I grew up in a very small town where basketball was big. If you wanted to be popular in the schoolyard, you had to be very good at the sport of throwing hoops.
Or you had to be a good looking kid with killer clothes and a smile to match.
My mom had a pack-a-day habit when she was pregnant with me. I didn’t stand a chance of being a good looking kid. My clothes? Hand-me-downs, two sisters removed and six years out of style by the time they hit my back.
Basketball was my only shot.
I attempted the sport through junior high. It was hell. During practice, I tripped. I fell. I gasped for breaths like an asthmatic child. I never made a basket or was given the opportunity to make one. (Hey. You got to give a girl the ball if you want her to get better, people!) During games, I was allowed on the court only when we were down by 30 or more points with just seconds to spare on the clock. That happened twice that I remember. What are we talking about here? We’re talking 12 seconds of my life actually being able to compete with another team. Three gulps of lemonade! That’s the amount of time we’re talking about. My time during those awful years was spent being a seat-filler. But still, I did my part. It was a very small school in an even smaller country town. It had to be a difficult task to assemble an entire basketball team. Being a seat-filler was in demand. I may have been bottom rung, but I had my place on the ladder.
I was needed as part of that team.
It didn’t make it any easier sitting on that bench, knowing that I sucked. Knowing that everyone else knew that I sucked. Knowing that I wasn’t popular. I couldn’t really hide it. I couldn’t stuff myself under the bench and hide, although the thought crossed my mind. During games, I didn’t feel like a part of a team–sitting there, picking at my fingers, shuffling my sneakers to make them squeak on the wooden floor of the gymnasium. Waiting, waiting for the buzzer to sound so I could go home and have a snack.
Thirty five years later, I’m happy that I attempted basketball. It wasn’t suited for me. But I learned something from it, aside from the fact that I was awful and I like to eat chips and salsa a lot more than I like to run and throw balls. I learned that I can try something and suck. Nobody really cares.
If I lived my life being afraid to jump into a decision simply because I’m unable to predict the outcome, I’d never know. Nobody would care about that either.
Except for me.