I've been playing tennis on Tuesday nights here in Bowling Green for a while now, and this past Tuesday I met the most adorable little eight-year-old whom I'll call India.
As fate would have it, I injured my arm while playing tennis this week and, as a result, had to forfeit my match and was sent back to the minor leagues, also known as the drill court. That's where I came across India. Her mother was playing on the drill court too, and India was sitting on the sidelines watching and running around like a young woman on a mission.
Whenever any of us got a break, India would run right up to us and start talking and asking a myriad of questions. She grilled any and all of us about things as varied as the rules of tennis to the heat index (which was 101 on Tuesday). And, in that way, she kind of reminded me of that hysterical little kid from Jerry Maguire (pictured above).
During one of my breaks, I asked India if we had met before because she seemed so familiar, and she reminded me that she had been the one attacking me with questions the first week of our tennis league earlier in the spring.
Suddenly, it came back to me. This was the precocious little kid had come up to me and said, "Hi, my name is India" as if everyone on the planet should know who she was. I took an immediate liking to her. Who doesn't love a confident, outgoing kid?
And this Tuesday was no exception—she was still full of questions about life, tennis, and everything else.
So when I was on my way home from tennis that night, I thought about how India is the kind of kid who has enough energy, confidence, and intelligence to become an extraordinary adult and to do anything.
And then it hit me.
That's what I was like as a kid.
I was constantly butting into adult conversations, completely unaware of the fact that I was supposed to be playing with my toys or hanging out with kids my own age rather than offering opinions on grown-up issues. And there were many adults who noticed that about me—friends, family members, even teachers. It wasn't unusual for someone to comment on my maturity and intelligence. In fact, people did it all the time. And they were always telling me I could do anything, which is exactly what I thought about India.
But here's the sad part.
I didn't buy it.
In fact, I'm sorry to say that it took me years—maybe thirty?—to realize that I could do anything I wanted.
And the reason I didn't buy it is even worse.
I didn't buy it because I didn't see myself as attractive. I truly believed that the people who made it, the people who succeeded, were all good-looking. And I never really saw myself as good-looking, at least not until the past few years.
So why did I make this equation between looks and success?
I think we all know the answer to that. We spend so much time worshipping beautiful people in our society and worrying about what we look like ourselves that it's easy to equate beauty with value (and this is especially true when we're young). And from there it's not hard to think that if we're not beautiful, we have no value.
I'm of course glad that I finally figured out how wrong an equation that is, but I do wish I had figured it out years earlier.
I suppose all I can do now is comfort myself with the though that it's never too late.