I turned down playing pool more than once in my life. Grandma C. had a table in her basement that always lured me when we visited once or twice a year. There were usually not many kids my age to play with, so I often ventured down there alone, possibly with a cousin or two I didn’t really know. I was young, maybe 10 or 11. Too cool to hang with mom and dad, but not cool enough to hang with my older brother or cousins. SO, off to the basement I would go, pick up the pool stick and shoot the balls around. I never really knew how to play. No one ever really taught me. I was 21 and in a local bar with some friends. We went to that specific hang out because it had a few nice pool tables. There I was, standing against the wall, a comfortable spectator. I was in a club when I was in my mid twenties and felt bad because my date wanted to play pool and of course I didn’t. I have been asked so many times by so many people in my life and each time, I found a reason not to play. I call them reasons, but I guess they’re really excuses.
The funny thing is, it’s not that I hate the idea. I just didn’t know if I would be good at it. So I just wouldn’t try. Not in front of people, anyway.
When I was 11, it wouldn’t have been a big deal. I wasn’t supposed to know how to shoot pool. But by the age of 25, you would think I would have figured it out. I didn’t want to not succeed. Period.
Ahhhh, sweet perfectionism. Self-admittedly, one of my best qualities, and at the same time one of the simple things that has held me back so many times in my life. I know I am not alone in that. Often, the athletes I work with sit in the chair across from my desk in my office and talk about how they beat themselves up if they walk a batter, or allow a goal to score, or just not get it right. One time can send us freefalling into negative self-talk. We say some amazing things to ourselves when no one is listening. The problem? WE ARE listening… and in that case, we continue to tell ourselves we aren’t good enough or we can’t do something. No one else may even know. But we do, and that’s all that matters. So I hid the fact that I was afraid to play pool because I was afraid of being bad at something I didn’t know how to do. I just told people I didn’t like to play. How silly…it’s pool. Really not a big deal, right?
Well, for me it was. Fear can be paralyzing. And I am writing about it because it’s my story. It affected me more than I knew.
Until a Saturday afternoon at a friend’s house not so long ago for a graduation party.
I have a wonderful friend who has an amazing way of reminding me of the simple joys in life. Anyone who knows Ryan knows her amazing heart and the beauty she sees in the simple things. She was at the party too with her parents and older sister and wanted nothing more than to play pool with me. Finally, I couldn’t say no any longer. I knew she would be horribly dissapointed if I didn’t play. I picked up a stick with a few other people around and knew it was time. Of course, it was the most fun I had had in a long time. Ryan took away my need to do it perfectly, and reminded me just sharing that time with her that she still talks about to this day was a simple joy. Pool was just the vehicle. I was excited to have overcome a hurdle. Little did she know that day, she actually helped me get past one of my fears. It wasn’t about pool at all, it was about me not wanting to fail. Yeah, I hit some bad shots, but also actually had some good ones. It was kind of fun… and I found out that I wasn’t so bad at it after all.
I am still a perfectionist… it’s like a disease. But I laugh at myself a lot more now, and I am not afraid to fail. I know that if I fall flat on my face, I am 5 feet 11 inches closer to where I want to go. I get up, and I keep moving, one step in front of the other. I learned what a “scratch” is, and I know, metaphorically speaking, I have done that a hundred times in my life. So you take the penalty and you keep moving. I feel like I have gotten past a lot of the negative parts that perfectionism can carry. I have accepted my failures and always vow to learn from them. It’s kind of fun to laugh at yourself when you make mistakes. I have learned a lot about myself that way. I am proud of those accomplishments… I got over a lot of hurdles.
And I did play pool…