When I look at my day now as a personal trainer, there are times when I can’t believe it is me. I pretty much work out all day or help others workout. I am not a natural athlete, but somewhere along the way things changed.
I never liked to go outside and play. I had an awkward walk, was uncoordinated and had no balance. Recess was painful. I was usually the last one picked for any team sport. I don’t think Charlie Brown existed when I was growing up, but he and I have a lot in common.
Other kids watched the clock waiting to hear the recess bell. They would be bouncing off their seats as the teacher said, “Wait. Put your books in your desk. Then you can go.” It was a stampede to see who could get out the door the fastest.
If the recess game was softball, I knew my name would not get called. The rules were the team captain picked one boy then one girl, and everyone had to play. When I was the only one left, the captain would sigh and wave me over and say, “Okay, we’ll take her.” Like he had a choice, but hearing those words. Well, it made it worse.
Three outs happened fast, and I usually didn’t have to go to bat. When I did walk to the plate, bat in hand I knew what to expect. Taunts from the team in the field: “Easy out! Easy out!” My teammates would groan loudly. It couldn’t get much worse than this.
When the recess game was dodge ball, I thought I might actually have a chance to stay in the game. I mean dodge ball, come on. Just don’t get hit by the frigging ball. How hard is that! But I was like a fence post cemented in the dirt. A target. The person with the ball always went for me because I was, once again, an easy out.
The other kids made it look so easy. Running. Laughing. Weaving in and out around each other’s sweating bodies. I was dizzy watching all the activity. It was like I was the maypole, the flag pole and everyone and everything else whirled around me.
My brain was busier than my body. “Run right, run left!” I would start to move, or at least I thought I was starting to move, and then the blonde girl with the perky pony tail would run in front of me. Giggling, she was always giggling. The cute boy holding the red dimpled dodge ball aimed for her, fully intending to miss. The ball hit me instead. I didn’t groan or squeal or make any of the noises the other kids made when they were “out.” I just turned and walked out of the circle.
Usually, I didn’t have to go outside for recess. When I said I needed to finish my homework or was writing a story or reading a book and wanted to stay inside, I think the teachers felt sorry for me. It was such a relief to escape the horrors of the playground.
In the sixth grade I read the poem “Outwitted” by Edwin Markham. The words gave me hope. I don’t know why because I certainly wasn’t going to make my fellow dodge ball players think any more highly of me. But I read and re-read the poem, imagining myself in a more inclusive future.
“He drew a circle that shut me out- Heretic, rebel, a thing to flout.
But love and I had the wit to win:
We drew a circle and took him In!”