Don’t make excuses – make good.  ~Elbert Hubbard

Our society has become so concerned with other people’s feelings that we search for excuses as to why something might not go the way we had planned.   I see this a lot with my children, and have to struggle not to fall into a litany of excuses if they don’t get what they desire.   We all can agree that the world is unfair at times.   There are instances where favor is granted, the luck of the draw was truly not on our side, or a mistake occurred.  For the most part, however, accomplishments are gained only by the work done to achieve them.   We want to succeed, or our children to succeed, and as much as we try not to – most of the time our first thought, if someone gets an advancement or a position, is one of suspicion.  It is far more difficult to look at our own failings and embrace the fact that maybe we just weren’t up to par.

It is hard to be humble.  It is hard to admit to yourself that you either didn’t give 100% or you just aren’t skilled enough to do the job.  We all know of people who are sore losers and use that as an example to better ourselves, but it is the gut reaction when we lose.  I have attempted, throughout my life, a number of sports and activities.  The one that sticks out the most is my stint with volleyball.   It was my high school gym teacher’s job to teach us girls how to play the game.  She seemed to think I had some talent in the sport, and encouraged me to try out for the team.  I allowed myself to get rather excited over the prospect.  I tried out and made the junior varsity (J.V.) team.  For the next few months I came to practices and worked hard to learn how to play.  I was so excited when our first real game finally arrived!  I was also very, very nervous.  Shortly before this, the two girls that were my friends, who had tried out with me, had been moved up to varsity volleyball.  It affected me at a very deep level, although I didn’t realize it at the time.  I was bitter about their success, and instead of working harder to move up myself – I lost heart for the game.  I don’t remember interacting very well with the other teammates, becoming more shy and withdrawn as time went on.  As the whistle blew to begin the game, I was devastated to be benched – even though I knew deep down I was right where I deserved.   I sat and watched my teammates play the game and grew increasingly resentful.  When the coach finally called me out to sub for one of the other players, it was only to serve, and he pulled me out of the game as soon as I made the points.  I was humiliated to have my parents in the audience watching this.

Photo by Paul Goyette

As the season wore on, I continued to show up to practices, but my mindset was horrible.  I felt like a failure.   I continued to be benched, sometimes for the entire game.  My parents stopped coming to the games and other people started making comments.  It was pretty evident that something was going on.  I was the only girl on the team that didn’t get equal play time on the floor.  Even now, 20 plus years later, the thought of that time in my life makes my heart hurt and body react unconsciously.  My mother knew I was taking a hit emotionally and tried to make excuses.  She claimed that the coach had it out for me, that somehow I had gotten on his bad side; that I was a good player, he just couldn’t see what was right in front of him.  She tried, she really tried, for my sake to help me through this.   Because I was unwilling to admit I wasn’t a very good volleyball player, it was easy to believe my mothers words.  I accepted them as truth, an easy way to cover up the mistakes I was making.  I ultimately ended up leaving the team after I got to a point where I was benched repeatedly.  I was so embarrassed to have to walk the halls after games and have people ask me why I didn’t play… knowing my excuses carried no weight.

"Letting Go" Painting by Piet Leutsch

It took my writing this to realize that although I still do feel the coach was rather unfair in his actions – it was a J.V. team after all – he had every right to make me sit out.  It is true that I rarely missed a practice, but even when I was there I only went through the motions.  I can still remember the drills we had to do, but I also know I didn’t go full-out on them either.  I almost always came in last when we ran, I was scared to return a serve (particularly when it came from an especially fierce-looking girl), and most of all – I was timid.  I had the height and I was in great shape, but that is about all I had going for me.  I can run very fast when motivated, but I never once showed that to my coaches.  I have a great deal of fierce competitiveness inside of me, but my bitterness over my friends advancement squashed those emotions from motivating me.  I could have been a very loyal and strong asset to the team, instead I spent my time thinking my own thoughts and resisting advice.  In short – I did this to myself.  It is at once painful and freeing to finally realize this.  I need to let go of the detrimental emotions I continue to clasp tightly to my soul.  I need to see what happened from a fresh perspective, and not beat myself up for the choices I made at the time.  I need to stop excusing the behavior and the situation itself.  I need to move on, be an adult, and be thankful I have this in my life to learn from.

Sometimes it isn’t always easy to see what we do or how we behave.  It is almost easier as a parent, to see some of the behaviors in your own child and realize how you really act.  You can then highlight them in your own persona and work on them.   If you want something bad enough?  You just need to dig in and make it happen.  Making excuses never benefited anyone.