One of the blogs I follow started doing a story telling challenge. It reminded me of all those times at Twin Rocks when lights out turned into story time with topics picked by my campers. Most of the time with them being teenagers, the stories were meant to be something to laugh at. My co-counselors and I wanted to prove that the awkward embarrassing moments from our youth were things to laugh about now. The hope was that our campers would learn we all have our moments.
This was all great until I was compared to Eric Muhr (guy filled with a lifetime of stories valued by many) by one of my campers, and I knew that my stories couldn’t fill those shoes. So to follow along with the blog challenge, I’m going to tell a story even if it’s not as captivating as the ones from Eric.
Something that has always stuck with me.
I grew up in a relatively small town, meaning that unlike larger cities, there wasn’t a wide selection of schools to choose from so I always went to school with the same people every year. We all knew probably too much about each other.
When people looked at me, they saw me stomping and dragging my feet around, wearing clunky leg braces, and/or falling on my face. I did not have a graceful presence, not to mention I had my moments of being that loud obnoxious kid when I was with the right people. The whole leg condition really became a title for me and I hated it.
Some teachers I had who meant well overall I’m sure, did things to accommodate the condition. My third grade teacher gave me a shorter chair than everyone else so that my feet would touch the floor, and it followed me throughout elementary school. If that weren’t embarrassing enough, my PE teachers thought it would be a good idea to put me on a “walking program” because watching me run was too much of a struggle (I might still be spiteful).
So this “walking program” was a huge slap in the face for me, it really put it into perspective that I wasn’t like the other people I grew up with. Someone told me to use it to my advantage though because I would never have to run a mile in the presidential fitness challenge. I let that get to my head and mellowed out later for the remaining time in elementary school.
Middle school followed, and so did that stupid walking program. This time though, people were starting to become jealous. They threw fits when they didn’t get to walk, and some people would fake injuries to join me. Why didn’t I just run? I tried. I would get confronted after class, or sometimes during class by instructors telling me that I’m on a walking program for a medical condition, and I needed to do what I was told. So I walked.
Fast forward to high school. With class scheduling, I was put into a different freshman PE class than the rest of my classmates. I got put into “Advanced Sports Training” because it was the only class with open space. Let me emphasize on that some more, ADVANCED SPORTS!! Meaning the other people in this class (mainly upperclassmen) actually wanted to be there, and could do all the things that I was really lacking on (like a decent mile time).
Thankfully I wasn’t the only freshmen stuck in this class, and only freshmen were required to do things like run a mile, do some pull-ups, ect. There were probably six freshmen in the class, and we all stuck together because we were all awkward and definitely not athletic.
Our instructor was also a body building coach, and he wanted to get the freshmen requirements done right away so that the whole class could work together instead of separating the freshmen. This was my opportunity to get away from the whole walking program thing and pretend like I knew what I was doing (running isn’t the complexity that I was making it out to be).
Right away, my teacher pulled me aside, asking me what’s up with my legs, and I broke down. The poor guy probably wasn’t expecting a flood of emotion, and looking back on it, I realize that the look on his face was not sympathy, it was him being uncomfortable. My mistake for humility worked out though. He told me that he was going to break it down so that the phase for freshmen requirements might take longer, but it would be beneficial. I’m sure the other freshmen in the class hated me for it, but I also like to think they were glad they weren’t being outshined by the upperclassmen.
It was after his class that I decided to play softball again because running became easier once I knew what I was doing. I remember signing up for another PE class that year (it wasn’t required after the first term). We essentially were running a mile every day and it was more of an eye opening experience of knowing that I was capable even though people told me not to. Later on I ended up joining the swim team and that was more fun because it had different challenges, and that was when the running more or less stopped.
My short lived running spree made me feel great because this condition that I’ve always been so embarrassed of was turned off temporarily. The people around during that time in my life just chose to ignore the stomping and dragging of my feet at least, and it was wonderful. There is nothing quite like being able to shut something off and to be content with whatever circumstance.
This is something that stuck with me, and has me thankful that I know what I’m capable of. While running caused a ridiculous amount of leg cramps, swimming didn’t do that to me (at least it was an easier recovery in the water). The gestures from my former teachers weren’t meant as a punishment, they were doing what they thought was best. I just wish someone would have listened to me sooner.