Wednesday, February 10, 2016

On Playing Small

Last week, Jeremy and I had the opportunity to play Ultimate Frisbee again. It'd been awhile. Like--six months-awhile. So we were super out-of-shape, but happy to get back on the turf.



A friend had invited us to come play with the league he is a part of. He said most teams are always short on subs (and particularly lady-subs), so we would be welcome to join. There were about a dozen teams. Jeremy got put on one team, I got put on another. My team had 11 guys and 1 gal. I walked up to the huddle and said, "Hey, is it all right if I play with you all tonight?"

They basically said, "Yeah. Whatever" and got on with it.

During that huddle, I had a lot of questions, like:
-What's every body's name?
-What kind of defense do you run?
-Do you run vertical or horizontal stack?
-How do you organize subbing?
Basically: What's going on?

But I didn't say any of that.
I just kept quiet.
I waited my turn.
I was polite.
I smiled.
I apologized unnecessarily.
I didn't get in anyone's way.
After all, I was just some random girl passing through and would never see these people again. Best to just blend in and have fun.

And once we started playing I had even more things I wanted to say, like:
-I'M OPEN!
-How does scoring work?
-I can catch those long throws, don't hesitate.
-Hey dude, you're actually cutting in the wrong direction.
-Um...that's a foul.
-I'M OPEN!
Basically: Yeah, I'm pretty good at Ultimate, I know what's up.

But I didn't say any of that either.
Because I was temporary.
I'm not a permanent member of this team.
I'm outnumbered by men.
So, I played small.

During the last five minutes of the evening, one of the loudest and most talented players asked: "So, it's Beth, right?"

"No, my name is Heather."

He was unfazed and didn't take his eyes off the field: "Right. And where are you from?"

I told him I was from Colorado, but just in-town visiting.

"Yeah, me too," he responded.

I didn't compute what he was saying at first because in my head I was thinking:
Wait, YOU are not on this team either? 

This guy spent the whole night calling for the disc, giving his opinion, laughing with complete strangers, and being so outwardly confident, I never would have guessed that he was passing through just like me.

And so it was a pretty powerful ah-hah moment standing there on the sidelines next to this super-star player. It made me want to say, Well, then why did I spend the whole night playing small, when I had just as much right to feel confident in myself as he did?

He didn't wait for anyone to give him permission. He didn't cower. He didn't play small. He didn't show up assuming that he didn't belong there. He showed up knowing that he had as much right as anyone else to be who he was.

This probably isn't as easy as gender.
It's not as if EVERY woman plays small.
Or that EVERY man exudes confidence.
But I think the lesson still stands.

Because it's made me consider that:
If I wait for people to give me permission so that I can start playing big, then I will be waiting behind a long line of men (and bad-ass women) who have already decided that they have a right to show up in their own lives.

My permission slip is my birth certificate.
I'm allowed to have a voice.
I'm allowed to share my opinions.
I'm allowed to take up space in this world.
But no one will give it to me.
I have to own it.

I deserve to be here.