Essay of the Week: Rising After a Fall

By Michael Charles

It was the battle against the hair on his face. “If you do not walk more than one batter, I will shave my beard.”

My coach, Tom, even came to the mound in the sixth inning to jokingly remind me of his challenge. I won. He shaved the beard he loved. If only pitching, baseball, hiking and history, –the things I love– would be as easy as seeing Tom’s bare face in sixth grade.

Three years later, I walked into Pre-AP World History. “Just to let you guys know, this class will have more work and be more challenging than most the classes you guys have had prior. You have to be willing to put in the work.”

I chuckled as I had heard that speech from other teachers. History had always been my favorite subject– anything less than a A was a failure for me. However arrogance was my downfall. My ego took a hit when she plopped the test on my desk. On my first exam, I did not fail with a B or a C, but a 60.

I refused to lose. I accepted that I could not breeze through a subject just because I loved the interesting material. In addition to reviewing notes and reading chapters, I began watching documentaries and answering practice questions. My test grades surged.

Fast Forward to Summer: I am relaxing with an intense game of FIFA until my phone vibrates rapidly, almost constantly. I scroll through the incoming messages to find friends badgering me to check my AP World History score. A chill comes over me; it is the moment of truth. I log into the college board website, and pause. I click and see a simple number that means the world to me: 4.

A few weeks later, I soaked in the nature around me– the chirping birds, rustling leaves and glaring sun signaled the beginning of yet another adventure. After climbing for several hours, the end was near; the peak was in sight. Bounding towards the finish line, I slipped on a slimy rock hidden by moss and mud. My legs gave out from under me. Collapsing on the ground, I ended up on back gazing at the sun beaming through the treeline above me and felt a stream of blood flow down my shin–a quarter size gash on my knee. Teary eyed and with a limp, I dusted myself off and marched on.

My motto–get back up after a fall– continued to face tougher tests last year. I could not escape the intimidation as I watched my opponents warm up in what promised to be one of the toughest games. I knew this game would be hard fought and I welcomed this challenge. Warming up, my throws were crisp and my fielding was immaculate. In the Second Inning, the wheels fell off. With a runner on first and nobody out, the hitter corked a sharp groundball in my direction. I knew exactly what I was going to do with the ball once I caught it. I turned to fire the ball to second base, but I was missing one thing: the baseball. My teammates shouted to me to take my time and throw to first. However, panic had stole my sense of confidence. I picked up the ball and threw wildly to first, resulting in everyone being safe. I shuffled back to my position with my head down. From here, things spiralled out of control. I left the game without the big smile I wore when Tom lost his beloved beard.

I was constantly replaying that moment in my head on the bus ride. Eventually, I realized that missing the one ground ball would not define me as a player. Baseball is engaging because of the challenges of the sport. Those challenges come with the possibilities of successes and failures. I would move on from the missed ball with the lessons from history and hiking as a guide.

Michael Charles, a graduate of Valley Stream South High School, is freshman at Bates College.

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