Last weekend at my intramural soccer game, after hearing me announce that I was a ‘bit’ of a rookie at the sport – a girl on my team looked at me glaringly and said, well if not soccer, what’s your THING then ?
At the time, the question didn’t really phase me, I looked at her and let her know I had never really been into team sports at all as a kid. I truly wasn’t offended – in fact, I didn’t realize the offensive nature of her comment until I had racked up commentary from three or four other team mates about the awkwardness of the moment that had just passed.
What this did however, prompt me to think about is exactly how much our society prides itself on people having defining hobbies or characteristics. You are defined by your qualifications, and what you’re good at, rather then by who you are – and this is a notion I have always been skeptical of. Once upon a time – as an uncoordinated child with no real special talents that I could see, I pained myself at the idea of not having a thing, I wasn’t a girl guide, I wasn’t a soccer player, I had flunked out of Karate for tucking my hair behind my ears each time I went to throw a punch – I didn’t really feel that I was made up of much at all.
In fact, it wasn’t until many years later – probably until my third year of university, that I actually realized I’d been lucky to grow up without any of these things. Instead of learning to define myself as being good at one particular thing, I had worked over the years to develop a positive attitude I could apply to many different things. Now not to say that sports – when treated correctly, can’t be an excellent platform to help kids develop these characteristics, because I believe that they can and that they do – I won’t deny that team sports, and athletics in general are extremely effective in teaching kids about discipline and hard work, having fun and being active, and learning to work as part of a team.
My point here is that I think its important that we be very careful not to shape our lives by defining ourselves as any one removable thing that we do. Rather – I think it is important to put our energy toward defining personal qualities that last and can be applied in anything that we partake in, like attitude and open mindedness – because these qualities are transferable, and cannot be inhibited, like say, soccer, or skiing, by a personal injury or a broken leg. In sum, soccer, dancing, skiing, school, singing, these are all things that we do, and can do – but we should be careful not to equate these things to being who we are.