Learning to the song of the beeps
Leaning against the padded gym wall, I gasped for breath. My lungs burned. My legs felt wobbly. And I was going into shock.
Out on the floor, some of the other kids were still running in synchrony with the beeps emanating from the portable stereo. It was assessment week in gym class. Today’s test? Run the marked lane and cross the line before the beep. Then turn around and run back before the next beep. And again. And again. If you failed to keep up with the quickening beeps, you had to leave the course and your time was marked.
Gym class was one of those things that could only be endured. Why it should be part of my curriculum, I couldn’t fathom, although I’ve oft suspected that some parts of school were implemented purely to torture the students. As far as I was concerned, ping-pong and written tests were the only pleasant aspects of the class.
Yet at the announcement of this upcoming test, I took an unusual interest in the event. It was something that was scored. Therefore I wanted to do well. Obviously, I would do well. No half-measures for me, no apathetic dragging of my feet. Determination would win the day. I’d run until the cassette tape quit.
Still panting, I slid down the wall to the gymnasium floor. Something had gone horribly wrong. I struggled to work it out as my heart worked double time to supply my brain with oxygen. Then I had it:
I gave it my all, but it wasn’t good enough.
At sixteen years old, I was slapped with the realization that the adage I’d lived by all my life, “you can do anything you set your mind to,” wasn’t actually true. My world had been turned upside down.
Naturally good at all things school, I was used to success. I loved learning. I relished every academic challenge and persevered through the toughest of them to “win.” I was also artistic, musical, and creative. What couldn’t I do?
Run to the cadence of gym class beeps, apparently.
A day later, the shock was wearing off and I was laughing with my friend. “You thought you could just decide to ace the test?” I was embarrassed to admit that I had. I hadn’t considered that there was a physical dimension that might eclipse my will.
And truly, I hadn’t considered that there could be something I wasn’t good at. Oh, but it felt good to laugh at my folly!
As funny as it sounds, that day in gym class changed my life. It opened my eyes to the fact that I’m not good at everything. I began to notice and accept my shortcomings, and even admit them out loud.
But do you know what else is funny? I didn’t realize until after college that I could actually learn to do better at things I’m not naturally good at. Not easily or quickly, and maybe not to the point of greatness, but it's possible to improve.
I now see what was obvious to the rest of the world: I probably would have done better in the gym assessment if I had trained for it!
I wonder what I’ll learn next?