In seventh grade I was pretty much the Gabrielle Reece of our volleyball team.
I would stand confidently behind the thick painted black line, scuffed volleyball nestled in my left hand, eyes narrowed.
My right arm would effortlessly swing, lobbing the ball clear over the net, to the utter devastation of my less skilled classmates on the opposing team.
Seriously. I got it over the net every time.
And that’s about the time I decided I loved volleyball.
Upon entering high school, I thought it only natural I share my prowess by trying out for the junior volleyball team.
I approached the gymnasium with my head held high, prepared to unleash my power arm upon the masses.
But what I saw sucked all the air out of my fragile little balloon of an ego.
The room-a stark white football field of a room- was filled with about fifty 13 and 14 year-old girls.
Not even girls.
They were twice my size.
They were diving.
And-horror of horrors-they were serving overhand.
Having committed one foot in the door already, I got swept into the first part of the tryout.
The coach was barking out drills. Drills. A few months ago just getting the ball over the net was enough.
But now it most definitely was not.
I stumbled over my own feet, getting turned around in all the crissing and the crossing. Meanwhile, my super sized counterparts leapt like gazelles, slamming the ball into oblivion.
I wasn’t going to make the team.
And so I did what any reasonable person would do in such a situation.
While everyone else was busy with their Olympic-level-plays and super cool knee pads and actual muscle definition, I ran out the door, my brown hair streaming behind me.
My face burned with shame; I thought I would be good enough.
When friends asked how the tryout had gone, I loftily explained that I had chosen not to join due to my need to focus on schoolwork.
And that’s about the time I decided I hated volleyball.
* * *
That moment marked the beginning of a pattern in my life.
A pattern of basing my decisions on whether or not I am talented enough in a given area before pursuing it.
You see, mediocre is just not an option. I consider it the most offensive of all four letter words.
I don’t want to be comfortably settled in the middle of the bell curve.
I want to be at the veeeerrrrryyyyy right hand side.
Maybe with one other person.
Preferably by myself.
But lately I’ve been wondering.
Have I missed out?
Is there some divine fulfillment, some incredible adventure, some avenue of self expression I’ve neglected simply because I’m not ‘the best’ at it?
Would my life look different if I had chosen my path based solely on what I love?
On what makes my heart sing?
On what ignites the boldest of fires in my soul?
As opposed to what earns me the highest marks.
Or what everyone compliments me on.
Or what I know I can sail through with ease, rather than having to bend over backwards just to stay afloat.
I’m not saying I’m going to pick up that dingy volleyball and reclaim my adolescent dreams.
I’m saying I need get okay with not being the best.
My fear of not being good enough kept me from trying out for the junior high volleyball team.
But it also kept me from pursuing other dreams.
You know, all the big, audacious, never-in-a-million-years dreams.
Those are the best kind.
But I stayed small.
And that is not how I want to live.
I don’t want to limit my life to the few areas I excel in.
I want goals that make me stretch and grow.
I want to pursue what makes my heart sing.
I want a fire stirred in my soul.
I want to chase dreams that bust me out of my comfort zone.
I may not end up being the best. I may end up with a participation ribbon instead of a great shiny trophy.
But I’m trusting the journey will be worth it.