“Things never go the way you expect them to go. But when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change.” Well, that’s what my super experienced great grandmother says all the time. But then, I never understood what she meant. Do you think that if I look at a bitter gourd, thinking that it is the most delicious thing in the world, it change into sumptuous noodles in front of my eyes? Since I consider my great grandmother to be wiser than Solomon, I fooled myself into trying it about a zillion times, but it never worked out. What exactly does great granny want to tell me?
Oh, and if I forgot to introduce myself, then hi! I am Jenny Smith, a seventeen-year-old sporty girl. I am considered as the best sports girl at school. And yes, I have won a total of 15 gold medals, 1 silver medal and a bronze medal for playing tennis in the national level. I am renowned in my city as the 2nd best tennis player in Tennessee. However, it is my dream to be a record-breaking tennis player in the future and I’ve been working super-hard on it. I want to convey an important message to all of you through this little piece of the story of my life. First of all, I’m not a great writer. So please excuse me if anything goes wrong.
So, it was a beautiful sunny day. The rays of the hot ball of fire hanging in the sky (There! I used a writing tactic of my English teacher) made my sweat glisten while I was defeating my other fellow friends in the game of tennis. This year’s tennis batch was not as strong as last year’s because many of my mates either changed their school since it was the last year of schooling, or many of my friends’ parents got transferred to other cities on getting promotions. However, my proud coach was watching me hit those balls with my racket gracefully, like a pro (Well that was what I was thinking 😅) But he had totally different plans in his head.
“Okay players! Take a break.” Everyone scattered to the four corners of the tennis court to gossip with their friends. I too sauntered towards the right-hand side of the court to gulp down some water (Woah! Seems like my writing’s improved a lot). My coach called me and when I walked up to him, he said, "Jenny! How do you feel?”
“How do I feel? About what sir?” I questioned.
“Oh, I mean, do you think you’ve been improving?” he replied.
“Oh sure sir, I have improved a lot since the past week.” I answered.
“Great. Now I'm allotting an important job to you. You’ll have to select two more players and tell them that the three of you will represent our school and take part in this year’s tennis tournament. The players whom you select must be strong and competitive. You’ll be their coach and every day, after school, the three of you will practice hard for the tournament in the tennis court. You’ll have to polish all your skills. We hardly have two weeks' time. So, please do this sincerely. Okay?”
“Okay.” I said, with a look of disbelief as I was being appointed as the coach for the first time and it was so-out-of-the-world-situation for me.
However, I selected two of the best players from our group and every day, we practiced intensely. We called our team ‘The Golden Trio’. I’d prepare a training schedule and my companions would strictly follow it. We never wasted a single minute and pulled our socks up day by day to win this year’s tennis tournament. After fourteen long days of shedding sweat, we finally geared up for the big day. The Golden Trio were the only representatives of our school. So yeah, this year was a great deal.
“And last, but never the least...our final team selected for the nationals is (long pause) THE GOLDEN TRIO!!!” Well, that’s what the speakers of the stadium echoed with. We now had one day for training. We were tensed about the coming day. The strategies set by our opponents were higher than ours. We knew that we had less chances of winning. However, we never brought up that topic and kept encouraging each other for the next day. IT WAS TOO LATE TO BACK OFF.
The next day, we battled fiercely against our opponents. I even got injured. But I hid my pain and continued playing. We gave our best. This year, our competitors were indeed strong. I don’t remember when was the last time our group played this vigorously. I was in the proud-coach-mode when I saw my team mates swinging their rackets and playing as if this was a war. But alas! We lost. All three of us got injured and we were not at all in the condition of playing. We even tried to pursue our accompanying teachers to let us play. But they didn’t allow it. The worst part was feeling heartbroken. We had given our maximum and sacrificed everything we had. Still, we failed to succeed. I was out of my mind that I even fell into tears.
On reaching home, my mother who was busy washing dishes, said, “Welcome home Jenny! How were the finals?” My tongue was held captive. I didn’t reply. I was ashamed. Being the 2nd best tennis player in Tennessee, losing the nationals of the tennis tournament was awful. My mother had always supported me to fulfill my dreams. She would always find new competitions for me. She herself was among the top ten tennis players in Tennessee. She had high hopes that our team would win this year, especially since it was the last year of my schooling. But I’d let her down. I couldn’t speak. I wasn’t ready to let the cat out of the bag.
Then she turned around and saw me wounded and bruised all over. But something that mattered to her more than that was the hideous frown on my face. “What’s wrong dear? Why are you so blue today?” she asked.
“Um...mom...uh...we didn’t...make it.” I stuttered and then started crying on her shoulders.
Then my mother grimaced and said, “Is that it? Why are you crying a river for that? It’s okay to lose. That’s a part of life. C’mon, get a bath and talk to your great granny. She isn’t well. She’ll be happy if you talk to her.”
I found it rude when she said ‘Is that it?’ It was as if she never understood me. I was angry, but I didn’t show it and just walked away without saying another word. Just as she said, I took a quick and quiet bath and got dressed. It’s important to mention ‘quiet bath’ because I have a habit of singing in the bathroom. However, I’m not much of a singer. So, I always sound like a dying goat while singing. However, not this time. Because I didn’t sing at all.
After I got dressed, I strolled towards my great granny's room where she lay looking out of the window. Her face all wrinkled, her eyes so thin you could probably say they were closed and her smile that never seemed to fade away always drew me close to her. I loved her a lot and talking to her made my stress and sadness fade away.
"Oh dear Jenny! Back from school?" she said in her sweet voice.
"Hmm. How are you by the way?" I asked.
"Totally excited to meet my family in the clouds." she replied.
"Oh please don't talk that way. Do you know how sad would I be if you went away from me?" I said.
"I will never go away from you. I'll always be by your side even in life and in death." she said.
I smiled. I loved it when she talked that way. I held her hand.
"Oh! And you had your nationals today, didn't you? How did it go?" she asked. It was quite astonishing because great granny, being so old was always the forgetful person of our family. How'd she remember about my tournament, about the worst day of my life?
"Didn't go well. We lost." I said. Then I got a little selfish and added, "This year, our batch was week and not as strong as last year's. Also, we were injured but we could have continued only if those teachers of ours wouldn't have stopped us. We did our part. But they didn't allow us to complete it. "
"Is that so?" great granny said. "Are you sure it was their fault?"
"Yes it was. They did gave their best, but not their maximum."
"But weren't you the coach?'
"Yes I was. I did everything I could."
"Wasn't this your first experience of being coach?"
"Yes, it was."
Then great granny smiled.
"And still you think the mistake was theirs? You stubborn little teenager, let me tell you the leader of any team would blame its failure on him. I myself was the leader of a science group during my school days. We had multiple failures in our journey. But I always blamed them upon me. It was my fault. Being the most logically capable student at school, if I couldn't train my peers to be like me, then how can I say that I did everything I could? The same implies to you, sweet heart. Do you ever feel lucky or proud of yourself to be the 2nd best tennis player in Tennessee? For most children, it's just a dream. But you, my dear, are living that dream. You were appointed coach of your tennis group. So it is your responsibility to prepare your team and make them win. The failure you experienced today, was indeed your fault, and not theirs. It's not good to blame it upon someone else. Hope you understand."
I nodded. I was starting to realize my mistake. I was feeling stupid now. Why was I even crying? Mother was right. Failures are a part of life. I felt a tear slipping down my face. I quickly wiped it and said, "I'm sorry. I understand." My voice was filled with guilt and gloominess, Granny realized it and laced her fingers through mine.
"This is just the beginning Jenny. You have so many more lessons to learn. And I'm sure that one day you'll be a successful tennis player and a great coach for your team too." She said with one of her best smiles.
I couldn't help smiling. Then something clicked in my mind.
"Granny, you always said that things never go the way you want them to go. But when you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change. I just couldn't understand what that meant."
"Oh dear, you could relate this very same situation to that. You expected your team to win, but your expectations weren't fulfilled. Right?"
"Right." I agreed.
"And you took your failure too harshly upon yourself, without looking at it with another perspective."
"What's the other perspective?" I questioned.
"Everything has a positive and a negative side. The negative side is what you experienced on losing today's match. The positive side is what most humans fail to understand."
But I just kept frowning, to let her know that I didn't understand a bit of it.
"Listen, every failure teaches you something. It is a very important step that you need to take in order to be successful. You learn where you lagged or what mistakes you made and you get to correct them the next time. Hope you understand. Until today, every time you lost, you cried or became upset about it. But from tomorrow, you need to focus on how you can prevent the mistakes you made previously and do better the next time."
"But Granny, why is failure important to succeed?"
"When you don't realize the pain and sorrow others experience, you never value what you have. For instance, if there was continuous light on Earth, then how would it be?"
"Um...plants would dry up, water would get evaporated and we wouldn't know when it's time to sleep or wake up."
"Yes, and do you think we would know what is night? Would we know what is darkness? Absolutely not. You need to know what is hunger to know what is it like to have your tummy full. You need to know what is cold to feel the warmth. You need to know what is bad to become good. That's why negativity is necessary to have positivity. Got it?"
She had a point. All these victories I have had all my life mean nothing. I don't even know my weaknesses. I failed to aim at them. I was just a boaster, who kept roasting weak players. Now my great granny made me realize the necessity of failure, of struggles and of negativity.
A month later, my dear great granny entered heaven. She left this world with a smile on her face. But she never left my heart. Her wise words, life lessons and unconditional love are all still engraved in my mind. I can always sense her around me, watching me proudly and giving me imaginary thumbs ups before any tennis match. After all, death can never separate us when love exists. I have lost many matches, but learnt a ton of new tricks and tactics to beat my competitors. I don't cry on losing. I can confidently say, I am a changed person now. Little do I know, that there are a zillion more surprises that life has in store for me.