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There's Always One

I shouldn’t also have to partake in the emotional arithmetic of mental gymnastics too

Being told at ten-years old, that-- “You’re the worst person on the team, and anyone who gets stuck with you as a partner or as a group, will automatically lose.” --is something that really does deep-seated irreparable traumatic damage to a child’s tenderly and formative psyche. You know, it’s not like I wanted to partake in gymnastics in the first place, or whatever. So, why did I even bother saying I wanted to? Well, because I felt like it was something that was societally expected of me. That I was supposed to do it. If anyone’s bound to be susceptible to a litany of stupid worldly pressures, it’s a young child trying to find their place in the world. Even at ten-years of age, I still had a better sense of judgement in my gut, that I foolishly never listened to. Old habits truly do die hard, I guess.

Being in an environment where everyone makes it publicly known that you’re the only person who’s unwanted and everyone absolutely hates you, thanks to one ringleader in particular is bad enough. It’s even worse when you tell your parents that you’re totally being bullied and they utterly invalidate your feelings, assuring you that “It’s not that bad.” and that “You’re just trying to find an excuse to quit”. Now, I know I’m in physical gymnastics, but I shouldn’t also have to partake in the emotional arithmetic of mental gymnastics too, in order to convince my legal guardians that they’re putting me in a toxic environment for one hour a week, every week. But don’t worry, we’re all patched up now. Promise. I have the most wonderful and loving parents a kid could ever hope to ask for. In every other instance in my life, they've made me feel deeply loved and supported. I guess that's why it just makes this one particularly sharp aerobic moment feel like a such a jarring isolated incident.

Alright, so doing somersaults and cartwheels are absolutely outta the question. You know what I do actually like doing? America’s Favourite Past Time. The great game of baseball. To this day, still my favourite sport. Even though baseball is far more up my alley, it doesn’t matter, because there’s always one. I can’t speak for everyone, but I feel fairly confident in saying that most people trying out for baseball teams at some point in their life-- want to be pitchers. It’s the most glamorous, exciting and spotlight-y of all the positions on the diamond. If you grow up in a baseball world, as a kid, you dream of nothing more than throwing a 95MPH fastball in the Majors on National TV.

Can confirm I sadly can’t throw a 95MPH fastball. In any bracket-- in any league-- on any base-- or even-- on any basis. Well, there goes that dream. The only thing worse to a kid than not being a great-- or heck-- even a good pitcher-- is someone else being a bully. Both on and off the mound, by telling you at every possible opportunity afforded to them, that you’re the worst person there. This feels... similar. Like a glitch in The Matrix, it’s like I’m getting a weird sense of déjà vu, here. Only this time, my bully has zero actual real skills to back it up. Any of it. Look, if you wanna talk smack, that’s one thing. How do you think I’ve succeeded in life thus far? But you have to actually be able to deliver on the goods, in order to do that.

I can’t tell you the number of times I’d be banished far, far away-- shuffled off toward the Siberian outfields. All the while watching this supposed “god amongst mere mortals”, throw ball after ball, after ball. Ultimately to do nothing more than walk so many players around the diamond, and subsequently lose us the game. Time and time again. You do know the point of pitching is to strike people out, right? You do know that, right?

Unfortunately, you don’t have a voice here, because the bully in question is the most popular kid, who’s much older and also much bigger than you. Your vote doesn’t count for much in these here dog-eat-dog-days, of summer.

The best possible position on a baseball diamond is without question, First Base. Why? Because there’s always action. Someone’s always running toward it, and more often than not, someone’s always running away from it. Plus, it forces the pitcher you hate with the passion of a thousand boiling-hot suns to actually do their job for once-- and fire the ball back at you. And when you get that runner out at First, you get all the glory and all the praise. Yeah, thanks for the assist there, ya jerk... oh wait, nobody cares.

On top of being subservient to stunting posers on your team, as you grow older and join tougher leagues, you’re also subjected to pitchers on the other team who also don’t know how to throw a proper curve, or even a slider, for that matter. So-- you get hit. A lot. Almost every time you go up to the plate, in fact. You get hit so many times at bat, the idea of being anywhere near the plate scares and scars you. There’s nothing more embarrassing as a small child trying to be accepted, than getting beaned so hard by a baseball at home plate that it knocks you flat on your back. This can only happen so many times before you break, and fatefully wanna change sports.

Soccer sounds fun. Can I play soccer next year, instead? You do soccer for a handful of years and uh... really find your, ahem... footing. But there’s always one. This time it’s the coach’s kid.This time, your arch-rival is the same age as you, so you’re now... on an even playing field. You start becoming really good at this sorta soccer thing. Feels good. By your own volition you know you’re not the best player on the team, but you’re probably something like third or fourth. You’re happy to be in that spot collecting The Bronze, or barely off the podium, gratefully shining your Copper Participation Coin.

And yet, the coach’s kid is the second worst, if not the worst player on the team. Only this time, they’re not the most popular kid. Somehow, you’re more popular than they are. It’s a weird feeling to have that wash over you for the very first time, because it feels like such an alien trait to your very developmental corpus. Albeit-- you learn to like it.

By nature of being “the coach’s kid”, they have absolutely laughable delusions of grandeur. They take every opportunity to knock you down a peg, when you never did anything to warrant such aggression in the first place. Lemme tell you, there’s nothing more satisfying than watching the coach’s kid get benched in the final game of the season-- by their own parent—then watching them sob in public embarrassment-- on the sidelines-- in total agonizing failure. All before you end up getting a whole Hat Trick on your own. I think this was also probably the supervillain origin story to my modern-day smug aura. Explains a lot.

Being a kid has its fair share of challenges, but whatever you face in your early adolescence, is nothing compared to the terrifying trials and turbulent tribulations hurled at you-- like a relentless army of trebuchets-- that are your adulthood. But that is a whole other hit-piece of a chapter for another time.

As a kid, all you wanna do is grow up. But when you’re finally a grown-up, all you wanna do-- is be a kid again. There’s something terribly, awfully, ironically sad about that.


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