I used to have this mandatory gym class.
I was probably 6 or 7 years old and this gym class was my least favorite class.
Especially in the winter time when class was indoors in the gymnasium and we did dumb stuff. Like sit in a line and one by one practice our somersaults on one of those thick gymnasium mats supervised by the stern, mustache-face Nagar sir.12. Or walk across a balance beam without falling. It was dumb. I was really bad at these things, which is definitely not why these classes were dumb. Okay, fine, maybe my ineptitude had something to do with my dislike.
My strategy for getting out of doing these things I was bad at doing was to, wait for it, yes, ask to go to the bathroom when it was my turn. Textbook escapism from a 6 year old. The bathroom trick has worked for many-a-schoolchild in the history of schools.
I would raise my hand and ask Nagar sir if I could please go to the toilet. I had to be smart though. I couldn’t do it right at or right before my turn, because my schemes would be obvious. I couldn’t do it too far in advance, because then I’d have to be out of class for too long and that would arouse suspicions. It had to be just right. I also had to be careful about how I had played my cards3 the previous day.
The point is, gym class was dumb. And I did my very best to craft myself a way out.
Since that single-digit age, I’ve only become better at getting out of doing the things I don’t like doing. The thing I dislike the most is losing.
As far as I know, there are three ways of getting out of losing:
- Figure out how to think of a loss as a win
- Stop caring
I’ve found a way to get out of losing in one of these three ways for much of my life. (I think everyone does, but more on that some other day).
But I’ve realized something:
Sometimes you lose.
And that’s okay, I guess. People say that losing is part of life. I don’t know what people. The ominous “they”, I suppose–that infamous scapegoat pronoun peppered into propaganda and prose, second-cousins with the idiom of hand-waving.
The problem with losing–losing in the sense that not only do you not win, but you care that you didn’t win and you can’t frame the loss as a win–the problem with that kind of losing is that it’s a big deal.
Any loss under this definition, is a big loss.
And no number of tactical trips to the toilet4 will get rid of this loss.
But I’ll tell you another thing. Losing big is voluntary.
In other words, it’s not a surprise when you lose. If you’ve lived your life escaping losing like I have, you know when losing is a real possibility. But there’s no escape. Not after losing. And certainly not before, because not caring was never an option.
So you go in big and you don’t hedge your bets. You put your faith in that proverbial silver bullet. You hope. And when things pan out, sometimes you lose. And when you lose, that’s it. You start over. With nothing5.
You go home.
I guess I just connected the dots. Not saying I lost anything. I have to go pee now.
- I’m not 100% positive that I remember his name correctly.
- In my school (and probably all other schools) in India, we addressed faculty and staff with their first name followed by the “Sir” or “Ma'am” title appropriate to their gender. This is an interesting cultural phenomenon that is different from US schools that I haven’t given much thought–and probably won’t following this–but it occurs to me as I write this, that this it is interesting.
- And that metaphor isn’t by accident; it really did feel like a game of poker in which Nagar sir couldn’t call my bluff without risking getting a call from my parents. Not that I had any intentions of telling my parents about my plans to get out of class–they would catch on immediately–but Nagar sir didn’t know that.
- All right, I’ll allay the alliteration a little.
- Well, not nothing. That’s the romantic in me talking. There are still plenty of things.