In everyone’s life there are experiences that shape them. Moments of time that are frozen in your memory and are able to be recalled with perfect clarity no matter how many years have passed since they occurred. They can be flash moments like the first time you set eyes on the love of your life or they can be longer memories where you relive entire conversations from that one magical sunset.
I have many of these experiences but there is one that always sticks in my mind more than any other: Grade 8 Gym Class in the spring. I wish that I could tell you this was where I discovered a love of sports that had heretofore been unknown. Or even that this was the moment I met my best friend and we have been inseparable ever since.
Nope. Not at all.
(Let’s be honest, if you’ve read my blog before you know that what’s coming next isn’t sweet or nostalgic, but rather painfully awkward and probably a little bit humiliating.)
Dear reader, this moment, my most relived memory, was a lesson that taught me that life isn’t fair and that the bullies you know in high school don’t grow out of it but instead become adult bullies (otherwise known as the worst breed of bully).
My grade 8 gym teacher was one of those bullies.
Mr. P hated me instantly along with every other kid in his class who didn’t possess a love of sports and an effortless skill. The feeling was mutual. All of us misfits hated him with a passion and dreaded the hours we had to spend in his class. He taunted, belittled, and just genuinely made life hell for the uncoordinated.
Yet none of his behaviour could have prepared me for what happened when we played baseball.
I had actually been looking forward to the baseball unit because in the past it had meant I could hang out in the field and make daisy chains while the kids up front ran and threw to their hearts content. Also in the past it had always been the teacher who pitched the ball, throwing easy lobs to give each student a chance at bat.
But not Mr. P.
Mr. P thrived on discomfort. This is why one day I found myself at bat, facing the only boy in the class who played baseball recreationally. I didn’t mind too much, three strikes wouldn’t take that long and I had already watched the pitcher strike out almost everyone in the class with curve balls and fast balls and all the balls (I don’t really know a lot of baseball terminology). But Mr. P was a bully and he decided to do what bullies do best. Humiliate.
At the end of my three strikes I went to pass the bat to the next in line when Mr. P yelled at me to stop what I was doing. I was not going to be granted three strikes, I was meant to stand there at bat until I hit the ball. He didn’t believe I was trying hard enough and he made sure everyone knew it.
I was being singled out. The colour drained from my face and even the students who regularly bullied me looked confused. This wasn’t an appropriate action for a teacher.
I am an introvert and this became the darkest kind of torture. Not only was I the centre of attention in the worst way possible, I was also being yelled at by the teacher with each pitch I missed. The pitcher took pity and tried to throw me a few easy ones but I was so flustered I could barely swing in time, my brain going fuzzy and blank, and my arms shaking.
I can still remember it all so vividly. It took me 17 tries before I finally hit the ball. Everyone in the class was deeply uncomfortable and the pity was palpable. No one wanted to knock me out of the game after the humiliation I had endured so I made it to third base before the next batter struck out on three.
Mr. P stared at me with a smirk as the class ended. He had enjoyed this moment, revelled in feasting on my terror. I narrowed my eyes at him and didn’t break eye contact in what was one of my first and most memorable acts of defiance. It was not the reaction he had expected and I still smile when I think about how much that must have pissed him off.
Even knowing that I got the last laugh by refusing to let him break me I have never quite gotten over this humiliation and to this day I still loathe baseball.
Disclaimer: In the fifteen years since this happened I have grown to find this story hilarious in the way that all of our most unpleasant memories become a joke to be told at parties. Rose coloured glasses have added a nostalgic air to even the most dreadful of memories and I honestly believe this event shaped me in many ways.
Still, if I ever meet Mr. P again I plan on kicking him in the shins twice and calling him a poopy face before running away waving my arms like a lunatic.