Sunday, May 29, 2022

I Will Always Have Tennis



By Kara Jackman

One of the reasons I started playing tennis was because I needed help around gross motor skills, bust more importantly  my parents played tennis and enjoyed creating friendships around the social scene that it provided when they moved to suburbs from the city. They wanted the same thing for me. In turn, I received that and so much more. I now have a sport that I can play for the rest of my life. 

I never expected this thing that I enjoyed doing as a child with my instructors Maria, Ron, Eliot, and a legion of acquaintances that span decades, would improve my self esteem. Often I find myself saying in other parts of my life where I frequently make mistakes, "well, at least I have tennis." I may not be the most coordinated, sexiest, or even to be able to consistently regulate my emotions, but I will always have tennis. 

On the court, I got the validation I long desired. People would and still say, "you have very pretty strokes." As a person with a facial difference, I desperately wanted something about me to be pretty. I found that on the court. Otherwise I was relegated to the land of cute and sweet, quiet and kind. There is nothing wrong with these accolades, but when day in and day out the world tells you are not the norm in the looks department, you crave ways to distract from your appearance for positive reinforcement. Tennis and a myriad of other pursuits allowed me to love my body, face and all, for what it can do. Then I found it easier to love myself. 

Over the years, I evolved into a better player, but also a better person. Less klutzy and more capable of handling my emotions when they come. Much like the mistakes I make on the court, shanked balls, and "home runs" that sail feet overhead just to thwack against the back curtain, I know I will get another chance to do better next time. My strokes remain pretty, and people continue to take note, admonishing me with praise. My heart sings when they say it because on any court, I am just like everyone else. Something I have wanted from the very day I graced this planet with my presence. Finally, I belong. 

What are you good at? What helps you find confidence in you and your body? Is it athletics, art, performing, writing, singing, dancing, crafting, playing video games? Do you have a community that respects you for what your body can do? 

Find something. Explore all the options. Leave no stone unturned. You are worth it. Beauty comes to us in so many different ways. I challenge you to find it, and remember to hold on to it for a lifetime.  

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