65: Blowing in the Wind

65: Blowing in the Wind

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: Teens Talk Middle School

Blowing in the Wind

Always be a first-rate version of yourself, instead of a second-rate version of somebody else.

~Judy Garland

I shivered from both excitement and chill. My P.E. shirt was much too large for my teeny-weeny running shorts, the ones that clung to my teeny-weeny non-running legs. Regardless, I let the shirt hang limply over my shorts, hiding them from view and making me look hilariously pant-less. Instead, I focused on the challenge at hand. It was my goal as a Del Mar student to high jump 4’6”. I had crashed into the bar on the first two attempts, and now I was on my very last attempt to conquer the bar.

As I swallowed some air and began to run up to the bar, I heard my friends on the sidelines, hooting. Instead of the typical encouragement promising that I would make it over, that I could do it, they shouted in unison, “YEAH GANGLY!” Despite my concentration, I broke into a wide and infinitely appreciative grin.

I’ve always been that kid in P.E. that no one wants on their team. I defied the stereotype of being fat and sweaty and was, instead, undesirable because of my gangliness. I had size ten feet, and if my legs grew any more, they would wrap around my neck and strangle me. Even as one of the taller girls in the grade, it was natural for me to slink around with my head dangling and arms flailing by my sides. When a gusty wind came hustling by, my friends instinctively reached out to anchor me.

My nickname, “Gangly,” was one of the few fitting things, when, in seventh grade, I was caught desperately in the throes of my pubes-cent growth spurt. It was an instant hit. As the nickname began to catch among my friends (though, with my athletic prowess, I would surely fumble over it like a football and never be able to catch it), I would poke my head, turtle-like, from my cocoon of excess cloth and answer, “Yes?”

On occasion, nosy teachers had taken me aside and asked in all seriousness if I was eating enough. Each time, I would grouchily assure them I was fine, irritable because they were keeping me from lunch and my tantalizingly cheesy sandwich. These same teachers would throw dirty looks at the people who called out, “YEAH GANGLY!” when I stood up for a report or answered a question. What those teachers couldn’t understand is that I wasn’t offended by the nickname. It’s like calling a redhead “Carrot-top” or “Ginger.” There was no reason I shouldn’t have been proud of who I was, no matter how graceless, uncoordinated, or dangerous in the presence of scissors.

I was receiving harsh looks of doubt on the day of the track meet, especially when my fellow athletes saw me stumble off the bus for the meet. I always loved being able to gleefully shout “Yes!” when asked if I was going to the meet. Of course, as I flailed forward and raised a limp, dangling hand for a high-five, it was obvious that I was going to the meet as a high jumper. I was joyful that I had finally found a sport where gangliness prevailed; the high jump, where the objective was to barrel up to and leap over a bar.

My friends, who were quite aware of the runners’ and shot-putters’ skepticism over my ability, screamed for me, the infamous Gangly and I felt more athletic than ever. I smiled over at them and continued to run up to the bar. Just as I propelled my feet off the ground, whipping them up to the sky, the cheering took on a different note, one of wisdom and advice: “PUT ON SOME PANTS!”

I flipped my ankles over my head as my body arced over the bar and landed with a hum onto the mat. I waited, sprawled upside down, and heard nothing. No clatter of the bar hitting the ground. No disappointed sigh from the crowd. To me, this emptiness was overflowing with pride. I had made it over and was now in the Top Five, something that had never happened for me in sports. I was ecstatic. Ganglies: 1. Buff People: 0.

“YEAH GANGLY!” came my friends’ voices once more. IT was the only thing they could say, for as I kicked my legs over the bar and flipped onto the mat, shirt over my head, it was quite clear that there were, indeed, shorts beneath my very large P.E. uniform.

~Brittany Newell

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