Remember Track and Field Day? Being led out to the football field by Mrs. Rislov. All those different stations. Softball throw, gunnysack race, 100 meter dash.
We knew Nathan Berry or Kristi Glassman would win anyway. Why even try? Don’t teachers know better? In the second grade, all you’ve got for social leverage is your foot speed and who you invite to your birthday party.
But every year on the last day of school, we’d line up on the track and wait for Mr. Blaze to fire his cap gun toward the clouds, signaling the beginning of our end, consummated by the the dreadful participation ribbon.
One year, though, something came over me. Maybe it was something I ate for breakfast or maybe the anxiety adrenaline had been festering too long. Because when handed that softball, I flung it so far there wasn’t even an arc. Gone. Straight to softball heaven. In my mind, all my classmates lifted me above their shoulders and never let me down (I’m currently typing this while still on their shoulders “Espe, Espe, Espe…” they’re chanting.)
That was the one time I didn’t receive a participation ribbon. Maybe it was worth all the other times.
I think social media is a lot like Track and Field Day. Stay with me here…because don’t you think it’s kind of required these days? Sure, we can choose not to participate or get an excuse note from our parents, but it still doesn’t change the fact that it’s happening and most of our classmates are out there.
Honestly, I’d rather watch from the sidelines (and I still often do). But I’ve been surprised that when I do choose to participate — when I put myself out there — sometimes something happens. A connection is made that at the very least is, “Hey, I see you, and I’m here, too.” But every once in a while it can be life altering.
What I’m talking about is participation ribbons, and blue ribbons. And the fact that we can’t get either one unless we go out on the field with Mrs. Rislov and line up.