Rack your brain really quickly: What’s the worst feeling in the world? Whatever you come up with, I submit that among the top contenders is feeling like you just let everyone down when they all expected you to succeed.
It’s been almost 20 years since the world’s worst soccer team took the field. We were a motley collection of tweens. We had the stamina of a three-pack-a-day smoker in a marathon, the skill of the Green Bay Packers without Aaron Rodgers and the hand-eye coordination of … a blind man with no hands? I ran out of metaphors there.
In practice, you couldn’t tell if we were doing push-ups or having epileptic seizures. In games, the only thing we looked forward to was the end, because a mom brought orange slices.
I was the keeper, goalie, whatever. The weird thing about that was, I didn’t suck at that job. It’s not bragging because it’s entirely irrelevant, but young Jesse was the only reason we didn’t get mauled every game instead of just losing by two. The coach pulled me and the one other mildly talented kid aside one game and said the equivalent of “look, you’re all we’ve got. Do whatever you want, go try and win the game for us.”
This was youth soccer sponsored by the YMCA in west Kentucky. Not exactly a hotbed of international talent. The kids that were kicking the crap out of us weren’t the next Messi, or even Freddy Adu. That probably made it worse that we didn’t win a single game.
But we could have. We came close, once. Because my brain hates me, it refuses to delete this memory.
That other kid whose name and likeness have long disappeared from my brain, he scored a goal. Our opponents had too, but who cared? All of a sudden it’s the second half, and … is this real? Are we not going to lose?
In the closing minutes, they earned a free kick from somewhere way outside the box. If you’re unfamiliar with soccer terms, you’re not going to see a lot of goals scored from that distance. Young me thinks there’s no way they even try, so I hedged my bet. I scooted over to get ready to intervene when they inevitably kicked the ball to their best player. I was so smart.
The kid kicking the ball looked around. He saw his options were covered. He looked over to his coach. Nothing. I’ve got him now, I thought. So, he did what any 11-year-old would do. He shrugged his shoulders, ran up and kicked the ball as hard as he could toward the net.
I wasn’t prepared. I never had a chance of getting over to stop the ball. He scored, they went crazy, and we lost. No one ever said anything to me. In my brain that was worse. Usually when we lost, whatever, let’s go get ice cream. Not that time, we ate our orange slices in silence and departed.
I legitimately cried when I got home. I had let everyone down. I got cocky. We lost because of me.
Now I hear you: Boohoo, you faced the world’s smallest amount of adversity once when you were a kid. Who cares? Children are literally starving in (third world country here).
But that’s who I am. I take everything hard. How many of you would remember that two decades later? I get low about the silliest things, the opposite is also true. Heck, just writing about that game made me feel sad. I do this all the time. Oh, the newspaper was late? My fault. Let me kick the door on the way out and think about it for two days. Oh, my team scored a touchdown? Let me celebrate and live on it the rest of the evening.
Life, in my experience, is usually equal parts high and low. What I’m trying to work on is not letting every little insignificant failing affect me. I think, to truly have a shot at sustained success, you have to approach life unmoved by everyday ups or downs. There’s something to be said about someone who rides the waves of life, of hardship, and can do it with a smile on their face. A “it’s OK, we’ll get ‘em next time” kinda person. It’s difficult, but I’m taking my first steps toward a more even-keel, and that’s this week’s small victory.
(JESSE JONES is the editor of The Eagle Post, a member of the Kentucky New Era Media Group. Email firstname.lastname@example.org to win two free tickets to his solo re-enactment of the original “Star Wars” trilogy.