Not a Quitter Anymore

My biggest regret is that I’ve defined myself by my flaws, and abandoned things I liked doing because it got hard or I failed.

I’ve quit a lot of things.

This stupid Pantene commercial made me cry, and realize that I’ve given myself the easy way out about a lot of things: my hearing, my math disability, or whatever is blocking me at the moment. Rather than persevere, I just quit.

I’ve let my hearing-loss get in my way– but this little girl didn’t. She inspires me.

I loved dance and had good rhythm, but was slow to learn choreography and couldn’t keep up with my class. I quit after second grade.

I began to learn piano in third grade, but was annoyed I couldn’t naturally play with both hands at once. And because of my severe hearing-loss, I had to work much harder to listen to my teacher, concentrate on my playing, and hear the chords. I quit.

I was a great swimmer and diver,  learning to swim when I was six and then taking swimming and diving lessons when my Dad got a membership to a great country club when we moved to Illinois in second grade. I was especially good at diving, and wasn’t afraid of the high dive.

But in fourth grade, I saw a boy I liked flip backwards off a diving board at a neighor’s  Fourth of July party. I was next behind him, and wanted to show off. I miscalculated, and wasn’t far out enough– instead I hit my head on the edge and got quite a nasty goose egg for a bit. i was fine, but traumatized. I was afraid to do any of the dives I had learned. I stopped going on the high dive. I quit.

I was great at gymnastics, built perfectly for it.  I’m petite, with that same square build. It makes me me aerodynamic and able to run fast and hard for a short distance to spring on the vault. My friends and I used to watch gymnastics on TV and practice routines on each other’s front lawns. We learned to do a lot of tumbling on our own. I started taking lessons, and began at level three for the floor and vault exercises.  I remember how sore I was after my classes, and how much I loved the fact that I be in perpetual motion with my entire body. I wasn’t chasing after a ball– I was DOING something. It was a terrific rush.

But I was only strong on the vault and floor, with no training at all on the balance beam or uneven bars. I got sick and missed three classes, and when I returned they were doing evaluations. I had weak arms, and still do. Rather than submit to start over and learn the basics on the uneven bars and balance beam, I quit. That’s one of my biggest regrets– who knows what kind of gymnast I could have been?

(Years later, I took a few private lessons, trying to learn to do a back hand-spring. My instructor was great, but I couldn’t afford to keep up the lessons. She told me I had a “powerful run,” and seemed like a natural.)

I attended cheerleading camps in junior high, and excelled at jumps, basket tosses,  and had a strong voice. But I never tried out at school, because none of the other girls in my grade thought it was cool in fifth or sixth grade. I think I started to try out in seventh grade, but felt sick the first day of try-outs and didn’t do too good. I didn’t come back for the second day. I had great tumbling skills, loved to jump around, and could yell loud.

In high school, I didn’t try out for cheerleading because I hadn’t done it in junior high.  Also, I thought the girls doing it were snots!

Freshman year of high school, a friend tricked me into joining cross-country. I was terrible. I got winded easily, couldn’t keep up with the others, and would be two blocks behind everyone else during practices when we ran through neighborhoods. My coach had me run four laps around or campus quad alone instead, because everyone was annoyed.  I would get lost at meets, or run out of breath and have to stop. I’d come in dead last if I finished at all. Once I had to be driven back to the finish line because I didn’t pay attention to the course tour and had a panic attack when I got lost.

At my first opportunity, I tried out for a play. It was “The Miracle Worker,” and I got cast to share the part of Helen Keller. I ratted up my hair, smudged dirt on my face, made my eyebrows straggly. I was short enough to look like a child– only 4’11,” and half-deaf myself. I won the part, sharing it with a senior. I would play the younger version of Helen. I was ecstatic, and quit cross-country.

THAT, I don’t regret. I loved being on stage, and HATED running. So I quit, and only ran first semester.

I love theatre but have difficulty with memorization– and it’s not my passion. I enjoy being in the ensemble, but don’t want the pressure of a lead role. Some day I may return to community theatre and dabble a bit, but right now my work schedule makes this impossible.

I still hate running. I don’t ever see myself being a “runner.” But it’s something I think could help me feel better, sleep better. I’m going to get out and start running a bit, and just see what happens.

But there are things I DO want to learn.

I want to save up and some day, I want to learn piano again. And learn to play with both hands.

I want to take voice lessons, and learn how to control my singing. I have a strong voice, but no idea what I’m singing or how to control it. I’d like to know what my actual “range” is– I know I’m an alto. I just imitate tones I hear, and would like to grow and learn to hold notes, project, and maybe stretch my range if possible.

I want to take a foreign language again– in college, I took Latin. But since I haven’t used it, it’s gone. Maybe I could take it again, or try something similar but more useful, like German. Something I could speak, and something I could actually hear and pronounce.

I want to learn how to do that damn back hand-spring! I will never have enough money or time to do all these– but I’ll spend my life trying.

I’m not going to be a quitter anymore. I want to finish some things I abandoned, and take on some new challenges.

The only thing I’ve consistently done throughout my life is write. And I even quit that for awhile, but now I’m taking it up again.

So many times, I’ve wanted to quit blogging. But I’ve kept this going a year and a half now. And I love it. It’s my freedom. My release.

Helen Keller has always been a personal hero of mine, since I identify with her severe hearing loss. And look at her– she couldn’t see, OR hear. And rather than give into a world of isolation and hateful silence, she blossomed and became an icon.

Helen Keller learned to read, speak out loud. Even write. She wrote books. She delivered speeches, and got over her insecurities about her voice– I’m sure she had them.

I almost wanted to quit my column because I was getting so burned out on it. I’m not going to let that happen.

I’ll work harder, write smarter.

I’m going to be someone who overcomes.

7 comments on “Not a Quitter Anymore

  1. mancuso79 says:

    Godspeed kiddo.

  2. Brooke Skeen says:

    go for it!! i had a very similar realization a week ago… a bunch of things that i’m passionate about that i’ve let fall to the wayside, either out of fear of failure, lack of time, insecurity, different priorities, etc. so i’ve made a goal that in the next year i will –

    a. start writing regularly again
    b. paint (i can draw, but paint is a new medium to me that i’ve always been a little intimidated by but now… it’s exciting!)
    c. find if there is somewhere i can take cello lessons. i’ve ALWAYS played an instrument since i was in fifth grade up until i moved last year, either trumpet or guitar. i miss it SO much. for some reason the cello is calling me, challenge and all (i only read treble clef, so learning bass clef will take some adjustment).
    d. find a physical activity i enjoy… maybe get back into a martial art.

    i think we should cheer each other on… and hey, you can practice that cheerleading you passed up on me! LOL.

    • Thanks Brooke, what a great comment!!

      Your list is doable, go get it! I like that you’re going to back to the arts. 🙂 You should set yourself a minimum goal for writing– like at least 3x a week for a certain amount of time or something. Cello is bad ass, that would be so fun! I think the challenge of learning to read bass clef would add something extra, too. 🙂

      I REALLY need to find a physical outlet myself, and have considered martial arts. Which one did you do before??

      YES, let’s be each other’s cheerleaders!! I call YELL LOUD from here, how about this:

      Don’t be slackin,
      Brooke get crackin’!! LOL *JUMPS!*

  3. Brooke Skeen says:

    LOL! best cheer ever!

    when i was a youngin i took judo for a couple years. to this day i recognize the benefits from it. it really helps with focus, balance & stress relief… not to mention it’s great for us of the pixie-sized variety, as it teaches you how to use your opponents momentum/balance in your favor which helps in understanding how to defend yourself against bigger people trying to over-power you. i also took a cardio kick-boxing class at JJC (non-contact, just work with pads and aerobic technique) that i loved. the instructor encouraged me to compete but i was always to shy about possible injury (not having insurance and all). sometimes i feel like theresa would be smiling if i gave that a shot.

    cello will have to wait until i can afford rental/lessons, but i’m working on a budget for that. funny, i just found out recently that my 9 year old niece picked cello for her instrument.

    as far as writing, i’d like to get a blog back off the ground, and start submitting friday flash stories again. soon will come the first attempt at a novel sized work, but i have to unrusty my creativity & flex my writing muscles a bit longer before i’m ready to take that on.

    i have no excuse for not painting other than “i’ve been busy” so maybe i should deadline that for this weekend…


    Don’t be slackin’
    Brooke get crackin!

    (that’s catchy as all get out. lol)

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