Not every shot makes it in. Not every swing makes contact. But even a few scores per game encourage people to play, and others to watch. Even something with as little goal potential as soccer is filled with anticipation because of the mere possibility of a score. You aim, kick, and miss. You head butt the ball in and graze the post. You pass it to a teammate who sends it right into the hands of the goalie. Sometimes you get fouled. You’re tripped or harassed by a player and the ref catches wind of it and gives you a free shot. Little to no resistance; open season. If you’re skilled enough you’ll make the shot. If not, it’s a wasted opportunity. This is your karma. If you play with integrity and someone loses track of the ball and tries to make you fall, you’ll be compensated. But if you do the same to others, you will also be forced to pay the price.
The point is to shoot and score as many times as possible. To try and to fail and to try again. Because people are watching. Depending on whether you’re “home,” some are cheering in the stands while others are booing. Some have made you their personal hero while others are sitting quietly and judging your skill; saying to themselves and whoever will listen how terrible you play and how much you don’t deserve to be on the field; that you should be benched and giving the many reasons why, when at least you’re out there playing. Maybe they have good reason to be bitter. They think they’re better than you are and deserve to be where you are at. Or they have no idea what they’re talking about, and mistake their negativity for constructive criticism. Either way, at least you’re out there risking the embarrassment of a loss or a terrible play. Why wait on life to decide to hand you a win? Unless you’ve got an inheritance or won at the genetic lottery, it’s not worth the risk. And they might be right. Maybe you do suck compared to everyone else. But guess what? You’re playing with the best! And sometimes that’s what it means to play with the best. To eat humble pie and learn a thing or two. To show up to practice to be shown how little you know, only to learn how to bridge the gap between mediocrity and excellence.
I don’t think we show up in life with a bag of tricks ready to give out. I think we show up with an aptitude for learning. Learning how to crawl, then hobble, walk and fall. Learning how to make noise to draw attention to our needs, babble, and talk. Some of us learn crooked so our path reflects it and our growth is stunted. That is part of the unfairness of life; the lottery ticket that was drawn and handed to us before we got here. Eventually these set of experiences add up to something that looks like a human being moving through the world, full of life or broken by it; with confidence or with-confidence-in-training. Either way, we learn by failing, but before we fail we must try. And some of the shots won’t make it in; some of the swings won’t connect. But if you think about life like a game, it won’t seem so bad. Even the best miss sometimes, and every opportunity you have to make it to bat is just one more chance you have to connect.
T. M. G.