To The Guy Who Tripped Me During the MLK Program in Middle School:
I know, I probably should hate the ground on which you walk. But I don’t. Give me a chance to explain, though.
Yes, you stepped on my feet and made me fall off of the choral risers … in front of a packed middle school gymnasium. You may not even remember it. But if you recall, I went through a swinging sound shell and on to the basketball hardwood backside first. You pointed and laughed in my face as the sound shell swayed back and forth — not even caring whether or not I was injured (thank God I only had a bruised tailbone). I don’t recall whether or not it was on purpose. Still, I wanted so much to exact revenge, but couldn’t because I couldn’t ruin my good boy image.
As I’ve matured, I’ve realized that in that moment you helped me in more ways than you know.
I stood behind those risers as the choir sung our final program selection. I missed it, not wanting to show my face. I feared the entire school would be laughing at me when I came from behind the sound shell. I felt like the true prince of flub, Charlie Brown, come to life. Already your everyday super square best known for being every teacher’s pet, I could do nothing but enhance my “aw, shucks Chuck” image with this prolonged hiccup.
But as I hid behind the sound shell, my outlook on embarrassment altered quickly. I mean, I had to show my face at some point … humiliated or not. When I did, a few kids snickered from the bleachers. But not as many as I thought were laughing at my expense. Come to find out, most of them didn’t even see me fall (or so I was told).
The best part of the entire ordeal came when we got back to the choir room and everyone in the choir laughed it off, including Ms. K. Eventually, I did as well. I had no choice. I realized in that moment that even when you embarrass yourself beyond belief, you have to accept it. You can’t dwell.
In the appropriate situations, you have to laugh at yourself. It’s hard to keep sane if you take yourself too seriously when you fall. It makes it harder to get back up.
And yes, I still over-analyze everything the way Charlie did. I’m doing it now. But I’ve gained a confidence Good Luck Chuck never has, and on some level, I have your feet to thank.
So as I look at what I’m capable of now — I’m confidently able to admit that I have a questionable tendency or three and can write a self-deprecating letter to the person who still leaves me in Facebook friend purgatory — I pause to express my gratitude. And I hope you’re not still tripping seventh-grade squares. It’s still not cool.