Tuesday, June 20, 2006

Fifty Cent Words

I once asked a good friend why it was that I seem constitutionally unable to ingratiate myself with the powers that be. He answered that it primarily stemmed from the fact that I do not suffer fools gladly. True. I think for myself and I say what I think. I absolutely refuse to kowtow to anybody and I would die before I brown nose.

So I generally walk alone to the beat of my own drummer. I make it a policy to do a task right, acknowledge my mistakes on those rare occasions that they occur, and be honest to a fault. They may not like it, but it's hard to land on somebody for doing a thing right and not lying about it. I've learned that what they generally object to is that I don't do it the way they wanted me to do it, which was wrong, and I am plainspoken as to why I chose to do it the right way instead of their wrong way. I know I am right. They know I am right. And they know if they push me, they will hear chapter and verse of why they were wrong and I was right.

I get into more trouble as a result.

I'm not sure what any of that has to do with the story I sat down to write. Except that I've always gone my own way, peer pressure be damned.

I like big words. Well, not so much big words as different words. The dictionary gives us hundreds of thousands of words to use, yet most of your daily conversations do not vary much from the mundane. To me it's a challenge to switch up your vocabulary when the opportunity presents itself. And the longer, more flavorful the word you can use makes the game just that much more interesting.

This, too, gets me into trouble sometimes. I had a friend some years back that was by no means dumb, but she was just not very well read and her vocabulary was stunted as a result. I found myself continually having to stop and explain what I had just said. It finally got to be a habit to filter my conversations with her to eliminate the fifty cent words. It saved time, but it made for some pretty dull conversations.

It will surprise nobody who knows me when I say I am completely inept when it comes to sports. I hated P.E. with a purple passion. I believe it was 7th grade when the football coach and I shared a private moment of humor amid the pathos of my performance during a softball game.

I could never bat worth a darn; couldn't throw to save my life; and I run like I have two dislocated hips. The only reason I was not killed outright by my teammates was because I had a spooky ability to catch pop flies. One day, however, I had tried the patience of both sides when I took my turn at bat. I let several balls go by without attempting to hit them. Someone said with exasperation, "Would you just swing at something!?"

In my non-conformist way, I popped back, "It's my prerogative to hit the ball or not!". Several mouths dropped open and I heard a few "huh?"s. The coach, who was usually bored out of his mind having to waste his time with the girls' P.E. class, burst out laughing. He didn't bother to explain, though. I think I actually managed to hit the next ball.

My classmates learned quickly to leave me out of the sports contests, but they also learned who to call on when they needed someone who could write. I ended up on the yearbook staff for three years and served as editor twice. I was class secretary just about every year from 4th grade on. I competed in Ready Writing events. I may have missed the athletic gene, but I think I got a generous dose of the reading and writing gene.

I may have been the odd man out back then, but now I'm glad it worked out that way. As our bodies age and the knees go out and the back trouble starts, our athletic ability disintegrates steadily. But an active mind, ever expanding with regular reading, can take you for adventures well into your elder years.

And my non-conformist ways suit me just fine, even if they aggravate those around me. I may not have much, but what I have I've attained with my abilities and not from puckering up to someone else's behind. I can face myself in the mirror any day of the week without regret.

I don't even mind the crowsfeet and wrinkles.


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