Every Little League season started out the same: bouncing in my seat in the car excitedly on the way to the baseball diamonds at First Baptist, incessantly chattering away to my ever-so-patient mother, anticipating who would be on my team that year, wondering if my lefty mitt fit perfectly from my dad tucking it into my mattress so I could sleep on it the night before to break it in, praying that the weather would be perfect all day- but not too hot, and hoping the team snack would be popsicles.
I would tumble out of the car, an energetic spillage of girl, glove, and already mussed ponytail, joining a sea of others just like me, each reporting to their own chalk-lined, dusty field of dreams. And so I went with them, reporting to my team's home plate.
That's when the Norman Rockwell-esque daydream would turn into a nightmare.
Every single season, it was the same: I was afraid of the ball. Absolutely terrified.
Although you may know me now as a baseball blogger, MLB game live tweeter extraordinaire, batting cage frequenter, and die-hard member of the Brewers Nation, if you knew me back then, you'd know the little girl who hid behind her glove for at least the first couple of practices of every season. I didn't want to catch the ball, and I didn't want to hit it either -my batting average at the start of every season was so low, it was doing the limbo under the Mendoza Line.
To this day, I don't even know why I was so scared of the ball in the first place. I'd played catch in my backyard with my father and brother before the season even began, and I wasn't afraid then. And, every single season, I'd get over my fear after a few practices or the first game- once even making a behind-the-back catch at third base that, I must say, was pretty impressive. I would never be USA Women's Baseball material, but I was at least able to enjoy the game without fear, once I made it past those two to three terrifying practices.
So, what does this have to do with you - or even me - all these years later? Actually, a lot more than you'd think.
We all have fears. Some of them are phobias, completely irrational reactions to circumstances or tangibles, that we cannot explain or even justify. However, most of them are just plain old uncertainties and apprehensions dressed in fear's clothing - which means it is a lot easier than we think to get past them.
Although I can't explain why I was afraid of a softball whizzing at my glove, season after season, I can tell you that I loved the game so much that I knowingly faced it, year after year. I accepted the fact that the scariness would not necessarily disappear, but I also did not let it override my excitement about going to play a game with my friends. My chances of getting nailed in the noggin by an errant softball were just as good later in the season as earlier, but because I was refusing to back down from it (or my parents were refusing to let me quit softball, after all, the Browns are not quitters), it became so far tucked back into my memory that it could not creep out and wind its paralyzing grip around me- for at least the rest of the season.
The one thing little Megan, despite her bravery, failed to do was keep this fear from coming back. I wish I could go back and tell my younger self that there was nothing to be afraid of, just like my coaches would patiently remind me during that first practice. However, we do not have the luxury of time travel (yet), so the only changes I can make are those in the present. I can honestly say now I am not at all afraid of softballs (or baseballs), and it's likely that is because I just merely grew out of my fear.
But, as adults, even young adults, our uncertainties and uneasiness are caused by far more complicated things than a piece of cork and rubber hurtling at us. We will not grow out of what is holding us back from being our best. We may not even be given more than one chance to prove ourselves to be an integral, contributing member to any number of 'teams' we play on- whether we call those teams family, friends, coworkers, or something else. And when we fail, which, as humans, we all undoubtedly will stumble at some point, we feed these failures to a ravenous beast we call fear- but, like a sports mascot, fear is only something smaller than we think hiding inside the shell of something meant to intimidate.
Do not let fear be your mascot. Even if you consider yourself to have failed, you have tried, you have taken a risk, and you have learned something valuable, even if all you did was learn how to recover. Do not let the risks outweigh the invaluable triumphs of meeting your personal and professional goals. Keep pushing toward your goals at home plate and keep jumping to catch those fly balls- even if you crash to the ground with an empty glove, you and your 'team' know you gave it your all. When you are most afraid to try or do, take a deep breath and go for it anyway. Even if the foundation of your approach feels like false bravado, you will be surprised to see that your supposed fears, when brought to daylight, are no more threatening than a ground ball straight to your glove, and true confidence will build within you.
This is all easier said than done. I know there are things I myself should jump into feet first, rather than cautiously waiting and wondering. Or perhaps there are situations where I should push more than I have to make things happen. There is nothing wrong with making informed, researched, and planned decisions. But there is something wrong with assuming that all good things come to those who merely wait. I am ready to push apprehension aside and make more happen, and I hope you are too.
If the 10 year old little Megan could face her softball anxieties year after year, just so she could play a game, then I have no doubt that both you and I can hit our fears far and away out of the ballpark - and enjoy our victory lap around the bases in the game of life.