Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way

I'm up to my eyes in alligators, as they say in the south when deadlines loom, computers are being reformatted, and life is just not cooperating at all!  So I'm reposting one of my favorite posts from December 1, 2009, called "Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way."  I hope you like it, too.

Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way 


Today I reached 200 followers -- and I'm humbled and thrilled. Thank you! I have followers on Facebook, and I have followers who have me in their RSS feeds and readers, but seeing that number "200 Blogger Followers" makes me so incredibly happy. Thank you. I love you all, and you have no idea what it means to me.

I've been thinking about following and it brought to mind a story I'm going to tell you. Some of you may find yourself nodding and understanding. Some of you may find yourself laughing -- and that's ok! I've told this story to my son when he's having trouble not accepting that he can't be The Best the first time he tries something (He is DEFINITELY my son!).

The Track Team, or
Lead, Follow, or Get Out of the Way.


I have never, ever been good at gym. Ever. In fourth grade, I could only do five sit-ups in a minute for the Presidential Fitness Test. In fifth grade, I fell and broke my arm doing the shuttle run for the same stupid fitness test. Two weeks after THAT cast was taken off, I broke the OTHER arm wrecking a bicycle. And my first broken leg was when I was nine months old. Not nine years old. Months. I've since broken my leg two more times (#2 -- running during Air Force Basic Training, #3, stepping into a hole).

Do you see a theme here?

Yet in high school, for some UNKNOWN reason, I decided to go out for the track team.

I've never been a runner. I hadn't been a runner before I signed up for try outs. I basically walked by the sheet of paper taped to the wall and signed my name. To this day I really can't figure out why in the world I did that.

Scholastically, I did just fine in school, but socially, I didn't fit in, and I was always trying to find my place. I wanted to BE someone, to be good at something, and I suppose something deep inside me realized the track team was too small for there to be any cuts (so I'd be accepted no matter what -- bonus!) and if I joined the team, I'd have to try, because I refuse to quit.

After two days, I wanted to quit.

The coach was an assistant football coach, and I know that deep down (and probably not that deep down) he wished like heck he could cut me. I sucked. I was horrible. I wasn't a runner at ALL. I basically joined the team as a lump of "teach me". I had no idea I'd be running so much, which is pretty stupid on my part -- I'd joined the flipping TRACK TEAM. After two days, I was exhausted.

The other problem was since our team was small, we didn't have enough people to cover quite all the events at meets. All the other girls were great (and also not wild that I was crashing their party), but they could only be expected to do so many events. Therefore, I became the Spot Filler. Since the coach never took the time to train me, cut me, or figure out what I might become decent at, I never got good at anything.

One meet, I'd run the mile -- and get lapped. Twice. One meet, I'd try the hurdles -- and fall over the first one. Another meet, I kid you not, I threw the shot put, and barely missed my foot. Keep in mind, in high school I weighed about 100 pounds and was 5'2". Why the shot put?

But I never quit.

I did, however, feel like a colossal failure.

Enter, again, the dreaded Presidential Fitness Test. You remember -- the one where I couldn't do a sit up and broke my arm doing the shuttle run? Oh, and where I lasted on the flexed arm hang only 1.3 seconds?

Here's where I found out that the hours of running actually paid off. I may have been woefully out of my league on the track team, but my insistence of sticking it out really paid off when it came to running the 600 meter run. The gym teacher yelled, "Go!" and I took off at my normal track team pace.

And that's when I realized -- I was waaaaay ahead.

Not just a little bit ahead -- a lot ahead.

At first I thought it was a joke, but this wasn't a teenage feel-good movie or a Napoleon Dynamite moment where everyone roots for the underdog. I'd done it -- I'd gotten good at something. It just wasn't what I'd expected to get good at.

I didn't end up crossing the finish line first, but I was most definitely not the last. The look on my gym teacher's face was worth it all, and the feeling inside me was immense. I'd done it. I still sucked eggs at track, and running has never become a favorite past time. But I kept with the track team, embarrassing and humiliating as it was, and I found that winning didn't always mean crossing the finish line first.

There are all sorts of finish lines in life.

Lori Anderson creates jewelry for her web site, Lori Anderson Designs, and wrote the blog An Artist's Year Off.  She's also a contributor to Art Bead Scene.  She is also the creator of the Bead Soup Blog Party.


  1. I love it. It sounds oddly famliar, except, I was recruited for the track team, because the gym teacher was certain with my long legs I was a runner. NOT! I hated running. I wasn't fast. I walked the mile. I tripped over hurdle. And I quit.
    I wish I had stuck it out, and I applaud you for doing so!
    your humility in sharing inspires me:)

  2. Lori, I love this story. For me, my bad sports move was to join the rugby team in college - and even though I was not very good at all... (I'm also 5'2 and I'm not at all aggressive) I stuck with it - through 3 (yes 3) undergraduate colleges and I even tried it for one season when I moved to NYC. Now, I may not have become an awesome runner for gym/pe class but because I played rugby in NYC I met a woman who would be a roommate in an apartment with another woman who ended up introducing me to my husband. I may have been a B team replacement but dang it - I met an awesome man (in a roundabout way) because of it. That, and I learned all about the real meaning of the word team but that's another story =)

  3. Since I wasn't on blogger when you first did this post, I really appreciate it that you reposted it. I can so relate to the high school kid. Not only did I suck at all sports, but I never tried out for any of the voluntary ones, so I didn't get your experience. I did try out for cheerleader, with my friend who was only trying out because her mom made her. She really, really didn't want it. I really, really did. I worked harder, and was better at the tryouts. We both knew it. She got picked. We both realized at that point that "politics" were a part of our lives now. I too, have become good at things I never would have dreamed for myself. I am learning new things about me every day. Wish I could have known this me 20 years ago, when that me had a better body! Oh well, guess I'll just have to accept my stunning personality, and stop with that! :)

  4. I sucked at gym too and hated that Presidential Fitness Test! Hope everything crazy in your life starts to work out for you.

  5. Great story and one that should be shared. I was on track team but I did have a few events I was decent at.

  6. Great story Lori. I always joined up for sports too when I was in school. I am only 5' 1/2" tall, and at the time was barely 100 lbs soaking wet, so I never did very well either. All those long legged girls just sailed on past me, while my little short legs just pumped away as fast as I could - going nowhere, lol.

  7. Anonymous5:21 PM

    That was great.... I am in the best company...There isnt much grace here either!
    ...Have a night!

  8. Lori, CONGRATS on your 200 readers!

    I love reading old posts, you know some of them are so good they deserve more than one turn, that's why I like to browse older posts.

    I never fit in either, and I LOVE your adventurous perseverence. Sometimes in life you have a grouping of flowers like roses, and then you will see a lovely sunny robust daisy sprout up with them. Right smack dab in the middle of the roses and thorns and everything. Be yourself and be bold. You are the unique single beauty amongst the bunches.

  9. Oh, I hated gym so so much. I couldn't do any of it -- esp. the gymnastics section. Getting over that horse was IMpossible. I don't have a happy ending to this story either. I was a good swimmer in a school w/o a pool so that did me no good whatsoever. But it was the only athletic thing I could do w/ confidence. Imagine my horror when I went to college and discovered we had PE requirement. Lordy...

  10. What an inspirational post! Wow, lady you broke your leg way to much!

  11. I too had never seen this post and quite enjoyed it! Thanks

  12. Lori, what a blast from the past! I do remember this post from way back when! If I wasn't reading closely, you would have had me confused! Or maybe it's just late... :-)

  13. Great great post Lori! Yes there are all kinds of winners. You know sticking in brings so many rewards that lead onto other things such as carachter.

  14. Wow, great story, you have come a long way in life ... and in followers since then. Congrats on both.
    There are definite advantages to sticking to something, perseverance is a great teacher.
    I have never run in my life...except to catch a bus or tram, and, at my age I don't expect to start. Interestingly, I sometimes dream about it...don't know what that means! Thanks for sharing, Lori

  15. Love, love, love that story. Thanks for sharing this! And I can totally relate to it. I so sucked at gym too. And I really admiring you for joing the tracj team, I would have never done that - not in a million years. You totally rock!

  16. I really enjoyed reading that post Lori and so much felt familiar to me too. My nickname in high school was crumpet, my friend finally told me why as we were getting ready to graduate. She said when she first met me, in gym class, it looked more like I was ready to have tea and crumpets than play basketball! So right. i think us artist types are generally not very athletic as a rule. Thanks for sharing!

  17. You are *such* a good writer! You *really* know how to tell a story--how to build up to a turning point, how to keep it focused on your theme. I hope on your "to do" list in the future is sending out some of these stories so people beyond your blog can appreciate them.

  18. This had me ROFL, but it is so familiar. Did much the same sort of thing at school (not the broken limbs thank goodness) but really SUCKED at any sports. Practised for weeks with a special friend (who also was a dud at sports) for of all things, the three legged race. Thought we had it made, took off at a great pace, both fell flat and came last!


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