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I was at a crossroads prior to the start of my freshman year of high school. My best friend—basically the only dude I ever hung out with—had moved to Naperville, Illinois, just after eighth grade (I was living in Cincinnati at the time), and I was left with a dull summer existence that had topped off some time during my third screening of Independence Day. In an attempt to stave off high school obscurity and maybe even gain some sort of muscle, any muscle, I decided to try out for the junior varsity baseball team.
By no means was I going into the tryouts unprepared: I had been playing Little League for as long as I could remember, and I had two brothers close to me in age—all we ever did was play sports. Though something of a defensive liability (or just husky and slow) in the early portion of my Little League years, I eventually benefited from a regular lineup spot at first base—managers are often resigned to place chubby types (like Prince Fielder) at first. By the time I was 13, I could catch and dig the ball out of the dirt pretty well. And I could seriously hit.
But there was a snag in my plan to achieve high school relevance. While the tryouts were a means to an end, conditioning—the word still makes me edgy—was the precursor to the tryouts. Before I could even lace up my cleats, I'd have to go through two weeks of weight lifting and two weeks of running.
The weight lifting was never an issue. I learned long ago that if you walk around from machine to machine stretching and looking winded, you can put on a front that you're actually pumping iron. Just stay on the move and look determined—this method is still widely practiced by the apparently unemployed dudes who are at my gym four hours a day, never breaking a sweat.
I bailed on baseball when the running started. My high school's sublevel basement had a quarter-mile-long hallway with a permanent, overwhelming stench of developer emanating from the school's photo lab—we actually called it the "mile-long hallway" because of the painful trek from one end to the other. It was miserable to walk through, much less jog. Of course we had to run, taking occasional detours to run up the stairs that were side-pocketed off the stretch. The conditioning was paired with the typically unbearable Cincinnati-style humidity, so that each lap added an extra thicket of choking steam. It was awful, and I was terribly out of shape. I only lasted two days.
I don't regret quitting. I wanted to quit. I'm glad I quit. I regret not knowing what my life would be like today had I stuck it out—it's just curiosity, really. I'm confident I would have made the team. It was just JV. Hell, maybe I would've ended up at that prom afterparty. Maybe I wouldn't have started smoking and stunted my growth. But as it turned out, I fell in with a crew of high school suburban punks, many of whom I'm still tight with. We bleached and colored our hair, listened to Conflict, played sloppy hardcore-punk garbage, and didn't give a damn about sports, at least back when we thought we had something to prove. My high school years were still filled with an appropriate amount of paranoia and self-consciousness, but a more marginalized combo of the two that has apparently shaped me into some dude who's sitting at the Reader at 8:17 PM on a Thursday night trying desperately to wrap up a blog post so that he can go home.
Fuck it, no regrets.