Getting picked last for the team. Or not at all.

Growing up, my parents always involved me in activities.  I took tennis lessons, piano lessons, ballet, and gymnastics.  Even Judo.  There were certain things that I desired to get involved with.  My Mom, being overprotective and dead-set on me learning our language, refused to involve me in activities that met on Saturdays.  Luckily, she was a stay at home Mom and she shuttled and chauffeured me to all my weekday activities.  But Saturdays were off limits.  Reserved specifically for Armenian School…where I could learn my language, mostly reading and writing.  Her reasoning: “What if you want to write your Mother in law a letter some day?” or “You should at least be able to read an Armenian newspaper.”  I had to make her proud.

Sadly, there is always an added pressure to being Armenian.  Something about preserving our race, our ethnicity, and our endangered language.  It didn’t help that my paternal uncle would humiliate me from time to time, trying to get me to read an Armenian newspaper before the rest of the family.  Fast forward 20 years, a couple of his own grandchildren can’t even speak the language, whereas I perform in Armenian theater.  There’s something to be said for Karma.  But that’s a blog for…another time.


So there I was, a little Armenian girl, thick black hair, slightly pudgy (looking back, not really!), but always taller than everyone else.  I wasn’t “indoorsy” yet.  No, not at all.  I loved growing up in my small town, in the foothills.  I loved the mountain views, the trees.  I loved holding caterpillars and pulling bark off trees.  I loved chewing on lemon grass, running outside, and I don’t recall getting picked last for any sort of PE team.  And even if I did, it didn’t affect my self esteem because I definitely made up for any of my outdoor inadequacies in the classroom.

As a first or second grader, I recall taking home an AYSO flyer and asking Mom if I could participate.  Her quick response, “Not if it interferes with Saturday school.”  Ok, Mom!  T-ball was the same.  Even Ballet performances—practices were held on Saturdays.  I could take lessons, but I was not available to rehearse for group performances.  I was simply too busy learning how to write letters to my future mother in law!

Recess wasn’t a bore, either.  I was always active—on the swings, not afraid to climb the jungle gym, not even to hang upside down, up at the top of the tower…where one fall would have left me easily paralyzed.  Thankfully, no one had sued the school yet and we walked around in wood chips, on the playground.  Today, it’s all padded and our giant jungle gyms are a distant memory. A liability, most probably.

So Recess came twice a day.  I advanced to the “server” position in 4-square…no problem.  Dodge ball was fun.  I liked competing. P.E. was ok.  Sure, I didn’t love running laps…but everything else was fine.  I couldn’t run the fastest 100 meter…but that’s ok, I enjoyed jumping rope and playing competitive sports.  Bottom line, I didn’t dread it.  When playing basketball at boot camp in my late 20’s, my leaders asked if I’d ever actually played competitively.  Heck! It turns out I am naturally skilled.  But still, I had to admit that I hadn’t. And that was that. Why hadn’t I?

Well, it was the summer of ’92, I had just graduated from elementary school and I was on my way to a brand new junior high.  Fall sports were around the corner.  I was eager to try out for the Volleyball team…and I did so, cheerfully.  Imagine the confidence. Several days later, the team roster was pinned up in our locker room.  I hadn’t made the team.  No.  Not the Junior Varsity team either.  I realized, I wasn’t an “athlete”.  I’d never be like the other girls, svelte, tan, athletic.  I’d never roll my short sleeves up, have pictures in the yearbook with sweat glistening on my forehead, wear short shorts, and knee pads.  I’d never get to miss 6th and 7th period because I had to sit in a van and go to another school to play a sport. It just wasn’t in the books for me. 


Several months later, I signed up to play Volleyball with my Armenian friends.  I had a uniform and everything.  I knew I sucked at it.  But I participated nonetheless.  One day, they changed the practice schedule…it conflicted with Sunday school, this time. And there I was.  Off the team again.  Not as direct as it was at school, but I accepted it as a rejection nonetheless.  I’d go be a good Christian at Sunday school, instead.

In high school, I did play Tennis.  I did visit schools.  But I found myself being more a score-keeper than a competitor.  At least I had the chance. I can thank the stars for that.  It made me feel far more special than being in PE class.

But what would I say today to the coaches and teachers who made me feel like a non-athlete?  Y’all darkened my prospects at being an active adult.  You really did. I wanted to have something to look back on, a hobby, a routine, a habit.  I wanted to feel like someone wanted me on their team.  I wanted to realize that I wasn’t merely a classroom intellectual, but I was someone that could shine on the field as well.  I wanted days in the sun. I wanted to run on the grass. I wanted to carve physical activity into my day—naturally, effortlessly.  I wanted it to be done in such a way that I felt like I belonged.  I wanted to grow up with it, like I did with reading books, like I did with church, like I did with being an involved-Armenian.  I wanted that physical component to be an actual, regular, natural part of my lifestyle.

It wasn’t.

It isn’t.

Does it affect me still? Of course.  I’m the first person to say no to a hiking activity.  For me, picnics on the beach are about s’mores…not beach volleyball.  It’s a mental block, a social block, a physical impediment.  A ball comes my way and I scream.  I get stiff.  I am afraid to catch it, throw it back, block it…whatever.

It’s sad to say but I am afraid I’ll never be able to reverse it.  I’ll always feel awkward on a fitness machine, in tennis shoes, or with a weight in my hand.  The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry says sports help children develop physical skills, get exercise, make friends, have fun, learn to play as a member of a team, learn to play fair, and improve self-esteem.  []

I’ll always be a little behind on developing certain skills for success in life.  Being deprived of sports has shaped my values, differently.  It has failed to contribute to the positive behaviors I wish I had in my adult life. And I’m completely sad that I can’t go back and change it. 

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©2012, Leegal Deeva. All rights reserved.

5 things I’m grateful for. An exercise for when you’re feeling grumpy.

I was having a case of the grumpies.  My BFF  asked me to list 5 things I am grateful for.  All I could come up with was:

  1. Health
  2. Good Friends
  3. Gorgeous Eyelashes
  4. Nice Skin
  5. Speaking without an accent

I don’t know why it was such a stretch…but that’s all I could come up with.  I mean it.  The first three came easily.  But I had to try for the last two.  I seem ungrateful.  But I was feeling down, grumpy…and so, those were the five I came up with.

Let’s analyze, shall we?

The first is priceless…the only thing that often matters.  When you don’t have your health, you have nothing.  And so…it is the most important thing and it is never underrated.  But when you have your health…gosh, all the other problems seem daunting, still.  I will see a blessing in the NOT having the lack of it (double negative).  Thank God for good health.

The second is common (perhaps) yet rare to come by (I realize that was a pathetic oxymoron).  But I have a few people that I can always reach out to nurture my heart, mind, soul…they love me, unconditionally, and I am grateful that they don’t leave me lonely on this journey of “life”.  Truly.   Sure, there are tons of friends (1051 Facebook friends…just noticed.)  It makes me feel dirty.  It does.  The 1051.  But so many of them are on limited profile and so it doesn’t seem as awful.  Regardless, I have 4 or 5 (including my Mom) who I can reach out to via text, email, phone call, g-chat and get advice, love, a response, interest, and solid conversation.  I love these friends of mine.  Without them, my life would be EMPTY.  I’d be lonely.  Sad.  Sinking in despair.

Eyelashes…the bigger the better.  The fuller the prettier.  My Mom has straight lashes, not too long.  I have long lashes, they are curly.  I use 4 different kinds of mascara.  But it’s not about the mascara. It’s about the technique.  I love it.  I love eyelashes.  I love blinking.  I love what they do to my face.  I love how the femininize my face (I realize that’s not a word…but I’m coining it).  They are the thing that take me from looking ambiguous (post-shower, post-wake up) to looking like a girl.  I don’t do bold lipstick.  Eyeliner is not a common thing I use.  I avoid blush.  But mascara…it’s my go-to, if I had to pick one item of makeup, it would be my mascara…savior of all things vain.

Nice skin.  It’s dewy.  It’s generally blemish free.  For someone in her fourth decade of life, I have almost no wrinkles.  I try to maintain the laugh lines and crows feet but they are not too visible.  Generally, I have a baby face.  When people guess my age, they are off by a solid 8 years.  I like it.  I do.  Who wouldn’t?  I spent the first 20 years of my life being mistaken for an adult.  And now I am perpetually 22 years old.  No complaints.  Yet…I’m going to be honest…I don’t have perfect skin.  I can see my pores.  I have visible capillaries (sun damage—I promise I wear sunscreen EVERY day—except rainy days, I see it as an opportunity for my skin to “breathe”).  It’s not porcelain smooth.  I look at pictures online and think, “Wow, I wish I had that skin.”  But I don’t photoshop.  Never have.  And when I catch the occasional ruddy faced celeb, struttin’ the streets sans makeup, I feel superior to her because I look better, naturally…effortlessly.

The last one…I have no idea how I even came up with this! But…it’s…Speaking without an accent.  Boy am I judgmental, huh? I love languages.  I try to speak each one as much like a native as I possibly can.  I’m happy I grew up with Americans and that I was taught by native English speakers…to speak English.  Elitism at its best.  But I’m grateful, I am…that I speak clearly, confidently, eloquently, without hesitation.  It’s certainly true, that if I lived somewhere else, I’d be suffering through the language.  But thankfully, I live in America, and my English comes in handy.

So, that’s that for my list of five things I’m grateful for.  They are snooty items of gratefulness.  They are somewhat vain.  But they are what they are.  I could, of course, make a list of all the things I lack and all the things I possess…put it out there, take inventory.  But all she asked was for me to list 5 things…and I did feel a twinge better after I had.  What are the five things you are grateful for?


©2012, Leegal Deeva.  All rights reserved.