What I learned from my middle school self

I found them while I was looking for something else. They’d been tucked away in a storage bin under my bed along with other relics of their time. Shuffling through papers and old mail and doodles, the hard wood caught my fingers and my attention.

There were two of them, one slightly bigger than the other. A dark wooden plaque with a stone protrusion of a basketball and hoop, each with its own engraving: “Most Improved Player.” “Coaches’ Award.”

I’d nearly forgotten that this part of my life had existed. You have to understand: I am a non-athlete from a family of athletes. All three of my siblings play soccer, and my dad coaches. He also used to coach college basketball, my sister played, and my brother plays.

I am a reader and a writer. I carry around books with dragons and molecules on the covers and I like listening to podcasts. I take art classes, have participated in the theater, and am passionate about science and journalism. Gym class was my least favorite and when forced to play soccer, I was always goalie. My mile run is a number I’m ashamed to type.

I don’t remember what compelled sixth-grade bookish me to sign up for basketball. It wasn’t something I’d ever done. I do remember my dad taking me aside to ask me if this was really what I wanted, and I said yes.

I don’t remember this either, but my dad has told the story enough times. We were well into thee season–a losing team–and he asked me, “Are you enjoying basketball?” I said yes. “Do you think you’re good?”

I laughed. “Oh, dad, I’m the worst.”

All of this came back to me as I looked at the awards this week. It wasn’t that receiving them meant that much–winning “most improved” is easy when you started out as bad as I was–but they sparked a question:

Why don’t I do this anymore?

Not basketball. There’s a good reason I don’t do basketball anymore. But in middle school, I wasn’t afraid to try. I wasn’t afraid of being humiliated, because I was eager to learn. I wasn’t afraid to do something I’d never done before with people who weren’t “my people,” because the point was to do something I’d never done before and all people were my people.

Why don’t I do that anymore?

I don’t have a good answer. But I’m thinking of taking those silly sixth-grade plaques to my college dorm room until I think of one.

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Breanna Joy

Once upon a time, in a far-away land, there was born one chill wintry day a lass who would come to be called Bre. She grew up whiling away the time upon myriad pursuits that would one day shift from pursuits to passions; creative, curious, and mischievous, she loved to read whatever she could manage to get her hands on (in particular novels, those of plot complex, world intriguing, and characters remarkable) — and read she did! She devoured words with so fierce a joy that she grew skillful in wielding such words as her own — story, journal, article, post and poem alike. For other arts, she also nurtured admiration. She loved in her heart the beauteous sound of music and the power it held over emotion and spirit. And she would work with her own hands to sketch and to paint and to correct and to create. One of her deepest passions was the stage, where she would take on a character as if an article of clothing, and live and breathe in another’s skin. In addition, the stories of times past and cultures distant enraptured her fascination, and she dreamed of one day venturing to explore these unknown lands. But these, these were nothing to the true heart of her soul. She found for herself a motley band of what can only be called friends–though some of whom were, truth be told, far more than that to her. They changed her being and resided in her heart. And so she lived, and loved, and dreamt. She dreamt of adventure and beauty and song and story and love and laughter. But far beyond anything else, did she strive with love toward her God. For this was her own great quest, or, if you will, her part in His own great story: to love those in the world, as He had loved her, when she had not loved Him–indeed, when she had turned from Him, hid from Him, rejected Him and ignored Him–He loved her enough to die for her. And so, because of this great love that now burned like a fire inside of her, a blazing beacon, she strove for a life lived in a beautiful harmony to Him who gave her a second chance. As she grew, she became confused, and doubting, and weak, and afraid, and unclean, and she would forget, and go to the world that was pressing at her to give in, in an attempt to satisfy her emptiness, though it would always leave her wanting. But always she would return, and be whole and filled again, made complete and beautiful in her soul. Storms would come and battles would rise; she would be tried and tested in many ways, and even so the story continues, but know ye this–He held her and led her all her days, and in the end, He would bring her to His own happily ever after.

One thought on “What I learned from my middle school self”

  1. This is beautiful…

    I’m also a non-athlete from a family of athletes. My mom and dad never did anything beyond high school, but we grew up watching sports on TV all the time, and occasionally in person (something I still enjoy), and my brother played basketball and baseball all his life, and he now coaches basketball at one of the schools he used to play against. I did math and played with computers and video games, and I quit sports at age 6 when my tee-ball coach made me cry. (I attempted trying out for football at 15, as I wrote about a few months ago, but quit after the first full day of practice.)

    But that’s a great idea to take those plaques with you. Trying new things is always a good idea, something I’m still learning at my age…

    Like

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