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.