Even though this post uses baseball as a metaphor for life, I promise (to you readers who loathe sports) you do not need to like, know or give an Al Gore about baseball in order to appreciate the post. Of course, given the empty abyss that is my readership these days, none of this probably matters. Hmmm.
I find it a tad disappointing that the thing I arguably know better than anything else — the thing I worked at and actively studied as a child, teen and young adult — is virtually useless to me as an adult.
My brain is a database of in-depth, insightful, unused baseball information.
Had I grown up with a love of playing the piano, even if my profession wasn’t as a pianist I could still get plenty of use out of such a skill in adulthood. The same would be true had my youthful hobby been cooking, hunting, sewing or any number of other things.
But with baseball, not so much. Unless I’m playing the game, coaching the game, writing about the game or watching the game, the usefulness of my knowledge is virtually nonexistent.
This is why, I believe, I use baseball for so many analogies and metaphors in real life — I’m trying to get SOME use out of this knowledge. (Well, that and the fact sports analogies/metaphors are so easy to make.)
My favorite life-baseball metaphor didn’t even dawn on me until a week ago. I had a dream where I was playing baseball. (As a teen such dreams were common, but not so much now.) The following morning, I got out of bed and drug my sleepy butt to the gym. While on the elliptical, I remembered the dream and had my metaphor epiphany.
In the dream, I was showing a teammate the proper technique for fielding a baseball. (Yes, even in my dreams I micromanage what others are doing.) The tutorial I gave him was one I’ve given hundreds of times in my life as a player and later as an actual coach.
It’s my “play the ball, don’t let the ball play you” lesson. What it means, basically, is that when a baseball is hit to you on the ground, you shouldn’t sit on your heels and wait for it to get to you. That is “letting the ball play you.”
Why is this a bad thing? Well, because it leaves you, the fielder, helpless and dependent on the whims of a bouncing ball. All you can do is react.
If you’re very lucky and have good reflexes, the ball will bounce into your glove. If you’re a little lucky, the ball will miss your glove, but hit you in the chest (where you can then pick it up). If you’re unlucky, the ball will miss your glove and body completely (meaning you’ll receive an error for missing the ball). And if you’re really unlucky, the ball will hit you in an area of your body I affectionately refer to as “the baby maker.”
In that last scenario, you, the fielder will receive an error for missing the ball and will suddenly find yourself singing soprano.
So what’s the alternative?
Be proactive. Read the bouncing ball coming towards you. Move your feet. Time it so that you can get a nice, easy-to-field hop.
You “play the ball” instead of letting the ball play you.
Suddenly, the real-life correlation dawned on me.
Too many of us react to everything life throws at us. Now, some of this cannot be prevented. When we get a phone call on a idle Tuesday afternoon telling us a loved one is in the hospital, all we can do is react.
But how many of the situations we face in life could we see coming in the distance if we took the time to look? How many situations could we do something about? How many situations do we face that could be avoided (or, at least, their impact lessened) if we were proactive instead of reactive?
For the most part, I am good at looking ahead and being proactive. In college, I was one of those students who would take the syllabus for each of my classes and write down the due dates for all my tests and papers. Why? I was looking to see if any weeks were going to be what I call “a perfect storm” — a week where every class has something due.
By looking ahead, I was able to plan accordingly.
Still, I’m sometimes inconsistent with my proactiveness. So, after my metaphor epiphany, I did what I should always do every so often: I took stock of my life. I asked myself, “Self, where is your life right now? Where could it go in the months and years to follow? Where do you want it to go?”
Such simple questions, but they’re so important.
Where is your life right now?
Where could it go?
Where do you want it to go?
Answer these three questions and you will come to one of two conclusions: Either you love your life and where it’s headed, or you don’t love your life or where it’s headed. If it’s the former, great! But if it’s the latter, you have one more question to ask yourself:
What can/will I do about it?
Sit back on your heels and let life throw whatever it’s going to throw at you, and you’ll likely find high-speed baseballs aiming for your baby maker. But if you look ahead, see what’s coming and be proactive, you’ll save yourself much aggravation and pain.
It’s a helpful lesson for big life events, fielding a baseball and everything in between.
But mostly it’s helpful for fielding a baseball.