On the El today we passed a tennis court where some kind of lesson was going horribly wrong. Little kids, three or four year-olds, were arranged in three lines like they were about to march off somewhere, except they were holding tennis rackets half the size of their bodies. They wiggled around or looked up at the sky or down at their shoes while waiting for their turn. Three adults, each in army green shorts, tossed bright yellow tennis balls to the first kid in each line. And these kids’ swings exploded with energy but were just… Just. Such. Misses. Rackets went straight up into the air; fell right out of their hands; smashed the air with vigor. Kids whirled around and sprung off the ground, but nothing connected. The tiny Asian kid in flourescent orange shorts held his racket with two hands badminton-style and had to bend his knees just to lift it off the ground. The bright yellow tennis balls whiffed right past all three kids. They went to the back of the line. Next!
The El moved on, but I couldn’t help think about those kids and how they seemed like a perfect visual representation of something that I’ve been mulling over the past few days. I used to think that, by your late-20s, we’d all be pretty slick at this being-a-grownup thing. And for a minute there, it seemed to be happening: people got jobs that meant something, found real love or acquired condos and graduate degrees. But as together as we seem, we’re still battling something — ourselves, our personality traits, our weaknesses, things we hash out in long three a.m. phone calls about our hangups and bangups. The basic building blocks of a Sensible Life fell into place, so now the second, deeper layer of problems can plague us even more. It’s like we’re all standing there distractedly with these rackets as heavy as cast-iron skillets, taking madly clumsy swings at these problems.
Your temper alienates those around you: SWISH.
Your dependence on others makes you unstable: SWISH.
Your unwillingness to accept blame makes others resent you: SWISH.
Your inability to commit prevents you from emotionally investing in anything: SWISH.
Your fear of failure keeps you safely in mediocrity: SWISH.
We’re trying so hard and waiting so desperately for the time that ball connects and sails over the net, hoping for one good THWACK.