to a giraffe. I thought about the riddle and was fairly sure I knew the answer...and so I messaged her.

I was wrong.

She posted on facebook that she looked forward to seeing my "new" profile picture. And so, with a twinge of regret that I ventured into this setup, I found one.

My new profile picture shows a large giraffe standing in a field with a smaller giraffe hanging on its neck, clinging for dear life.

And here's the thing with that ridiculous picture. It reminds me of my dreams. They aren't the same, of course, as they were when I was 14--far different these days. But back then? I clung to a dream that was far-removed from my reality: a dream that didn't include basketball or competition; a dream that included Adventism as I longed to be one but feared the rejection of my father.

But clinging to that dream? It made things happen. My dreams came true.

And so, I am clinging today--clinging to my dreams. My profile picture may be the result of a silly game in which I lost...but the truth is, it means so much more than "I lost the riddle."

It means I am clinging, holding on for dear life.

1 comment:

  1. That is AWESOME (I did wonder why you changed your profile picture to a giraffe...). As long as you continue to hold on to your dreams. It doesn't matter your age--dreams can always come true. So HOLD ON! And you will find that you're not losing, but just the opposite.


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