There we were, sitting in those foldable chairs that sports parents lug everywhere so they don't have to deal with the torture of bleachers. The hum of the lights filled our ears as the sun went down on a sticky Tuesday night.
This fall my son is playing "kid pitch" baseball for the first time. If you've never experienced it, all you need to know is that the innings are long. What's the word for longer than long? Interminable?
On this particular Tuesday night, our team's pitcher had a no-hitter going, but the other team still had five runs. We're talking walks, people. Five runs worth of walks. Batters routinely get hit by the ball in kid pitch. So do umpires and catchers. It's rough, guys.
This is what learning looks like. People get bruises. Parents get numb bums from sitting in their foldable chairs through interminable innings. Their hearts get tugged violently along on the tilt-a-whirl of watching their loved ones strike out every time they come to the plate.
Growth is a messy, long, bruising affair. It involves nine-year-old kids standing alone on the mound in front of their friends and family and giving it a shot. Risking failure in front of an audience. But also risking greatness. To get one you've got to risk both.
It was time for our son to bat for the second time that game. His first at bat ended at strike three. I'm one of those parents who "just wants the kids to have fun." But as I watched my boy at the plate, I had to remind myself to breathe.
We've been rooting for this kid so hard, for so long. He's one of the smallest kids on this team, and it's been awhile since he played the sport. He's also not a "natural." He practices almost every day with his dad. He goes out before the sun comes up, before breakfast on a school day, to get his practice swings in.
He's never had a hit. Pitch after pitch, we remind ourselves to breathe, and we root for a hit with everything we've got. Pitch after pitch, he swings and misses.
Except for this pitch. This pitch, on this Tuesday night, makes contact with the bat. I jump out of my foldable chair. It's a hard line drive down the third base line. My son makes it to first base easily. Everyone is cheering, even his little sister who has been reading Highlights Magazine the whole time.
The euphoria is all-consuming. Like the breeze from a dusty baseball careening down the third base line, it blows away all the sitting, waiting, pitches and strikes that led up to this moment.
This is growth. Whether it's a kid pitch game or a freelancer starting from scratch, you can't get the glory without the slog. Pitch after pitch, until you get that hit.
Progress comes down to showing up at the plate, giving it a shot, and practicing on your down time. You may get bruised, you may fail many times, and you may get bored. But one day you'll get that hit, and it will cancel out everything else.
The glory is fleeting, but it's addictive. Once you feel it, you'll want more. On the drive home from that baseball game, my son said he couldn't wait for his next game. He also said he wants to play in the spring. I might invest in a cushion for my foldable chair.
This video is blurry (technology) and jumpy (Tom's excitement) but the audio tells you everything you need to know about the glory of the hit.
Last week I ordered HBO for the sole purpose of watching the movie Get Out. I was not disappointed. I’m not a horror movie person but I took the risk because I knew I needed to see this movie.
Because, here’s how it looks on paper:
Comedy Central guy decides to write and direct a horror movie that's also an examination of contemporary race relations in America. Movie breaks records, grosses more than $250 million on a $4.5 million budget, wins all kinds of awards. Minds are blown.
This story is kind of amazing. And the most amazing part, for me, is the moment where Jordan Peele won the Academy Award (making history in the process). Here is the part of his speech that got me:
I stopped writing this movie about 20 times because I thought it was impossible. I thought it wasn’t going to work. I thought no one would ever make this movie. But I kept coming back to it because I knew if someone let me make this movie, that people would hear it and people would see it.
I don’t know what it’s like to be one thousandth as talented as Jordan Peele. I don’t know what it’s like to write a movie. But I do know what it’s like to have something that you want to put into the world. Something that you keep giving up on and coming back to. Something that gives you faith in your purpose but also scares the crap out of you.
I hid from my something for years, until I finally learned that time is not infinite and hiding is a luxury not currently in my life budget. So I vowed to work on it every day for 30 minutes, even though I was busy starting a business and running a household.
I vowed to show up, because that’s really all it takes.
Can I tell you something? I have to talk myself into showing up every single time I sit down to work on it. Every. Single. Time. There is not a morning where I am looking forward to working on it. There is no excuse I have not tried on myself.
I didn’t sleep well last night.
I’m too busy.
I have too many emails to look at.
I’m not feeling creative today.
I’ll do it tomorrow.
But tomorrow is a lie. Tomorrow is a cop out. Tomorrow is a bill of goods. If I always count on tomorrow, my something will give up on me and go find someone else to inspire.
So I show up, and miracles happen. And when I say miracles, I am not talking about the quality of what I’m producing, AT ALL. I know damn well that I ain’t no Nabokov.
I’m talking about the miracle of an idea turning into something real. The miracle of having just enough faith to try something that scares me. The miracle of making something instead of just talking about making something.
For some people, making things is as natural as breathing – it’s just what they do. I have always lived in secret awe of those people. Me? I’m not one of those people. It took me 38 years to get the courage to show up for the one project that, as the kids say, “gives me life.”
So what took me so long?
I was waiting for permission - something I didn’t even realize I was doing until Elizabeth Gilbert told me. Yeah, I’m basically BFFs with the author of Eat, Pray, Love.
Okay, I may be exaggerating. I’ve actually never met her, but I did read her book Big Magic, and I enthusiastically recommend it to anyone with a beating heart.
Here’s the deal: I’m a good girl, a rule follower, a black or white, wrong or right person. So, like a good girl, I was sitting around waiting for someone to give me permission to do this thing that was in my heart.
Elizabeth Gilbert gave me permission in Big Magic, and, while I am not exactly a best-selling author, or an author at all (yet?!) I give you permission.
I, Grace Kennedy, give you, person with a beating heart, permission to turn your idea into something real.
You are surrounded by people who are rooting for you. We got you. We are rallying around you, and we would really love to see this idea of yours. Because we know that your beating heart is the only beating heart that can do this one thing. So we’re not just giving you permission - we’re counting on you to put your idea into the world.
And we can’t wait to hear your acceptance speech.
...was the name of my column in Phillips' Finest, my middle school newspaper. If it was good enough for seventh grade, it's good enough for "adulthood."