I have posted frequently that I am a klutz. That is American slang for someone who is uncoordinated, awkward, and trips over his own shadow. Klutziness is something I have lived with my whole life. I have learned to adapt and respond to the worst of it, but I still suffer from ongoing issues and stress when asked to participate in activities where grace and athleticism are required.
So imagine how I felt when my boss, who I like very much, suggested that I organize a ski outing for our workgroup as a “team bonding” event. The color in my face…
…drained. I turned pale. I began to have a queasy feeling in my stomach, especially after I realized that the boss was serious. All of my junior high school anxieties that I remember from being assigned to the position of “left out” and last kid chosen for sports teams came back in a heartbeat. I recall the ridicule, laughter, and humiliation I felt.
As much as I love my twin brother, that’s one side of me that he never understood. Naturally graceful and athletic, he always was chosen first for all the team sports, and was our high school’s football team and baseball team captain. Quarterback, star pitcher, even basketball and lacrosse player — my brother could do it all and make it look so simple, natural, and easy.
I never got those genes. I can’t throw anything. Yeah, I admit it, I was told often that “you throw like a girl.” I could never run, and hate running today. No matter how much I tried and practiced, I couldn’t do anything that required coordinated skill or athletic effort.
Meanwhile, the boss was telling me a story about taking his 5-year old son skiing on Monday, and how his child took to the sport with ease.
He asked, “you’ve been skiing, right?”
Well, sorta. I tried… I really did. Four times. I even paid for lessons by a pro. But all of my attempts at skiing were miserable failures.
They tell you that you will fall a lot when learning, but everyone who tried to teach me, including the pro instructor, became puzzled and concerned that I never once could stand on skis, much less move forward with them on.
Patience worn thin on their part, all who tried to help or teach me gave up. I also became disillusioned, tired, and sore. I wanted to get out of that situation, my cold and wet clothing, and just go sit in a hot tub and try to forget. I was sick and tired of being a human snowball.
To this day, my family and friends who tried to teach me to ski (and who also tried to teach me to play other sports) never understood why I was unable to achieve any level of even basic ability. I fell, dropped balls, missed hitting or catching… whatever… I couldn’t do it.
I compensate for my sports-related inabilities by pure avoidance. It is far easier to be a confident man doing what I do well — building, writing, public speaking, riding a motorcycle, organizing, persuading with passion — but not by doing anything that requires eye-hand coordination, athletic skill, or grace. Heck, that’s why I don’t dance — I have been known to break (partners’) feet and falling.
So back to the story… the boss wants a ski outing. He is very much like my twin brother — athletic, competitive, graceful, and enjoys trying. He doesn’t mind the occasional fall, but he knows that he will be more successful than a failure because he has natural grace and athletic prowess. While he and I are a lot alike in our values and life outlook, we are very different when it comes to coordination and abilities. Those who have those skills have absolutely no idea what a nightmare it is for those of us who do not.
I told the boss (gently) that I would be best in the position of reading a book and sipping hot chocolate by the fire in the ski lodge while he’s out there skiing the black diamond runs. I tried to explain what he cannot understand — that I cannot ski and do not want to try again. Not at my age. My klutziness has gotten worse with age, not better. And at my age, I have the real chance of breaking bones on the ski slopes which would take longer to heal than hurt pride.
I am now on the hunt for a “team building” exercise that we can all enjoy — and that does not involve sports of any sort. Wish me luck.
Life is short: redirect when necessary.