I’ve always been a skinny kid. I don’t just mean that I’ve always been in shape (because I’m not sure I’ve ever referred to myself as “in shape”) but skinny. Muscles have never really been my thing. Sure I’ve wanted them, but they just never really… happened.
When I started playing basketball in high school, weight lifting became a mandatory aspect of our training and practices.
We’d meet in the weight room after school and pair up with a partner of similar strength (which for me meant some other weakling) and take turns lifting and spotting each other. It is amazing how going from never lifting weights to simply lifting weights can make you think you are so much stronger than you were a week ago. When really, you probably are not stronger at all.
And of course when I say “you” I mean me.
I spent a lot of time in the weight room after school as well as during summer break. But for as much time as I spent in the weight room, it seems all I did was wait for my muscles to come.
But in my mind, I was jacked, huge, a veritable Adonis. And because I was an Adonis I would try to do things I saw football players do, like… squat with other human beings on their shoulders.
Yes I know my teenage years were not my brightest.
I would pick up my really skinny female friends and throw them over my shoulders and do a couple of half squats with them to show off how buff I was getting. While people probably thought it was funny, I’m not sure anybody truly believed I was strong. Frankly it was a miracle I never dropped any of them.
During this time in my life I took a trip to Louisiana, a state I’d never been to before nor had never given much consideration to.
The fact that I was in Louisiana didn’t really matter as much as the fact that I was thousands of miles from home without my parents hanging out with a dozen kids a year older than me that I was simultaneously in love with and trying to impress.
There were a couple of advisors too.
I was serving on the International Board of this leadership organization I was a part of. It was quite an honor and everybody on the board was smarter, more confident, more talented, or at least taller than I was.
In typical high school fashion (though I’m not sure I’ve stopped doing this) I compensated for my insecurities by making lots of jokes, being extremely loud, and doing ridiculous things.
For the most part it worked out OK, but not always.
We were wrapping up the weekend, checking out of the hotel and getting ready to load up into the 15-passenger van that would drive us all to the airport.
It was about this time that I was saying goodbye to a female friend of mine who just happened to be the tiniest teenage person I’d ever met. She was a few inches shy of 5 feet, and adorable at that. We had a very affectionate relationship, and would regularly hug each other or sit in each other’s lap.
Well, she would sit in my lap; I wouldn’t sit in hers because ya know… I’d crush her.
So we are hugging and I think I started joking about how I was going to take my little friend home with me. So I threw her over my shoulder, which wasn’t that hard to do considering how tiny she was.
But then I started to run.
I want to pause here to let you know that even though it is now 12 years later my stomach is still in knots while I write this. Also, I feel a little nauseous. If that’s not foreshadowing I don’t know what is.
So I start to run and I get about 20 or 30 feet before I start to feel myself leaning forward ever so slightly.
And if you are running with a person on your shoulder, by the time you feel yourself start to lean, it’s already to late.
My hands let go of my friend and go out in front of me as we both start to fall, which doesn’t really help her because she isn’t prepared to fall off the shoulder of the idiot 16 year old who picked her up and started running with her without her permission in the first place.
I don’t remember my exact thoughts as we fell but I’m pretty sure it was something along the lines of:
We both hit the pavement. I am OK though my friend’s knees immediately start to bleed and she starts to cry. And I shrink to 1/8th my size and feel incredibly embarrassed as everybody, including our advisors come running over to help.
Saying I feel awful is an understatement. I feel so stupid, and embarrassed and disconnected from the group. None of who would ever think it a good idea to RUN WITH ANOTHER PERSON ON THEIR SHOULDER!
I got to hear later on what it looked like as I ran. People told me that they knew it was bad when we fell because when I dropped my friend they saw her bounce.
Humans should not bounce off of pavement.
The ride to the airport consists of me apologizing, my friend forgiving me, and then me apologizing again.
Apologize, forgive, repeat.
I get back to New York and I send her a basket of fruit? Teddy Bears? Something that says “Hey I’m sorry I threw you on the ground like a bag of trash”
Since then I cannot so much as think about the story without feeling my stomach tie itself into a handful of knots. I’m not sure I will ever feel good telling the story, not that I should.
But I definitely learned my lesson.
I quit basketball the following year.