Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Recognizing & Seizing Opportunities

This morning as I was getting ready to head off to my cardiologist's office my iPod was still shuffling through my "bed" playlist & the song "Don't Laugh At Me" by Mark Wills came on. When I heard the line "I'm that kid on every playground, the one that's chosen last" I flashed back to what became a critical moment in my life.

I was in 4th grade. The only girl in a line of boys (most in 5th & 6th grade) waiting to be chosen for one of the 2 soccer teams. I was the one chosen last. In a big group of boys who wants the only girl on their team? Not just the only girl but the ONLY girl in the entire school that looks like THAT!

The cards were stacked against me from birth. I was the only girl with red hair in the school. I was the only girl whose red hair was always in braids. The only girl that was ALWAYS in dresses. I think I was even wearing glasses by then as well.

So here I am standing in this line waiting to be picked. I can't wait to play and one by one the line gets smaller until I'm the only one left. I didn't let that get me down (mostly because I was also incredibly innocent and naive).

Then here comes the moment that changed everything. The ball is getting kicked around & it stops right in front of this 6th grade boy. I still remember his name to this day because of this critical moment. Louie was the tallest kid in the school & he could kick the ball higher & farther than anyone else.

I couldn't believe what happened once Louie got the ball. The crowd just parted. Being raised extremely religiously it was what I imagined it would look like when Moses parted the Red Sea. Everyone just got out of his way & stopped in their tracks waiting for him to kick the ball.

That was the moment of decision. Do I follow everyone else & wait until the ball moved again or seize that opportunity & go for it? I went for it. I had no fear. I charged straight towards this boy whose chest was at the level of my head & I swung my foot towards that ball. He kicked it a split second before I did so the ball went up into the air above our heads & landed behind him. Everyone stood there in shock for a second. It seemed as if from the moment Louie got the ball someone hit the Pause button on everyone but he & I. As the ball hit the ground behind Louie someone hit the Play button and a few of the boys sprang into action.

I don't remember if my team scored a goal from that but it didn't matter. The only thing that mattered was that I, I, charged Louie the giant when all the boys were afraid.

I remember most of the boys gathering around me afterwards telling me things like "good job", "I can't believe you did that", etc. From that moment on I was no longer chosen last for anything. I was "cool, for a girl". It took some more time for me to completely prove myself as a good soccer player but by time I was in 6th grade I was either team captain or one of the first picks for either team.

I still never really "fit" into any one social group, not then, not ever, but I tended to "float" in & out of the various groups.

I remember I always struggled to fit in with the girls in my classes but I never really did. I often spent more time with the boys, even through junior high, because they were the more accepting of the two groups, at least until high school.

I remember two more major events in elementary school after I became "cool, for a girl". The first was that since all the boys thought I was cool now some of the girls decided that they weren't getting enough attention standing on the side of the field cheering and dancing around so they tried their hand at soccer too. Before long they were back dancing & cheering on the sidelines again.

The second was when some kid had been picking on my younger brother. My brother is almost 4yrs younger than me, at the time I was in 6th grade and my brother was in 2nd grade. This kid that was picking on my brother was in 5th grade. So I just had a little conversation with him on the playground. He thought there was no way he was going to let a girl get the better of him (let alone one in a dress & braids) so he tried to fight me. We had drawn a bit of a crowd and when he tried, the boys in my class that were watching stepped in.

That one moment on the soccer field when I saw the opportunity & went for it was probably one of the most important moments of my life. I got along with all the kids in my class just fine but that event started so much more. In 5th grade I was the Assistant Student Council Leader for my track & I was on safety patrol. By 6th grade I was the Student Council Leader for my track, Captain of the Safety Patrol & almost the entire school knew who I was.

Of course everything changed once again when I went into junior high, partly because most of my class went to a different junior high than I did, but that just meant I knew even more kids when I went off to our one high school.

Another important lesson in this was that you can't make everyone happy & make everyone like you. When I became the cool girl to the guys it didn't win me any points with most of the girls. It bothered me for a bit & I even tried sitting out a game & doing the dance & cheer thing but that just wasn't me. I had to be me & do what made me happy. That was when I learned that if people couldn't accept & like me for who I was, it didn't matter & I didn't need them anyway.

I'm thankful for these moments & lessons in my life. They've helped me become the person that I am today & I just hope that I can pass on some of these important lessons to my boys. I know that both school & kids aren't like they used to be so my boys will need all the help they can get.

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