“Why didn’t you chase after the ball?” My tennis instructor asked.
It was a fair question. My instructor had been making me run cross-court as part of a drill practice. I kept up as best I can. Then, it happened. He hit over a shot I knew I had no chance in getting. I was tired. I didn’t even bother with it. My instructor walked over and called me out on it.
My initial thought, as I breathed heavily from all the running, was “If you didn’t make me run cross-court so many times, I wouldn’t be so tired and I’d have the energy to chase after it…”
While it was true, it was a poor excuse. Having been on club sports before, I also knew it was not the right mentality to have as an athlete.
My instructor must have read my mind. He knew it wasn’t for a complete lack of effort since I often worked hard at my game. Before I had a chance to respond, he finally said to me, something to the effect of, “You know, even if it’s a shot you don’t think you can get, you still have to chase after it. Or you’ll never know if you can get to it.”
I knew he was right. Soon after, he lobbed over another long shot. I knew what he was getting at. Not wanting to get called out again, I pivoted and chased after it. Much to my surprise, I was able to make contact with the ball. Don’t get me wrong — it was a sloppy play and it was still a miss. I wasn’t wrong – it was a long-shot. Off-position with a racket in an outstretched hand, it was also hardly reflective of the good or graceful tennis that I aspire to play.
Still, my instructor pumped up his fist and said, “Now, that’s the spirit!”
An Encounter at the Airport
Why is this even related to travel?
Because the real lesson actually came not long after that, at an airport. I was on a trip home after visiting a good friend.
While on the moving walkway at the airport, I noticed a mom with her two kids at a comfortable distance in front of me. She had her hands full — one hand holding a luggage, the other holding her daughter’s hands. The older boy – maybe 7 or 8 years old – lagged slightly behind. The mom periodically turned around to check that her son is following along. The boy would put his hands on the glass panel on the moving walkway, dragging his hands along. His Mom told him to stop doing that, but he ignored her.
It was a long moving walkway, so I chatted with my good friend and her husband who came to send me off. They had been wonderful hosts during my visit.
After the walkway, we had to take an escalator up. The mom held her daughter’s hand and got on, the boy right behind. At his age, he was capable of riding an escalator himself. Except for one big mistake.
I happened to be watching when he stepped on the escalator and nonchalantly put both his tiny hands on the glass panel near the bottom of the escalator. Unlike the flat walkway, he seemed to have forgotten that the escalator moves up. When it actually happened, his hands moved off-position which threw off his balance. Things unraveled quickly.
I saw him put down one of his hands on the escalator to try to steady his balance. Unfortunately, that was just the moment when the flat part of the escalator suddenly turned into a step. He had one hand on the bottom of the step, his other hand suddenly flailing. He was off-balance and any seconds away from falling down backwards even as the escalator goes up.
And escalators have sharp edges.
Probably realizing the situation he got himself into, he yelped — a cry to his Mom for help.
Everything in Slow Motion
Have you ever been in situation where things happen in seconds, but everything seemed to be in slow motion?
That was one of those moments, for me.
I saw the Mom turned around as did the daughter, both now facing downwards on an up-escalator. Seeing the trouble brewing for her son, I watched as the Mom let go of her daughter’s hand and made some motions. I couldn’t hear what she said, but it appeared she wanted her daughter to stay put while she head down to help her son. The girl had a frantic expression on her face, reaching out for her mother’s hands. She was not old enough to be on the escalator by herself, let alone facing the wrong way.
It was unsafe situation. Could the Mom make it to her son in time?
I was still at least some distance away from the escalator. If I make a dash for it, could I possibly get to him? Quickly assessing the distance, I had serious doubts I can get to the boy in time, too. Are there other people nearby that can help? In a busy airport, it suddenly seemed like no one was nearby at that moment.
Seemingly out of nowhere, the tennis lesson popped into my head. I decided that I might as well be that person. I might not be able to make it in time, but I’ll be damned if I don’t at least try and give it my best shot.
What Happened Next
With no time to spare, I let go of the two-wheeler luggage I had been wheeling along. (In hindsight, it was probably not the best thing to do. That could trip up any unlucky person walking right behind me.)
I started running towards the escalator.
The boy was in panic, barely holding his position/balance. His mom watched helplessly. I ran up a few escalator steps and got to the step behind the boy. I tried to grab him up with both hands. Being a petite gal, that actually didn’t work well since he weighed more than I can lift. So, I did the only thing I can. I put my weight firmly on the escalator behind him while I tried to push and help him up. This ensured that he can’t fall backwards — at least not without knocking me down.
Bingo! It worked!
The moment we got to the top of the escalator, the boy burst out crying, tears quickly rolling down his cheeks. His mom wrapped him into an embrace. “Is he alright? Is he hurt?” I asked. As far as I can tell, he didn’t have any physical injuries. The Mom thanked me as the boy cried into her shoulder, “He got scared. He’ll be fine”. Seeing that the boy appeared to be okay, I stepped away.
“Ok, what now”, I thought, trying to orient myself. “Oh crap, I have to head back down.” After all, I literally ran away from my friends without warnings. And what happened to my luggage? A gentleman who just came up the escalator flagged my attention and gestured to the luggage by his side. He smiled and said, “I think this is yours”. Surprised, I thanked him.
At this point, I saw my good friend and her husband heading up the escalator as well. My friend’s spouse said, “You just saved the boy’s life”.
I didn’t know how to respond, other than smiling meekly. I hadn’t and don’t see it that way. If the same thing happen to me or a loved one, I’d want someone else to do the exact same thing. I was simply lending a hand – quite literally — and I just happened to be at the right place at the right time.
This whole incident happened a couple of years ago. And I want to share it now, because there is an underlying lesson I want to remind and be reminded of, for the new year.
That is: dealing with doubts.
While things worked out at the end, I’m not going to lie. I had some real doubts as to whether I could get to the boy in time. What if I couldn’t? What if I got to him too little too late? I am not proud to say this, but I can’t honestly say that I didn’t at least hesitated because of those doubts.
It’s just that the alternative seemed worse to me — not knowing if I could’ve helped or what could have been. As random as that tennis lesson popped up in my mind, I am glad that I could use it as motivation to override the doubts, listen to my gut instincts, and give it my best shot.
Message for the New Year
So, for my first post for the new year, my message is simply this:
Take more chances. Whether big or small, don’t let your doubts hold you back from doing or achieving the things you wanted to accomplish.
Don’t let the doubt of not knowing if you could become good at [something] stop you from learning or trying something new.
Don’t shy from taking risks because you are afraid of failing or because you’ve become too complacent with where you are.
My tennis instructor was right. He reminded me of something I’ve known all along, though I was just as guilty of momentary lapses when I saw a long shot coming my way. I gave up before I even gave it a shot. Every try is a change and not every change will be easy or successful, but you’ll never know how far you’ll go or what you can achieve, until you try.
So, for the new year, I hope you all find the same — in trying — in the pursuit of your dreams, hopes, travel adventures, or anything that’s worthy of your effort.
After all, one of my favorites is this: “Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss it you will land among the stars.”