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.

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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. 

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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.  [http://www.aacap.org/cs/root/facts_for_families/children_and_sports]

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. 

Photo credits: http://www.portcoquitlam.ca/Dynamic/Page5491.aspx and http://missoulaeditor.com/?p=1225

©2012, Leegal Deeva. All rights reserved.

School’s out. Forever.

School’s out…forever.

If you’re like me, graduation was more about photo opps and saying affectionate and believable goodbyes to people I knew I’d probably never see again. But the whole event is so archaic. I mean, pomp and circumstance, really? Why?

Anyway, congrats on graduating. Enjoy the photo session and the boring commencement speeches. Sadly, this is as good as it gets!

First of all, no one cares about college. No, really. It’s an experience, sure. But as far as true academia goes, it doesn’t have much value. In fact, it doesn’t teach you much that you can apply to the real world. I’ll even go so far as to say that the four years you spend in undergrad is merely a money-maker for your school. But don’t say that too loud or we’ll scare away the incoming class of 2016. Sounds eerie, no?

Sure, your parents probably dished out about $80 grand for you to go school. And of course, it’s all you ever hoped for during the formative years of your life. Really, it’s what you looked forward to achieving and becoming. The first real goal you ever set for yourself. You did it! Yay! Most people can’t and don’t. But even though you did, it doesn’t really matter. Cuz let’s face it, you don’t really know anything. Well, at least not yet.

If you’re not off to grad school, then…good luck finding a job. The market is oversaturated. Whether you’re en engineer or a social worker, you’re pretty much screwed. Sure, you sat at commencement, in your cap and gown, and listened to some stuffy alum from your school–someone famous, like the one guy who made it big from your school–tell you that the world is your oyster, the future of the country lies within your hands, and that you and your fellow graduates will be at the forefront of all the positive changes that the world will see in the coming years…

Enjoy it. Because…this is the last time anyone will ever really tell you that. (And actually make you believe it). Once you get that diploma cover (‘cuz you won’t get your actual diploma till July or August…and by then, you’ll be over it…) and hear your name mispronounced on loudspeaker, you’ll just be a kid, with no experience, competing for an entry-level job, that really doesn’t pay enough for you to be able to move out, eat, shop, go out, buy stuff, AND travel.

You’ll go to work. No one will really care where you graduated from (unless it was the top school in your state, an Ivy league, or a well-known school with an amazing football team). You’ll be a glorified paper pusher for a solid 10 years. Maybe 20…before someone actually trusts you enough to make real decisions. It’s just the way of the world. Your 9 to 5 will make you miserable…and if you hate your 9 to 5, you’ll probably hate your life. But that’s all life is for some. A routine of 9 to 5’s…stops at the grocery store, and weekends to run errands and be lazy. Welcome to being a “grown up”…

Post-Grad Playground

You’ll hear people complain endlessly about their jobs. But no one will do anything about it. They’ll keep working and looking forward to the weekend, a vacation, retirement, heck…even death! And it’s not that these people are lame, boring, dumb, or crazy…they just get stuck in something for a solid 43 years. They’ll be so busy paying bills, organizing their kids carpool, buying anniversary gifts for their spouses, that they’ll actually “forget” that life doesn’t always have to suck.

You’re still young though so you’ll feel a little sorry for them. Unlike them, you’ll attempt to save a portion of your paycheck but you’ll blow the rest on new technology, Netflix bills, and shoes you probably can’t afford. Most of your disposable income will go toward eating and out and buying overpriced alcohol when you meet with your friends to escape the drone of nine-to-five-to-nine-to-five-to-nine-to-five-to-nine-to-five…

You’ll get stuck because well, “If I lose my job, I won’t make rent….” Or “I have a mortgage, I simply can’t quit.” Mind you, each and every one of these financial commitments…even a spouse or kids, just keeps your feet planted at the “company” even firmer. It’s sad. It is. I’ll be the first to admit it. It’s like an addiction…one you can’t escape.

So you’ll stay stuck in a world of unfulfilling days, annoying co-workers (who don’t know when to shut up), and bosses who will terminate you the second they realize you’re no longer profitable. Yup, even the good ones.

This is when the true learning will start. This is when you’ll search in your heart, mind, and soul to discover your passion. Like those people you took classes “about”, you’ll philosophize. You’ll attempt to figure out what gives your life meaning, and how you want to make your mark on the world. This will be your education. And frankly, you’ll learn more—on your couch—web-surfing on your iPad, than you ever did in College.

You’ll eventually come to a place where writing a mere blog entry will be more meaningful than an entire legal brief that could make a big win for your client. And that’s ok. Because you’ll realize that relating to people, and making your voice heard, means more than the words “magna cum laude” on a piece of paper ever could.

If your academic life was where you shined brightly…then work will always be lackluster in comparison.

As for me…I know where my interests and my passions lie. I’m learning what my talents and my strengths are. Someday, I’ll have the courage to toss aside my diploma and focus on reading, learning, and thinking…way more than I ever did in “school”. Cuz’ the truth of the matter is, even though I always knew where I was going, I still don’t know where I’ll end up.

©2012, Leegal Deeva. All rights reserved.