I was interviewing someone for a newspaper article at the local bowling alley this weekend when I noticed something.
In between chats with my subjects, I had some time to sit with my notebook and stare off into space. Since it was a typical Saturday morning in our small town (read: nothing much else going on here), there were a few families bowling together.
As I watched them, I saw a pattern.
The mothers and fathers posed themselves, took a moment to focus, and lobbed the balls down the lane with determination and pursed lips. Each and every time—without fail, I swear—the parent would watch the ball, shake his or her head in frustration, and turn around self-consciously, announcing to all within earshot why the throw had failed. Either the ball had slipped, Â a Â hand was Â twisted at the wrong time, or the shoes were too slippery. Every last adult who bowled made a loud, vocal excuse to the others who were surely watching. (And I guess I was, so there’s that.) When they did hit what they’d intended, they shrugged and tried to play it cool, high-fiving the kids and flitting their eyes around the room nervously as they dropped back into the blue swivel seats.
The kids, though?
They barely knew when their turns were coming. They were watching the lights, the jukebox, the other kids running up and down the snack bar aisle. They were asking about the arcade games and quarters and pizza and prize tickets. They didn’t give a crap about efficiency.
When they did bowl—finally—they did something very different than their parents had.
Each child grabbed a ball (maybe his own, maybe not; depended what color fit the reigning mood that frame), flew up to the line (or past it) and threw the ball with all his might. As reliably as the adults had watched the results, the kids didn’t. Ever. Not once. The children turned as soon as the ball was in motion, and ran back to their seats in celebration, yelling, “Mom, did you see that?! I did it!”Â and asking about pizza again.
I didn’t see a single kid watch to see whether the pins dropped. Not a one. None of them cared.
For the younger bowlers, the point was to get out there and do it. To stand on the stage and throw with all their power and their will, and to make something move. That was the point of going bowling. Who cared about the little numbers on the screen?
For the parents, it was all about the score, the physical grace, or the opinions of the strangers around them who were surely grading each throw.
Who had the better experience? The adults went home without much ado and got back to their lunches, to-do lists and lives. The kids were thrilled from the moment they walked into the alley until the adrenaline subsided several hours after leaving. Possibly longer.
I knew it was a blog post in disguise even as I went back on the clock and resumed interviewing folks for the official day job.
I’m guilty of being the adult. I write what I think will sell, what will get the most comments, what will make me sound professional instead of personal.
I don’t put my heart into it like I used to, because it costs me something. It costs me that moment where I might slip and fall down on my ass with everyone watching.
It’s safer to reserve myself and chicken out. Passion is expensive, and scary.
I need to learn to jump more often and be willing to get my hands dirty. Those random kids at the bowling alley had more guts than I’ve had for a long time, and that’s not right.
They’ve got it figured out.
It doesn’t matter whether you’ll hit the pins.
It matters only that you threw the ball.
Screw the statistics.