In elementary school my older brother and his friends would build these awesome snow forts at recess. Seriously, they were next level... and I wanted in. Needless to say, little sister was not invited to tag along. Still, I would do anything to gain my brother’s approval and to be accepted among the bigger, stronger, snow-fort-building kids.
With snow-fort building season came hockey season in Michigan. I didn’t care about this particular sport but I wanted to show big bro that I was worthy of his company... and his snow forts. As luck would have it, his coach hosted one game where siblings were invited to join the team on the ice. I eagerly laced up my figure skates and buckled my new helmet under my chin for the first time. I sat nervously on the bench and waited for my turn to go out on the ice and prove to the boys that I could hang.
This is the part where I wish I could tell you that I glided gracefully onto the rink, took control of the puck, and skillfully weaved my way down the ice to score the game-winning goal with one powerful shot. My brother would be so impressed that he would never ignore me on the playground again and I would be invited to build snow forts at recess on Monday. Oh happy day.
In reality, I took one step out on the rink, caught the toe pic of my figure skate in a divot, and fell flat on my face. Someone helped me up and I pretended like I was hurt, far too mortified to go back out on the ice. There would be no snow forts in my immediate future.
I’d like to think that I’ve come a long way since the day I tripped on my figure skates and sulked on the bench, but in so many ways I am exactly the same. Though there is no sulking (well, not as much sulking) I am still chasing after anyone who is bigger and stronger. I am still captivated by the idea of success in the face of adversity and by the excitement that comes from accomplishing something that no one expects me to be capable of.
There are days in my adult life that have me feeling like the skinny third-grader left behind on the playground all over again. But that’s my choice. I know that getting better sometimes means putting myself in uncomfortable situations and attempting to do things that are be beyond my ability. I accept the fact that this could result in failure, embarrassment, or being excluded from snow fort building (the greatest tragedy of all!). But the allure of success, the fantasy of scoring the game-winning goal, and the chance to play with the big kids is far more powerful than the fear of falling on my face. Sometimes you just have to lace up those figure skates give it your best shot.
Eventually I was invited into the sacred space of the fifth grade snow fort. I am nothing if not persistent. And as you might have guessed, as soon as I got my hands on that fort, I was peering over its walls for the next challenge. I learned a lot by chasing my big brother around as a kid. The most important lesson of all? Eventually, I actually caught up.