do the work

I was the last to be picked at try-outs for Freshman Sports.  I had, in fact, already been sent back to the locker room with the others exiled to regular PE when Coach called me back because my numbers were decent.  I had completed all the exercises, and I had served for volleyball at 75%- underhand like a baby, one girl said– but, 75%.  Far from stunning.

But I made the team.

I just wanted to be on the team.

I worked out every day with ridiculous athletes.  Our teams were good- competitors at state-level all four years of high school.  I stretched, I ran, I nearly died.  I was not- am still not- an athlete.   Basketball season was particularly awful.  I was a backup to the backups and did not get a cool uniform like the rest of the girls.  No jersey, no school sweats.  I did get to ride the bus to games and I made myself useful by keeping the stat book for the team.  Why I was willing to suffer the humiliation of being at the bottom of that heap day in and day out for the entire year is beyond me.  It still shocks me.

High School is hard.

Halfway through the year, Coach issued a challenge: anyone who could bench press their own weight would earn a t-shirt.  An emblem of achievement.  Another proof of belonging.  For me, at 99 pounds, that meant I’d have to bench 100 pounds.  The first try a few weeks later, I failed along with a few others.  The second try, I was close at 95 pounds… but not close enough.  I would have one more shot- me, alone– the next week.

While the other girls worked on drills for that night’s game in the gym, Coach and I walked to the weight room in the field house.  It was maybe the only time I’d ever been alone with her.  I was terrified of her.  I think I still am.  To make conversation, she asked if I was excited for the game coming up.  For reasons completely unknown to me and probably God, I said, “No.”  She stopped in middle of the parking lot.

“Why not?” she asked, her hands on her hips.

The truth continued to seep from my mouth, “Well, [Maggie] keeps saying I shouldn’t even really be going.  I don’t play.  I just take up space.  And, she’s right. I mean, I want to go.  But I know some of the other girls don’t want me to go… and that’s, you know, weird.”

She stared at me silently for a second.  Maybe she was trying to remember my name.  I considered running away but realized she could catch me and, really, how much more awkward could this day get?

“Katie, you do the work.  You do the same work every one else does every day.  You just don’t get the same results. But, you do the work… so, you ride the bus.”

And just like that, she turned around and marched on to the weight room.

It took me a couple seconds to catch up with her.

It took me 20 years to understand her.

A few things:

That was the last time I weighed anything close to 100 pounds.

I couldn’t bench my weight that morning, and I didn’t get my t-shirt.  She’d probably be fired today for leaving one student out, but back then you only got a shirt if you earned it.  I didn’t. I understood that and I’m ok with it.

Girls are mean.  They terrify me, still, to this day.

I do the work.  Today.  I do the work.  I don’t get the behavior results or the blog results or the book results or the music results that some get… which is so absolutely maddening to me… but I do the work.  I’m on the team.

So the next time I order up sweatshirts, I’m putting my name across the back.  I’m a starter on this team now.  No asterisk.  No explanation.  I do the work.  I bench my weight.  I get a shirt.

I’ve earned it by now, and so have you.

Get on the bus.

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About texasnorth

TexasNorth is a little farm in Western Michigan. It's home to 5 chickens, 25 longhorn cattle, a coonhound (Banjo), 1 barn cat, a husband, and 3 ridiculously funny children. The mom of this zoo has been known to mow the lawn in a skirt and roast marshmallows after dark. View all posts by texasnorth

27 responses to “do the work

  • Miss Laura

    It’s going to take me a few minutes to recover from that. That might just be the very best thing you’ve ever written.

  • Jess

    Just so you know, at this point in our lives, your the Captain of the team I sooo look up too!!!

  • mdyoder

    Ah, yes, you do the work, Katie. And, you are a champion wordsmith who makes us think and feel and laugh and cry. I’d say that’s something to be proud of and a reason to proudly wear a Texas North sweatshirt with your name emblazoned and/or bedazzled across the back! 😉

  • Carolyn Fitzgerald

    love it! I can relate on so many levels…its no surprise I connect with you so easily.. Thank you again!

  • Tami

    I’ve been following you for awhile but don’t comment. Reminds me of the cold, quiet parents in the stand who will not just get up and yell when a great shot is made. Or a great attempt. High school changed me. Not for the better.
    You are an amazing writer!
    Thank you for sharing.

  • jane

    I’m another distant follower…you are a kindred spirit and a terrific writer. Keeping stats isn’t such a bad thing…”we can’t all be heros; someone has to sit on the curb and cheer while the rest march by.” It’s legit work. I do it.

  • Jen DenOuden

    Thanks for sharing this – hits close to home:-)

  • Fran

    One of your best, Katie!!

  • Teresa

    Well said, Katie. Hard work ethic is never-ending. When things come easy — it’s usually not as satisfying.

  • Anna

    Might just be my favorite so far.

  • fridaynightgirl

    Oh, Katie. I knew you then and am so glad our friendship made it. You know I love your posts. I agree with the others that this might be one of the best. I’m going to share it with Munchkin. It’s just right.

  • Bonnie

    I would also be proud to wear a shirt with your name across the back. Which would also be my name. Good for us.

  • Natalie Mulder

    Amazing. Simply wonderfully put. It resognates with my spirit friend. I do think I even need to re read it.

  • Phil

    Good stuff, Kate. I know you honed those writing skills of yours with all of those challenge course training manuals you put together. I love your writing…keep going. The sweatshirt? I still wear mine often. It is starting to smell bad — might have to get a new one.

  • Kim Aguilar

    I remember that coach…I’m pretty sure I’m thinking of the same one. Sort of a mullet hairdo, right? (Hey it was cool back then.) No? Well, I gotta story! So, it was sophomore year, and I had just gotten my braces tightened (I was mortified to wear braces in high school) and went to P.E. where we were playing volleyball, which became my least favorite sport of all time because someone served and the ball HIT ME IN THE FACE. I was crying so hard I couldn’t see her, but the coach said to me, “Oh, come on, you’re okay!” And I eeked out, “j-j-j-ust h-h-h-ad m-m-my braces t-t-tightened.” And she wrapped her arms around me and said, “Oh. You are NOT okay.” She hugged me for a minute and then let me sit the bench for the rest of the hour. She taught me the golden art of compassion. To this day I am grateful that she was “on the bus.”

    Great post, my friend.

  • Carley Ensing

    This was great. I love it. This is so one of my favorites. I think because it’s so me too. I do the work. And I don’t get the results either. Why don’t we get the results? All I want is the shirt with my name on the back. Ahh.. it is maddening. Did I say I love this?
    Thank you.

  • Margie

    Great, great, great. (This time, WordPress, let me post!)

  • Mandi

    Oh, Friend! I love this post for so many reasons. I actually got that shirt, but, in the grand scheme, I still didn’t really feel like I was on the team. I had just moved to Belton, and basketball was all I cared about. But I just never seemed to quite measure up to the other “ridiculous athletes” or connect with the other girls on the freshman team too much (and my parents didn’t play school politics like some of the others). And Coach Jordan was absolutely frightening! I’m so glad those days are behind me, but this post is still so close to home. I do the work. Every. Single. Day. And, sometimes even in the middle of the night. I do the work, and I don’t always get the results. But, if you don’t do the work, you never even get to get on the bus. And, it’s a ride I wouldn’t miss for anything.

  • lisahudson

    I’m crying. As always. What I want most right now is to just run away from it all; the sad, the frustration, the grief, the having-to-be-the-one-responsible for sorting through all my mom’s things and the rivers of tears that come with that. But you’re so very right, dear Katie. So insightful, as always. This isn’t a ride I can miss. I have to get on the bus. Every day. For as long as it takes. And when that ride ends, I’ll get on the next bus. Thanks for the reminder that all of us, as women, as humans, as God’s children, need to get on that bus every single day, without question…even if we can’t see the steps through the tears in our eyes. Thank you, Katie.

  • campbell c. hoffman

    I wanted to comment last week but just had my teeny tiny kindle keyboard and knew I would be frustrated trying to say what I wanted to say. Which is: Yes, these is one of the best things I’ve read in a long time. So powerful. And honest. And the lessons you own now are ones that people live their whole life without getting. I’m trying to teach my kids the importance of “doing the work” ’cause, honestly, it’s not one that I feel like comes easy to me. As a kid, I was smart, did well in school without really trying, and while that is nice, and feels good at the time, it has helped at all in real life. In real life, you have to do the work. Thank you for this.

    • texasnorth

      YES! I think you’re right. I think things coming easy when you’re young only makes it worse when you’re older. I also think, for me, there was an incredible lesson in humility… which doesn’t come easily either. And about how perfection is not always expected to be a part of a group. You can just do what you do… and that is enough when it really matters.

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