• home
  • about
  •  

    The Last One Picked

    I’m going to start this one in 1989. I was in kindergarten, and I couldn’t skip. My gym teacher was tenacious. She had me stay after class so she could teach me in privacy, and I could tell she was confident I’d learn. Unfortunately, I was probably the first to stump her. Finally, after weeks of trying to teach me, she asked me to write a poem about my muscles. She submitted it to various magazines, and it won a few awards. My mom had the poem professionally printed and framed; my kindergarten teacher bragged to her colleagues and my peers; even my gym teacher felt a sense of pride. I- on the other hand- was mortified. I knew my gym teacher had given up on me. And until a few months ago, I had given up on myself too.

    ***

    Fast forward three years later. I still had the same gym teacher, but now that I was in third grade, we played organized sports. It doesn’t get much worse. Whether it was baseball, or basketball, or even dodge ball, we always had two team captains that would pick their teams. When it came to my athletics, not much had changed in the three years. Yes, I had finally learned how to skip, but still- I was remarkably uncoordinated. And as a result, I was often the last team member to be picked. I vividly remember praying in my head that one of the captains would pity me or even see the good in me and choose me. Dan- the most athletic kid in the class- happened to also be a math wiz… or at least in his opinion he was. As he and the other captain would pick their players, I’d watch him count under his breath to see who would end up with the last choice. I stood tall and confidently even though I was slouched down, kicked to the curb internally.  Perception is reality. Appear confident. Appear desirable. I was a smart kid- no one could deny that. In fact, I was so smart, that I knew I had other team-member attributes to offer other than just coordination. While most of my peers probably didn’t know other attributes even existed, I knew I was loyal and put in the most effort. Unfortunately, when you’re ten, no one cares. If you can’t catch- and you’re scared of the ball- you’re last.

    Sometimes Dan would put me on his team, second to last. And that was great! Beggers can’t be choosers. It wasn’t because I was better than the last one picked. It was because he was doing me a favor. For lack of a better phrase, he too had given up on me.

    ***

    Fast forward 17 years later and I live in New York.  I had just moved here, and I was astonished at how workout-conscious everyone seemed to be. Here, it’s expected to squeeze a workout into a busy day- even if that means working out at 5:00am. Exercise is everywhere- taking over prime real estate, on billboards, in the parks, on the street… this city’s a healthy heart advertisement. I, someone who walks with a labradoodle for about 10 miles a day, felt pretty in shape when moving here from Chicago. However, after living in a city full of strong, motivated go-getters, I felt the need to strengthen up. So I tried Pilates. After purchasing an online deal for a few private sessions, I found myself confronted with an impressively flexible and agile woman. I sensed frustration from the onset. While I remained open-minded, I knew she had given up on me from the moment I awkwardly hung from the bar.  It was insulting. She removed herself from the situation and seemed to be looking everywhere but my direction. Was I that pitiful to watch? Before I could even feel insecure, rage overcame me. Hanging there, I was in danger, and frankly, I was disturbed that I was putting my life in this dimwit’s hands. As she mindlessly text messaged, images of “anti-texting while driving” commercials flashed through my mind. Was that text message really worth it? As she winced at my pitiful form, I dangled helplessly, thinking to myself I’d love to see this bitch prove a thesis that the gods are jealous of epic heroes. She gave up on me, so I gave up on Pilates.

    ***

    And then I tried Soul Cycle. Walking into the spinning studio, flashbacks of me riding a bike on a rainy day in Aspen tormented me. My boyfriend and his dad –who happen to be serious bikers- had taken me on what to them was a leisurely bike ride… just for fun. As I rented my spinning shoes from the receptionist, thoughts and images raced through my head. Ignoring the flashback of my boyfriend’s facial expression that screamed “I will never make her ride a bike again,” I asked the receptionist a ton of questions. She wasn’t surprised by my naivety. In fact, her lack of a reaction put me at ease. She answered the questions. She also adjusted my bike, clipped me in, and didn’t even flinch at my awkwardness and obvious foreignness to getting on a bike.  The lights went out, candles were lit, and my journey had begun. It wasn’t easy. In fact, it was probably one of the hardest workouts of my life. Not that I had much to compare it to. As I ran home from Soulcycle (ironically, I think I was practically skipping!), I felt the need to go back right away. Or at least call everyone I knew.

    After my first ride, I had never been so thirsty and sore. Maybe it was a sign that I was that new to working out or maybe it was mental- actually it was probably a combo of both- but that didn’t discourage me. It motivated me more. Next thing I knew, I had entered a whole new world I never even knew existed.  Spinning shoes were purchased, classes were booked, feet were easily clipped in,  and hair was braided for the first time since I dressed up as Pocahontas for Halloween. I- someone who once revolved their whole schedule around her weekly hair blowout- was swapping my blowout budget for spin classes. And more shockingly, I was letting my hair air-dry.

    My new look was starting to startle me when I’d catch a glimpse of myself post-riding. As someone who rarely perspires, I couldn’t believe how I looked sweating profusely, with my hair pulled back in a tight braid and a huge black headband/doo-rag type thing taming it down. The first few times, when I’d walk into my apartment, I’m pretty sure my boyfriend did a double take. My new look- and my enthusiasm for something athletic- it was all so new.

    The more classes I took, the more I realized how off my rhythm and form were. I had higher expectations for myself. And I loved that.  Always perched in a front row seat, the moments the lights went out, the music would takeover, and before I knew it, I was so focused on the music and the rhythm that I didn’t even realize I was doing tap-backs, crunches and pushups…. rapidly. I had never felt so eager to workout. In fact, it was getting ridiculous. The amount of money I was putting towards a “sport” each month was outrageous. “You’ve spent more money this month on spinning than I did on my lease payment! My friend exclaimed. Unfortunately for her, her Mercedes wasn’t doing $%*@ for her biceps.

    I was in shape, and it was priceless. For the first time, no one had given up on me. Remaining in the front row, I became more and more harder on myself. My favorite instructors inspired me.  If one could ride 8 months pregnant and another could ride while undergoing Chemo- surely I could put in my best effort. And it didn’t take long for me to shock myself. As someone who probably got on a treadmill once a year, I couldn’t believe I was spinning 3-4 times a week… and actually improving. As someone who didn’t even know how to clip out and adjust my bike settings the first few sessions, I couldn’t believe how naturally it started to come to me. And what’s even more astonishing are the people that don’t pass judgment on not knowing how to clip out. Just like in most cases, the people that don’t pass judgment are usually the ones that just happen to be the ones that are really good… such as the coolest cowboy in town.

    Yes, there were a few set-backs. A pulled muscle or two, the time the air conditioning broke and I suffocated through a mini panic attack… or what about the day the instructor hollered “His bike is on fire!” as a way to motivate the middle aged man in the first row, and I clipped out ready to stop, drop and roll. There’s no such thing as a perfect track record.

    I don’t show up to SoulCycle a few times a week just for the inspiring instructors, fun music, and my health. Trust me, I hate to admit it, but for $32 a class, that stuff couldn’t get me there so often. I show up, because of the environment. The culture, the inviting atmosphere, the dance party, the mere fact that it’s the only time I’ve ever partaken in something athletic, and not felt that everyone’s given up on me.

    One of my absolute favorite rides was actually a free Community Ride in Tribeca. At the end of the weight-lifting section, we were riding through the last song. The instructor told us to close our eyes and imagine riding up a hill to the finish line. Always skeptical of eye-closing exercises, I snuck a few peaks. He told us we were going to pass a few people and every time he’d name one of the people, we’d have to turn up our resistance. Already struggling to make it up the hill, I was well aware that the point of the exercise was to “show” each “person” he’d call out that we were strong enough to ride by… I just couldn’t fathom putting any more weight on the wheel. Screw the people, I didn’t think I was strong enough for the ride!

    And then the exercise started. “You’re riding by someone who bullied you in high school,” he said. Luckily for me, I couldn’t really remember anyone bullying me in high school. Whatever. I turned it up. It was obvious the girl riding next to me was bullied based on her reaction, and I didn’t want her to feel alone. I guess that means I turned it up for her.  The instructor continued to name a few more people that the class rode by. It felt a bit gimmick-y, until a person was called out that hit a nerve… or until someone in the class would react.  The class continued to ride together, in unison, in a group effort. We rode strongly, passing by the people we were confronted with… those who didn’t think we were smart, those who criticized our looks… even people who needed our help.  I could hear classmates groaning- some were empowered, others were in pain. I couldn’t take it much longer.

    “And for the final person,” the instructor announced. “You’re riding by someone who didn’t believe in you… someone who’s given up on you.” Ha! Did he want me to ride by a tribe!?

    I didn’t ride by Dan the Team Captain… let’s face it, we were ten. I had to at least pretend I’m over it by now.  The Pilates instructor… she wouldn’t notice anyway. My elementary school gym teacher… I’d actually rather skip by her.

    So as I rode passed myself -the former me-I knew that as long as I continued to just show up, I’d never be the last one picked again.

    And I didn’t look back.

     

    7 Responses to “The Last One Picked”

    1. YOU GO GIRL! This is exactly what we in the Soul community are here for – the journey, the transformation, the togetherness. Thank you for sharing your story!

    2. mom says:

      WOW…:)

    3. Lauren says:

      Lovin’ this.. my feelings about “Soul” are So similiar. xo

    4. Jess says:

      Came across your blog when Soul Cycle retweeted your post. I was reading it, relating to it in many ways. I was not expecting tears to well up in my eyes at the very end, when you rode past yourself. Amazing post.

    5. dad says:

      awesome!–that was sooo #@##@@# well written–i’m not guilty any more for not riding bikes with you–lu!!!!!—-jesus moses gilgamesh odysseus fellows

    6. Dee says:

      OKAY, MY LIFE STORY, NEVER GOT PICKED, TERRIBLE ATHLETE, TOTALLY EMBARRASSED. BUT THEN, ALONG COMES MY DAUGHTER ALEX WHO IS THE MOST AMAZING ATHLETE IN THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD. THERE IS NOT A SPORT SHE DOESNT EXCEL IN. I GUESS IT WAS GOD’S WAY OF MAKING IT UP TO ME.

      OF COURSE, I REMIND ALEX CONSTANTLY THAT HER SUPER JOCK SKILLS WERE CLEARLY INHERITED FROM ME………………………SERIOUSLY, HOW WOULD SHE FIND OUT OTHERWISE!

      LOVED IT EMILY!

    7. Wendy says:

      Emily,AWWWW..so well written….have to go wipe my tears.

    Leave a Reply