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.

a

Advertisements

For my daughter: be brave

Be brave, little girl.
Life is hard
but it is also sweet.
You could rock this world.
Some days, I know, you feel weak,
but you, my girl, are a nevertheless.
These days are the ones
that prove you are strong
so shake the earth
climb a mountain
break a wall
write a song
cross a sea
tell a story
for words
are
powerful.
Little girl, listen to mine.
Treasure the sunrise
and fear not the night,
for night
is the only time
we can see the stars shine.
A million miles away,
they burn with a fury
we can’t always see,
but they’re at their brightest when the sky is darkest so
I know
You will be afraid
You may feel ashamed
Your heart, it will break
You’ll lose what felt safe
And you’ll grow tired of the days
upon days
lived in a haze
You’ll keep trying to chase
what you wanted to say
But when you can’t find your way
be brave
because you’ll be surprised
by grace.
That’s the best thing about it–
it’s surprising.
Bare your colors to the world
fearless, unashamed,
exuberant in becoming.
Let loose your mind
and release your grasp
on all that holds you still behind
and fly.
Don’t be afraid of impossible falls or unscalable walls
You have the gall to withstand the squall
so stand tall!
Leap into the mountain air
Feel the feathers in your hair
Brush the treetops with your fingertips and
hold the dewdrops, golden-kissed
and live.
Feel the fullness of creation and
be whole,
realizing the beauty of it all.
Be a star amid the dark
and be brave,
for there will come a day
when all of this will fade
and I want you to be glad
that you made
a difference.
Be different, and unashamed.
Become the truest version of yourself
and learn to be a path-maker
culture-shaper
world-shaker
wall-breaker
change-creator.
It’s in the small things,
the little things in the quiet place.
For the silent people, you will speak,
And you will whisper in their ears:
Be brave.

To the Revolutionaries

d

This one goes out to the world-changers,

the earth-shakers,

the custom-breakers, culture-shapers, change-makers.

This one goes out to the crazy ones,

the believing ones,

the brave ones,

the faith-filled ones.

The ones who are terrified to act

but more terrified of what it means if nobody does.

The ones who live with their eyes open and their hands free.

The ones who recognize that they’re only here once–

they only get one shot,

one chance,

one life,

one blip on the radar of time

–once, and they’re the ones

who try and make something of it.

The ones who go beyond influence

to impact.

The ones who leave their mark,

a legacy,

a torch still burning

to be carried by the next generation

of world-changers,

earth-shakers,

custom-breakers, culture-shapers, change-makers.

With one foundation forming their reputation

they go

and they live

the lives that we remember.

Together

we could be

the next generation of world-changers,

earth-shakers,

custom-breakers, culture-shapers, change-makers.

We could be

the ones that carry the torch,

ignite the flames

of change.

We could be

the generation to live,

to really live,

to live alive and thrive, not just survive.

Not looking to make it through

but to make it matter.

Not looking for my own glory, my own fame,

my own dreams, desires, wants, name.

But for something bigger, something

more.

I’m still looking out for number one

it’s just that maybe number one

has a different name than me.

His name

is Jesus.

And this December

there’s a day that we remember

not for lights,

not for food,

not for glitter and gold,

not for commercialism,

consumerism,

or commonplace contamination,

but for someone

who knew that we could never get to God,

never reach that standard of perfection,

made it so we didn’t have to–he offered me redemption.

It’s the awesome gift of grace:

we call it commonplace,

take it for granted,

because we don’t understand it,

but it comes in the shape

of a cross.

So say thanks

and start a movement

spread the blaze

there’s still time for change,

so be brave.

Change the world, shake the earth,

move a mountain if that’s what it takes

to step out in faith.

Take a risk,

take a chance,

because you only get one–chance, that is–

so make it matter, if you want to be a

world-changer,

an earth-shaker,

a custom-breaker, culture-shaper, change-maker.

The kind of revolutionary

that Jesus was. Carry the torch,

and march on,

in faith.

–Bre