Playing on JV or Sitting on Varsity

Softball was something that I can confidently say I was actually good at. Before high school, I was one of only a few players who could catch the big, airborne hits to the outfield. For a long time I resented this, as it often kept me stuck at right field when I wasn’t pitching. I resented it, but at the same time, I knew I was good. One of my travel team coaches had said at the start of a season that for every hit to the outfield caught, he’d buy us a soda, and by the end of that summer, I was eleven cokes richer.

So when we all got to high school, the softball coaches were aware of us from our travel team, and they knew where we’d all played. I’d been on good teams, and this was a high school known for it’s good softball, so they knew to put me right back in right field since there were way more senior pitchers ahead of me. I’d made Junior Varsity as a freshman, as did most of my classmates who I’d played with on competitive travel teams growing up. And for the most part it was fun. My teammates weren’t the nicest people on the planet, but I did well on that team. The JV coach liked me, and she and her husband (who was the Varsity coach) seemed to have a soft spot for me (maybe because I got picked on? Now that I think about it…? wtf). I do think part of it was because I just really liked playing, and I didn’t complain or waste anyone’s time. I didn’t throw a hissy-fit at not pitching because I didn’t particularly love or hate pitching. I didn’t really feel strongly about anything sports-related because as much as I was good at sports and found moments I enjoyed (like my friends growing up or batting), it was more work and stress than I cared for. I never quit though because my dad seemed to enjoy helping out (he never wanted to be a coach or anything–I think my allergy to bureaucracy is thanks to him). The one and only time I wanted to quit a team partway through was my travel soccer team and he wouldn’t let me because I made a commitment. While I get where he was going parenting-wise–trying to bestow ~*~LiFe~LeSsoNs~*~ I think it was stupid. I think it was important that I’d have been taught that it was OK to quit some times, under the right circumstances.

Anywho, back to softball! After a very successful freshman year playing JV, I tried out as usual in my sophomore year. After a week-long tryout, they pulled me aside on the final day. It turns out, they wanted to give me a choice about which team I wanted to be on, as they had been debating it back and forth all week. They knew I was qualified for Varsity, but knew that with the number of upperclassmen they had, that I would be sitting on the bench for most of the season. But I would be on ~VaRsItY~, get the jacket, get the prestige? Which sounded and still sounds like such bullshit but that’s what so many people were about in high school! But they knew that I didn’t give a flying fuck about any type of status symbols or faux prestige that befalls a high school varsity athlete. The Varsity coach still wanted me there, to attend practices and just be on the team, but the JV coach argued that I’d be miserable, and would much rather be on JV and actually get to play.

She was totally right, much to the confusion of my teammates. I’d rather play on JV, and play in every single game, actively contributing to my team’s success than sit on Varsity and be a fly on the wall.

I think about this story a lot lately, especially when it comes to my career, what I want, and what it means to be successful. I’ve found myself using this example far more often to try to explain how I feel about certain situations and possible outcomes. That, some times the better choice isn’t the one that screams out success in the traditional sense. That for me, making larger, more active contributions to a small goal/team is more meaningful than a droplet in a pool. That the day-to-day stress and dog-eat-dog back-stabbiness of high school sports wasn’t worth compromising my personal happiness with each day’s practice and games. Part of that was definitely due to the fact that I had no future plans tied up in softball or any sport for that matter. I knew that I wanted to go to university without any other commitments taking up my time, but there were many girls gunning for scholarships. Which is totally valid, and all the more reason I, a casual observer (basically) didn’t mind just having fun. It’s different when you have end goals.

But lately I am realizing that that’s not necessarily true for me anymore.

I do have end goals, and things I want, but I’ve also become even less tolerant of certain things, and more aware of myself and what I want both long-term and day-to-day. And that’s a big deal for me, as someone who has never felt like I’ve had a strong sense of self. Like, this is something that I’ve actively been aware of, that I’ve seen grown and develop in me, and that’s pretty rad. I think a big part of it is pride, and as I mentioned, what you define as success and knowing to let go of dreams. There was this feeling from my old teammates that I was being left behind, that I should be embarrassed, but in my eyes, they were benchwarmers, I was a starting player. In the four years we were in high school, I played, let’s say 100 games to their 25. But I did also understand that that was their priority, and they were entitled to their feelings and whatever goals they wanted. Maybe at one point I did imagine playing on varsity as a younger player, and while I never wanted a varsity jacket, they were cool–I’d wear one if I had it. But that shifted. And that’s okay. There’s nothing wrong with any of that. Not the strongest “moral of the story” but just something I’ve been ruminating on it.

Harry Potter: A Love Letter and a Takedown

One of the things I most appreciate about the Harry Potter series (and by extension, JK Rowling’s writing style)  is the equal attention paid to the sacred and the profane, the big questions and the mundane. Harry Potter was the first book I read that had me questioning ideas like mortality, morality, and tolerance, but boy she did not skimp on the details when describing a dinner at the Great Hall, or how squishy and wonderful the armchairs in the Gryffindor common room must be. She didn’t miss opportunities for small character moments, whether it was Neville being attacked by a plant in the background, or enormous arcs like Neville’s defeat of a Horcrux.

It’s amazing how a story so, so universal has affected so many so personally (which of course is the massive achievement of the series). It’s your classic Hero’s Journey straight out of Campbell’s playbook, but it’s so much more, it’s so full and alive and thriving.

Maybe thriving a little too much, says the bitter 20-something-year-old.

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Five Years Out

Last weekend I unexpectedly visited my undergrad alma mater, The College of New Jersey (TCNJ) with two of my favorite people on the planet, who I happened to attend said school with.

While I’ve been back there before, and was even on an alumni panel for my major one year, I hadn’t gone back since another chapter of my life closed. Immediately following TCNJ, I began grad school at the School of Visual Arts (SVA) in NYC. In my program at SVA, you could either finish it in 2 years full time or over 4 years part time. I did a mix of both, but the point was, once those 4 years were up, you’d have to start the program all over again.

While I was happy for the new graduates out of TCNJ this May, I was a bit bittersweet towards the SVA ones. This would have been the year I graduated from SVA, if I hadn’t dropped out.

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When You Know Your Writing But People Don’t Believe You

A few weeks ago, I was very proud of myself for a very simple thing. I showed somebody some in-progress writing that I was working on–a script, more specifically–that I was planning on shooting soon. I’m the type of person who managed to go six years in art classes and rarely show any of my work. I’d go out of my way to game the system, to wait until the end of class or show something else or show something intentionally bad, like stick-figure thumbnails of what the final product would look like in order to avoid it. It was, is, and, fucking hell help me, the biggest issue that I deal with as a creator. There’s a whole memoir in me about my art anxiety, imposter syndrome, mental handicaps, simple fear, and just oddly and inexplicably low self-esteem I have about the creative side of myself, to the point that I still can’t even call myself an “artist” or “writer” or “creator” without feeling like an asshole. For fuck’s sake, my very first post on this site in 2014 directly addresses this issue: this blog is meant to be a direct, opposing force to said feelings.

This person didn’t know this about me, but did know that I don’t show things often, I don’t talk about things often. If I’ve done so with you, congrats! I love you and we can unceremoniously boil you down to being a safe space for me in trying to find my own self-love. The friend I was with is the type who likes to link everything back to parental issues; things like how you dress or eat, whether you wear makeup, things that seem asinine at times. But I know there is truth to some of this. I’ve read enough Malcolm Gladwell books to not ignore the nature/nurture argument just because it presents things I don’t like. I do think that this particular friend places too much emphasis on it though. It’s sort of like that scene in The Devil Wears Prada where Meryl Streep’s character schools Anne Hathaway’s over a blue sweater and the illusion of choice.While not a perfect or full picture, the scene serves as a reminder that many of the things we do, the ‘choices’ we make in our daily lives are not necessarily our own, or we aren’t fully conscious of them or their origins. But at the same time, Anne Hathaway’s character, for whatever reasons, did make the choice to buy that sweater, not knowing the context that Streep’s later presented. But I understand that this was more about the options available to a person.

When I showed my friend the script, I was proud of myself, and my work. But my friend immediately picked it apart, which in and of itself is not the problem. Despite aforementioned issues, I am not immune to criticism and it’s benefits, as well as the divorcing of the actual criticism from the person who is delivering it (in terms of your personal relationship with them vs. their input as a critic). My friends biggest issue wasn’t so much the content itself so much as the fact that I was even showing it to them. To them, this proved that it was not ready–that I was not ready–if I needed reassurance from someone else. That if I needed a second opinion, it invalidated my confidence in the piece. They then went on to argue that the writing was trying to be something it was not, completely neglecting any potential context or reason why I would write something in a different–in this case, more formal and academic voice–than my usual casual blog post or my usual way of speaking.

So I defended myself. I took his criticisms about the tone and voice of the piece to heart and did make some changes that bettered it. But I also explained that I was happy with it, and just happy that I was finally making again and wanted to share with someone I thought would be happy and supportive. I thought they specifically would appreciate the piece as it was about a topic they enjoy. I explained that the educational nature of the piece prompted me to avoid my usual f-bombs, anecdotes, and brazen casualness.

To them, I got defensive. That this reaction was a reflection of how I feel about myself. Which it totally was. But not in the way that they were assuming.

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