On Getting Cut
“Life is a succession of lessons which must be lived to be understood.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson
Iâ€™m 29 â€“ that means Iâ€™m an adult, Iâ€™m pretty sure. I have adult things to worry about. Children, husband, bills, job â€“ those sorts of things. So why is it that once in a while I find my thoughts contorting themselves around an isolated event from the 10th grade?
Itâ€™s easy for me to rehash: the plain, manila sheet getting posted up on the outside of the girlsâ€™ locker room. The plain, manila sheet with thirty or so names â€“ none of which were mine. Coach P had subjected me to weeks of trials and workouts, assessing every ounce of my aquatic proficiency, and done it all seemingly for her own enjoyment. It was cut day. And I got cut.
What stung the most, probably, was that Iâ€™d made the team as a 9th grader. Being a 10th grader meant one more grade of competency. One more grade of experience. One more grade of ready-made camaraderie with my teammates. All in all, it meant if I made the team in 9th grade, I shouldâ€™ve been able to make the team in 10th grade without goggles… and my hands tied behind my back.
But I didnâ€™t. Coach P gave me the runaround. When I went in to speak with her, teary-eyed and more choked up than I cared to admit to my friends, she stuffed me full of stale confidence boosters and clichÃ©s. You would have been our 31st. Youâ€™ve got a great head on your shoulders. Someday weâ€™ll look back at this and laugh.
It all meant nothing to me. Coach P and I had gotten along fine, but she was undoubtedly a bit fragile and eccentric. Iâ€™d watched her explode on some of my teammates (oddly, the same ones who had made the team again this year) for minor infractions. Iâ€™d watched her prod and goad our more talented swimmers and make them stay later after practice, when in reality I believe it violated some sort of provision our school district had imposed to limit the amount of time kids spent on sports rather than academics. She wasnâ€™t a bad person, but she wasnâ€™t someone I particularly admired.
Now, funnily enough, I think about her every once in a while when my mind starts to drift. And itâ€™s not because I plan on looking back at the experience and laughing about it with her. In fact, itâ€™s hardly about her at all. Itâ€™s about the experience of getting cut.
A change as harsh as getting cut sucks. But it doesnâ€™t suck forever. In fact, it gets quite good after the wound has healed. My abbreviated tenure with the swim team forced me to divert my attention to other areas. I started reading â€“ first just a little at time. Then, pretty soon, I was reading all the time. And then I was writing. And then I was blogging. And then, before I knew it, I was making money blogging. Throughout the rest of high school, college and my young adulthood, I latched onto something I was much more interested in (and frankly much better at) than swimming. Reading and writing enveloped me, and I raced through words much faster than Iâ€™d ever been able to race through a pool.
I donâ€™t think you have to get cut to find your calling â€“ thatâ€™s just me. Iâ€™m sure there are plenty of well-adjusted, friendly human beings who never got cut from a team. Getting cut, however, was a change of pace Iâ€™ll never forget. It molded me into something I hardly even knew I wanted to be, which is far more exciting than any 200 meter medley Iâ€™ve ever been a part of.
Photo by Noukka Signe