words are slippery little suckers. that’s probably what julia roberts meant to say in pretty women. sometimes words slowdance on the tip of your tongue. sometimes they throw a tantrum in your throat and escape with a bang. and once in awhile they just, well…slip out. if you don’t believe me, consider this little story of mine.
when i was eight years old, i was a member of an elite track & field club. we practiced at stanford university’s football stadium, an arena that to this day can induce a feeling of nausea as i recall sweaty afternoons running stairs, hills, and endless laps around that glorified green oval. not to sound braggish, but we were all hand-picked to join the team for our innate speed, our gazelle-like resemblance when coming off the starting blocks. the thing we all had to learn, however, was perfecting our form.
this brings me to the point of the story, a seemingly inconsequential conversation that i had with my head coach (let’s call him pete) about how to compose my upper-body movement. swaying to and fro, our arms (and hands by extension) are as important to our stride as our feet, creating momentum and cadence with the rest of our body. “you never want to clench your hands into fists,” he would say, “all that does is carry too much tension in your stride”. i remember him telling us, “you gotta be loose, but not too loose! never floppy. it’s about control. just imagine that you are running with precious jewels. diamonds, rubies, gemstones…you wouldn’t want to drop them now, would you?” no, i definitely would not. “nor would you want to hold them too tightly and have them dig into your hands, right?” yah, that would hurt real bad. “when you sprint, just imagine that you are carrying diamonds and must deliver them safely and as fast as possible to the finish line.” my eight-year-old self was given a tool—an effective visual aid—by my coach and i have no reason to question it.
years down the road, i often thought to myself…why did he choose that specific analogy over, say, eggs? eggs are fragile. breakable. every kid had a carton in their fridge so they’re definitely more relatable than precious jewels…it would make a fine—nay, the best—coaching analogy.
more years down the road, my father and i learn that pete was being charged for embezzling money from the club. huh. that’s interesting. could it be that money/jewels/diamonds were readily in his consciousness because he was stealing money from the club? did he desire to use the money to buy these things?
i doubt i’ll have a chance to ask him so your guess is as good as mine. it makes you wonder, though, why we choose the words that we do. i try to be sensitive to the ways in which people speak to me, and in turn, the ways in which i communicate with others. our words could very well be windows into our deepest, darkest secrets…or hidden motives…or by golly, the truth.