There is a huge benefit to feeling like an outsider. You learn to trust yourself. Your different feels correct. You become excellent at observing and sifting, and finding your own truth.
For a long time I mistook my almost constant alone-ness for people not wanting to be around me. I lost myself and my predicament in stories and films. I studied the interplay between characters, and the subtle qualities that made someone likeable. I connected the dots of appeal.
Sport gifted me acceptance. PE made me a captain or pushed others to pick me first. I was invited to team socials. They were often in the evenings, the time of day I felt most forgotten. I treated these dutiful requests like chosen valentines, the special ones not meant to be distributed to the entire class.
I started wearing athletic clothes all the time. It was the garb in which the world taught me I had value. I was a basketball player for at least five Halloweens. This was the costume that required the least effort. It was comfortable and felt like me.
In college, rugby congealed a bunch of lettered sport rejects and misfits into a fiercely devoted and protective company. We were castoffs that found common ground where so few else dared to play.
In the process of becoming, I had willingly given up my freedom to become. I traded in my fanciful mind for a rugged toughness. To push through pain and keep going despite the hurt was a celebrated act of bravery. Watcher that I was, I was astute at morphing into what people were drawn to.
Because people didn’t seem interested in me on my own, I learned to better trust the vehicle in which they seemed to care. Sport became more important than me. I would save my daydreams for the time in between practice and games and training on my own. Before I knew it, my contributions to this identity pushed everything else away.
Having found my utopia, I banked and invested everything into it. I became the game and let it define me. Kids at the high school called me ‘Rugby’. I felt no need to correct them.
When the hero fell, and all of her super powers came crumbling down with her, she did everything the experts said she should. Though she performed them with a fiery focus and fervor, they could not fix her. I had to become less than and lose a knee to start thinking for myself again. There had to be another way, and I was going to find it.
I read everything I could about rehabilitation and functional movement. I printed articles off the internet and stored them in giant binders. I had a different definition of ownership then. Information was everywhere. I could do without wasting time understanding if I had the protocol handy. Doing, not thinking, rewarded the most progress.
I’d followed other people’s ideas for so long I didn’t think to cultivate my own. Too many coaches had shown annoyance with my questions. The job was to nod and do. Because it was what was expected, I had adjusted to do it well.
Rehabilitative work, though, was unhurried. It warranted a tempered brain and consciousness. Awareness was assistive. And because I was broken, I had a viable reason for my depreciated output. I could slow down and pay attention; I could become my own guide.
As I started mixing and blending elements I found most helpful, I began to appreciate the way in which a movement or exercise was performed. The how was everything — the engine behind a process. The very thing I had learned to ignore proved most fascinating. The thoughts behind the progressions and solutions lured me into its orbit of intrigue.
‘Workouts’ seemed empty without the mental component. Once healed, it felt strange to go back to what I was doing before. The next pinnacle wasn’t going to be found behind me. ‘Training’ and ‘exercise’ had been redefined. I went to the gym to figure stuff out. To play and compare and create.
Fully present and immersed in the work, I found little use for numbers. Feeling was the only measurement I needed. I was doing my own personal research. My body would tell me what it wanted and when I was done, and my brain would fill in the gaps.
As a nothing, I had infinitive options. I could explore what treasures each turn held. I stepped into whatever I was interested in. I had the freedom to conjure any path I chose. I could savor and imagine and indulge every curiosity.
Ownership now meant utilizing the largest pieces of myself. I was interested in making connections and looking at problems in many different ways. As I grew to love and appreciate this kind of work I also cultivated a fondness for the being who immersed herself in it.
It takes a lot of energy to lend your presence to an identity that doesn’t really suit you. I think that’s why I always loved the sport more than I loved myself — I credited the game for making me important or desirable. Without it, I had no outlet for my talents and skills of study. They just sat, underutilized, like me.
Getting hurt brought my interest in bodies toward my body.
Feeling what happens made seeing what happens infinitely more exciting and enjoyable.
There were no boxes or restrictions. Only tireless space to inhabit.
Authenticity is the examination of self.
It is the realization that you are good and worthwhile and that your instincts are correct. You draw the curtains and deeply consider what’s inside, not because you’re turning your back on the world, but because you believe that what you find there can be helpful to it. You start making things that reflect you, and it feels so right to reveal being real you start making things to pull the good and worthwhile out of others.
The authentic IS the imagined when you allow it to align with your true north. By design, that place is wildly attractive, and deserving enough to share.