Picked Last for Gym Class

One of the themes of Don’t You Forget About Me is the long-term effects of bullying.  When Allison Gingras interviewed me recently for her show A Seeking Heart, I talked about how DYFAM grew out of how much I have learned about forgiveness and that had I attempted to write that book even ten, fifteen years ago, it would have come out as a nanni-nanni-boo-boo vengeance novel.  Now, it is true:  I have long forgiven anyone who hurt me in grade school.

However, I just this morning noticed something that has stuck with me, and I’m not sure how I feel about it.

We are preparing to move.  We hope.  That’s another topic for another day, though.  We’ve lived out here in the Middle of Nowhere for nearly nine years now.  It’s been a rough nine years.  It’s really hard for me to connect with people to begin with.  I’ve always been “weird,” for lack of a better term.  Now, some of you might want to dismiss that with, “Heyyyy, everybody should be their own kind of weird.” Or, “Thank GOD you’re weird! You’re just better than all those normal people,” or whatever our supercali-individualistic society tells us to tell ourselves when we don’t “fit in.”  That’s fine.  That’s all good.  I have no regrets about who I am.  I’ve come to see that the very characteristics that make me a terrible BFF girl friend are making me an awesome wife and a formidable parent.

However.  I may be bad at being a friend.  That doesn’t mean I don’t want friends.  So what I’ve done is join things.  Clubs.  Bible studies.  Service projects.  And if there’s nothing to join, I start something (out here, that happens a lot).  As a result, people find themselves working alongside me sometimes.

However, they don’t pick me.  They choose the activity, but they don’t choose me.

I don’t go to playgrounds or libraries or whatever and start chatting up people,  because my life experience has taught me that those same people wouldn’t pick me. Given the choice, anyway.  That experience started early.  I was always picked last for gym class.  Now I am pretty sure that nothing would have changed that unless some grownup had noticed that I’m dyspraxic and could have used some early intervention OT & PT.  Whatever.  The fact remains that I was always picked last.  “Pick a partner” was the worst thing I ever heard in my schooling career, even through high school, where my experience was markedly better.  I even broke out in cold sweats over it.  I think the most precious gift anyone ever gave me was in Acting I in college.  Our professor assigned us our first two-person scene project, and before the slightest icy bead could form on my spine, a classmate turned around and said, “Erin, you wanna work with me?”  I couldn’t have been more shocked.  Had there been another Erin in the class, I would’ve assumed he meant her.  I still think I said, “Who, me?”

Anyway, these days, I organize activities and programs and events and join various formal groups… and today I realized that’s because I know nobody will pick me.  It’s a hard realization to make, honest and hard.

As I said to Allison in the radio interview mentioned above, I know the poison of self-pity.  I know its danger.  Thankfully I also know that Jesus sends this kind of pain to those He loves because He trusts us with it:  He wants us to know how much it hurts not to be picked.  How often do we not pick Him?

It’s okay to be lonely as long as you’re free.

That’s the only reason I can think of that this kind of pain keeps coming to me, over and over again. Today I have to admit that, no matter how many things I join or form or organize, I will have this pain until I am picked.  I want to be chosen.  And that, my friends, is just another sign that is supposed to point us away from this passing world and towards heaven.  Doubt that?  Go read John 15: 16.  It’s all about the love that is, was, and ever will be.  Love for you.  And, I think, love for me.

Have you had this pain, too?  How have you compensated for it?  Is that working out for you or not so much?  What is one thing, one scary thing, you can do differently to live a life of someone who has been chosen?  

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11 comments

  1. Lovely, Erin! I don’t know that I’ve ever suffered from “the last one picked” thing, but more of what I call “sidekick syndrome.” Maybe I’ll blog about it some time. What you say is so true – we can “fix” this or that about ourselves, but there will always be that God-shaped hole

  2. I could have written some of this exactly: I’m often a terrible friend, I was always picked last, I hated those same words spoken by a teacher: “pick a partner,” and the list goes on. High school was better (thank you, marching band). As I’ve grown I’ve found that I tend to join things (sort of like what you were saying) in order to feel like I fit in. I now have to be careful that I’m joining things for the right reason. I hold myself back now and only join if I truly feel like it is a beneficial thing to do and not just something to help me meet people or engage with people. Because left to my own devises, I won’t engage with people on my own. Too shy, too introverted.

  3. Yes, I was always picked last for anything in school, but especially gym. There was a great deal of moaning and groaning when the teacher assigned me to a team. In some ways I’ve carried the pain with me throughout life, but in a very real way I think it ended up bringing me more joy than pain.

    It really, really hurt, when I was a kid, but that pain led me to not seek others approval (since, clearly, I wasn’t going to get it). That’s given me a freedom in my life to do many things that I’ve come to realize, a lot of people are afraid to do.

    I too start things and try to establish connections, but you’ve put it very well: people are interested in the thing, not particularly in me. Sometimes that hurts still, but it is a great aid to purity of intention, and probably a smaller aid to some humility. I’ve learned that when you really don’t care what other people think, it’s easy to fall into arrogance.

    This whole experience has made me much more sensitive to the pain of others. It also really shaped my spiritual life. I think if I had been “chosen” by people, I would have been content with that, but God was the nearly the only one who “chose” me and that put me on a different path.

    Later, my husband’s choice of me, and his concrete expression of God’s love for me, helped to heal some of those wounds.

    At the time I was going through the experience, I literally wanted to die, but now, I am very grateful for how God used those experiences in my life. And now almost all of my close friends are people who had this experience as children.

    1. “I’ve learned that when you really don’t care what other people think, it’s easy to fall into arrogance.” Yes to this one billion times. I often tell myself not to care what people *think* but DO care about how people *feel.* And I agree: suffering IS a gift. Seeing it as one is a gift, too. Thanks for commenting!

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