If you can’t stand the heat…
September 29, 2006
Like an M&M, I have a hard candy shell. But, the truth is that at any moment I’m more likely to meltdown and crack than Bill Clinton in a Fox News interview.I took up running eight years ago but nearly switched back to walking immediately. I couldn’t stand being passed. While most people in a similar circumstance likely would feel motivated to speed up rather than get beaten, I loathed so much the tightening in my chest and head, and the heated prickly feeling that rapidly developed under my skin as I heard footsteps behind me growing louder. I just wanted to turn around, go home and slump down on the couch with the remote control and a bag of Doritos. I think the only reason I’ve stuck with it this long has been my profound ability to convince myself that I’m only competing with myself when running. That, and my very optimistic idea that the people who pass me probably tire out and have to stop as soon they’re out of my line of sight.Truly, I’d rather bow my head, kneel and present someone else the crown rather than go through the stress and pressure of competition.When I gave a few bucks to a little girl outside of Topper’s this summer ago for a Ducky Derby entry, she proudly told me that the proceeds from her sales would enable her to continue ice skating competitively. She showed me a giant piece of cardboard, affixed to which was a photo montage of her in various skating contests.”And I won them all,” she boasted.”That’s fantastic. But did you have fun?” I asked.She looked confused. “Well, I won.””Yes, but did you have fun?” I pressed.Panicked, she glanced quickly at her mom before looking back at me on the verge of tears. “But I won.”Her mom narrowed her eyes at me suspiciously – like I might be one of those creepy MySpace predators – so I gave up and slinked away.It was halfway through my freshman year of college that I gave-up on my lifelong dream of being a Broadway star. First, I decided what most people had probably already known for years: I had very little, if any, actual talent. Second, I realized the stress of auditioning and dealing with snarky, back-stabbing, win-at-all-cost actor-types was not one with which I could live happily ever after. (Plus, I found out a little later when my career began that it’s way more fun to be in a position to hire or fire those folks.)There aren’t too many sports I watch. Not so much because I don’t enjoy any or favor particular teams or athletes, but mostly because I feel their pain all too well. It’s too gut-wrenching to watch the pressure on the faces of all those highly paid, loudly touted players, some of whom I imagine must have the same physical reactions as me when they know they’re about to be beaten. And I think about all the parents, grandparents, high school coaches and mentors whose hopes and dreams are riding vicariously on the success of their grandchildren, children, former players and students. My head pounds and I get all uncomfortable for them. So, really, it’s best if I just don’t watch.Connect Four, Pictionary, Chutes and Ladders, checkers, war, gin and the like are also way too much for me. I’d been enjoying Scrabble until recently when I started getting way too anxious about being one letter away from having the absolute best Triple Word Score word. What if my opponent gets to use the square before me? And Monopoly? Forget it. Oh, the pressure of rolling the dice. What if I go directly to jail, can’t pass Go, collect my $200 and have no means to get bailed out? Or, if I land on an overdeveloped piece of property and have insufficient funds to pay the rent? Will I go bankrupt and live on the street, penniless and friendless? Video games and I never stood a chance, either. Nothing causes me more anxiety than being chased mercilessly by Inky and Clyde when all I want is to eat a couple of measly cherries in a game of PAC-Man.I’ve never been even remotely tempted to learn to play chess. Even though my math and spatial relations skills are about as developed as the Superdome was in New Orleans this time last year, what if it turns out I’m actually exceptionally good at chess?The New York Times reported on Thursday that at the world chess championship in the Russian republic of Kalmykia this week one player pointed to another’s excessive bathroom breaks (50) during a match and implied the behavior was highly suspect. American grandmaster Yasser Seriawan suggested the allegations were “probably a reflection of nervousness” on the part of the accuser and that the accused probably hadn’t actually cheated. Still, I’ve been known on occasion to take frequent trips to the restroom. I definitely couldn’t handle any kind of competition that questions my bathroom habits. That sort of pressure just might be the end of me.Yeah, I’ll just stick with watching Al Gore on CNN. Absolutely no pressure there.E-mail questions or comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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