At thirteen I was taller than many of my classmates and very much stronger. I was a shot putter on the track and field team, and was good at sport in general. Despite my size and strength, I was often bullied, precisely because of those characteristics. I however held the conviction instilled in me by my mother that it would be wrong for me the harm a smaller child. Therefore, I endured the bullying.
At thirteen, I had teachers who saw me as clever, and some diligently tried to convince me of my non-physical abilities. But I, whether because of the bullying, or whether I had something to prove to myself, stayed fixedly focused on athletics.
High school was an uncomfortable turning point. By fifteen I had stopped growing and settled in at five foot – seven. I still competed in the shot put, but each year my ranking fell, as others first caught up to me in size and then surpassed it. My response was to practice more, spending long hours with the weights and in the shot put ring. I remained strong, and especially strong for my size. My academics, however, were not a priority. Yes I got mostly A-s, but not consistently so. My senior year, I even took only the classes I needed to graduate.
Alas, I am no athlete. I got a job, married, and went to community college, where I got A-s yet again. Then I joined the forces, where academically I did well even being noted on three occasions as “honor man” in military schools.
I left the forces, and went to uni, and then into ministry. I eventually even did graduate study at the University of Cambridge. I am still no athlete, but I am, as my teachers at age thirteen tried to show me – clever.
So what advice should I give a thirteen year old me? Give up the sport, you will end up too small? Hit the books, your future lies there?
No! The message to the thirteen year old me is: “Hold the Course. The path you are on is the one that will make you – you!”