A couple of disclaimers before I start: First, I’m writing this about an hour past my bedtime. So, if you think my typing/editing is bad on a good day, I anticipate the pain level to be turned up 10 notches before I finally hit “Publish”. Please say a tiny prayer now that my editor David has seen this before you had to endure reading it. Second, I’m about to brag. In the past you’ve seen the “strong language ahead” warnings, but today, today is a brag warning since I recognize that listening to people brag (or reading their posts) may cause involuntary eye rolling. I get it. Feel free to call it good at this point and return to your regularly scheduled email/social media browsing. I’m sure, without much browsing effort, that you can enjoy fun astronomy tidbits like how the moon is actually part of Mars. Fingers-crossed they reinstate Pluto as a planet soon. C’mon little guy, I’m pulling for you! Anyway…
Beth and Bragging
Let me start with some backstory: it’s a rare day that I brag. Sure, I do it on occasion, but most days I don’t feel I’m doing something so amazing that it warrants a herald shouting it from the rooftops. I just kind of do my thing – nothing really special about that. I’m ordinary – a bit dry-witted, and exceptionally sarcastic (my parents are so proud). If you were actually to pin me down and say, “Beth, name two things you feel you do well,” I’d tell you, “I’ve got great penmanship,” and, “I’ve got a great smile.” That’s really it. I can smile and sign things like a champ, and smiling is really not a thing I do; it’s genetics. My parents get more credit there. If you asked for a third thing, I’d struggle and then would probably offer up uncomfortably, “I’m the current holder of most f-bombs dropped on a Monday.” (Again, my parents are super proud.) In all fairness though, being asked repeatedly for sage advice about an upcoming potluck pushed all of my crazy buttons (there are multiple buttons varying in severity, but asking about the potluck was like you’d smashed all of those buttons at the same time). I started wanting to say, “I don’t have a dog in that fight, Carol – my ‘give a fox’ are super low,” but found that was taking much too long, especially when I could more easily give someone a wild-eyed look and carpet bomb them with colorful expletives. Hey, it’s seriously more effective at conveying the message of: “I’ve lost my mind. Now, lay down your offering right now, don’t lose eye contact, back away very slowly, and RUN!”
I’m also not particularly big on praise. Sure, I love it. Who doesn’t enjoy being told they’re good? valued? or what have you? That’s great. Thanks! But whatever I’m being praised for, I typically don’t feel – not deep down. I remember being at a friend’s grandfather’s in high school. She was introducing me and heaped on the praise. I demurred; it felt so keenly uncomfortable – like bragging, but bragging that was out of my control. And I didn’t want to say, “Why yes, I actually am as brilliant as she suggested. In fact, I feel she held back and didn’t quite capture the radiant and spectacular being that I am. Now get your genuflection on, briefly bask in my glory, and toddle on, please. Good day. I said, good day, sir!”
Yeah, that’s just not me. I keenly remember his cool response as he considered me with a frown and said, “False modesty is a sin.” I just blinked as if I’d been slapped. Needless to say, I’ve flipped him off multiple times in my mind for decades now. It’s to the point that if I were given the opportunity to go back in time, I’d revisit that moment (once I’d finished having dinner with Jay and my Mom, of course). I’d pop into teenage me, and treat him like it was a bad Monday and he’d just asked whether people enjoyed pizza from a donut shop at a potluck. In other words, I would have sworn a lot at an old man. (FYI, donut shops shouldn’t serve pizza. I’m just saying. That’s not a thing.)
Hrmmm… I probably should have thrown in a language warning, too. Oh well.
Another Small Story
There’s another piece of my story you need to understand before I get to the brag. My Mom was an athlete. She played tennis, badminton, basketball, and speedball. Mom bowled and swam and occasionally played volleyball. She could ice skate, as well. When she was a girl, her idol was Babe Didrikson, and she’d work on her forehand/backhand against the garage door. Growing up, I was taught to idolize Billy Jean King. The game against Bobby Riggs was a huge deal at our house. I was taught to worship Little Mo, too. On Saturdays, Mom would go off and play tennis with her girlfriends, or she’d drag me to a pool where she’d swim a mile or two while I splashed around.
Being an athlete was part of her identity, and then she had me. I was never headed down that road. I was clumsy, slow, and bad at almost every sport she dropped me into. I spent one summer, where I was forced into little league, sitting on the bench in the dugout for almost every game, because I’d do insane things like swing at balls rolling on the ground or I’d daydream while hanging out in the outfield. At nine years old, no one can really hit that far – at least in our league – so I didn’t feel a need to engage with what was happening on the field. In tennis, I was decent at serving aces, but terrible at returning balls over the net. Gymnastics was a complete disaster, and we don’t need to talk about volleyball ever. I was also the only kid in our pre-K group who couldn’t pass the swim test. Now some of that can be attributed to having no interest in the sport at hand, but the other part of that was my depth perception was/is poor. Eh, but mostly it was that I had no interest; I wasn’t Mom. Sports weren’t my thing. I enjoyed reading books, listening to music, and staring at the stars.
Now there are a lot of great things about my Mom, but when it came to sports Mom didn’t hold back. She would let me know how disappointed she was in my lack of athletic ability. She once told me she wanted an athlete, and I felt guilty that she got a book nerd instead. Eventually, how I viewed my physical abilities bubbled-up during one of the initial assessments with my trainer. I had a lot to offer about what I wasn’t… what I couldn’t…
At some point Jenn and I had a frank talk, and I’m going to misquote a bit, but know this is what my takeaway was, “Beth, I’ve worked with you and seen how you perform. You are not uncoordinated; you have athletic ability. I just think you were never directed to the right sport, and didn’t have someone really working with you.” (Jenn used some of those words, if not all of them. Ok, she may have only said, “the,” but hey I got some of the quote right? Maybe? Look, I’m not a professional journalist!)
The Actual Brag: What You Came Here For
Whew! You’re caught up! Hi, Buddy!
Now that we’ve knocked out all of that background fluff, I can move on to the brag. Here we go! Today I went to my lessons – week four of my Advanced Beginning Class, and eight weeks into swimming. My swim coach pulled me aside, away from the rest of the group, and said my freestyle was looking good, especially my side breaths. She was also very happy with my backstroke. Apparently, all I need to do in order to advance to the next level is learn the breast stroke and work on increasing my stamina (I still get winded, which drives me crazy – I mean, I can actually row for nearly two hours, yet swimming 25 meters, much less 50, which probably takes a few minutes tops, is incredibly challenging.) All that said though, I’m pretty excited about arriving at another new level. And to think I got here without sitting in my chair and holding my breath. GO ME!
And what it tells me is that there’s a lot I can do – things I never thought I could, yet here I am. I’m swimming. I’m rowing. I’m deadlifting. I’m throwing weight bars over my head, I’m squatting, and I do it six days out of the week. So, maybe if I could go back in time, in addition to Monday-screaming at my friend’s grandfather (who’d want to pass on that opportunity), I’d also stop by to visit me and say, “hey, you’re not your Mom. Those sports aren’t your thing, but take a look at these other things. You’re going to rock those. “
Anyway, it’s a small brag, but this non-athlete was pretty pleased with herself today.