The life not lived

The first time I ever played tennis was on a random weekend in high school with friends because like all kids unaware of the looming and impending threat of growing up, we had nothing to do. I wasn’t special or anything. I hadn’t practised a single day in my life and like all the other loons I was with, the most I knew about tennis was that there were some guys called Roger and Serena and they were kind of a big deal. 

My high school had clay courts. It wasn’t about the fact that they were clay courts but the fact that they were tennis courts. We used to brag about it a lot to our friends from other schools. One day they decided to set up a golf course, don’t overthink it. It was a nice course but not that big, though big enough to brag about. Sorry, I’m going off-topic. I had always played team sports. Pass the ball, fall back and defend, work together, and I’m not saying I hated it. I loved it. In high school, sports were therapy for boys. We play together, against each other, praise each other, and vent at each other. Everything we had bubbled up we threw at each other and whatever happened on the field stayed on the field. We bonded but on some days, on the really bad days we carried it off the field that was never enough cause to split us apart, though if you did a bad job at your role, you’d definitely have a terrible week and would look forward eagerly to the day you could redeem yourself. For the chance to regain your honour. Like Roman gladiators waiting for our next round in the Colosseum. In the name of my father, my father’s father, and my father’s father’s father, I shall never be nutmegged again. Oh, the good old days. 

Back to the tennis part. Tennis was different. When you grab your racquet, when you step on your side of the court, you’re in a box. No one passed the ball badly, no one defended poorly, no one tackled you, and no one got in your way. There was only one other person in front of you and all they did was make sure you saw how imperfect you were. But that day we went to play, that day with all the other noobs, I was the one showing all of them how bad they were and it felt good. Not to sound like a schadenfreude (seeking pleasure in others’ misfortune), not sure if that’s how I should use it in this situation but moving on. It wasn’t their failure that gave me goosebumps, it was the fact that I had found something I could be better at than everyone. The joy in finding something I was good at and never wanted anyone to take that away from me. I was the big fish in a small pond but still, I was the big fish.

The problem about doubling down on your strengths, having just discovered them, is that at times they’re only as good as your ability to use them against others, particularly in sports and hell is always so very close. I know, I know but that‘s the thing that happens when you‘re good at something. You can’t help it when your competitive cells tingle. Everyone‘s your rival. This is the thing you strive for, and fight for. These are the things some die for and live for. The very things that get our hearts pumping. The things that make us look forward to Mondays and dread the Fridays. To find purpose, however small, is a beautiful thing but  reality is a very cruel mistress, and for a species that lives a majority of its life centered around itself, it often doesn’t take long to realize that we‘re the ones rotating around things rather than the other way round. We start this whole thing revolving around everything like toddlers to shiny things and step by step we pick the ones that we like spinning around the most and double down on our Ballette with our chosen universe. Finding our own solar systems to spin around can be a long and often dark path but once we find them, we find others around them too. Under less naive circumstances there‘s a sense of gratitude this should give us. The realization that others love what we love the way we do if not more. The joy in camaraderie. But at this moment, all that encompasses us is the fear that others will take our purpose from us. The need to crush those who oppose you and in doing so, the realization and frustration in seeing how inexperienced you are. The bitter taste of defeat. The thing about being the big fish in a small pond is that you‘re the only one that can get the ball over the net, when the universe decides to put you in a bigger pond, you‘re now the tiny fish in a big pond and all the small fish know how to get the ball over the net. You‘re faced with a decision. Accept your imperfection and grow or wallow in your lack of strength and run away and the cycle begins again.

At the start of this whole thing, I said yes while my friends said no. I entered a whole new world and realizing that I wasn’t as good as those around me, I still said yes. Why? Because it was fun. I can‘t explain to you the thrill of getting good at something. I can‘t talk you into seeing how amazing it feels to see a path among the plethora of options life throws at you and know that there‘s a path where you can actually do something right. You don‘t always start off loving it. You learn along the way and even if you fall out of love with it, the universe throws you back in the baby pond and you pick a new path to learn to love. Some have found their thing and they‘re doubling down right now, others are still trying to figure out what they‘re willing to be bad at because that‘s the only way to be good at anything really. No one came into this world as a magician. Except for Messi. The point is we‘re all bad at things. Very bad in most cases. You‘re not going to be David Blaine the first time you pick up a deck of cards and whether or not you can try to get close [ you won‘t, not in your wildest dreams, don‘t even think about it] it all depends on how willing you are to be bad at something. [ To an extent, the fear of being bad at something does come off as rather odd. I mean, you already are bad at it, really bad heck, probably incredibly horrible at it. Kinda ridiculous to be afraid of something you already are, so you might as well go out swinging].

Under different circumstances, I’d like to believe I would have been an athlete. Maybe it’s because my body feels a bit more flexible since I started working out. I did a few squats and now all of a sudden I think I can take on the world. The confidence seems like a start. But this isn’t the only situation where I could have seen my life go differently. We make decisions every day about things we could do or try to do either small or big, some conscious others unconscious about the things we‘d like to give our 24 hours to. At times we ponder the lives we didn‘t live. Maybe for every decision we don‘t make, a parallel world is created where we made that decision. Do you wonder what your variant is doing right now? Do they think about you too? No they‘re too busy enjoying the fruits of the labour you refused to do. Or maybe they gave up like an hour after you did. I guess you‘ll never know. But there‘s one thing you do know, the life you‘re living now. What do you think you could do to make it a little bit better than yesterday?