Pickleball content has been showing up on my feed.
I remember reading a post of an elderly woman who got blinded getting struck by a pickleball in the eye.
Yeeesh, I thought. Maybe I should get wear some protective eye gear.
The week after, I wore sunglasses to the weekly pickleball meetup.
I got some stares.
My doubles partner (randomly matched) said in a ridiculing tone:
You’re wearing… sunglasses?!
I remember mumbling back something about the elderly woman who got blinded, and felt a bit sheepish.
After weeks of travel, I was itching to play pickleball again. I go to my usual spot in Long Beach, Somerset Park.
My doubles partner was Gary. He was wearing sunglasses. Daylight savings time, so it was already dark out.
I knew he felt sheepish about it, because he kept talking about maybe not being able to see and fidgeting with his sunglasses. I said “hey, it’s eye protection,” thinking back to the story of the blinded woman. I was not wearing any.
We were 5-0 against the other team until a hard return came right at me.
Before I knew it, my left eye was burning.
Like getting punched in the eye.
Fuck. Shit. Am I blind?
I had to leave that game – dammit, we were up! – to tend to my eye.
I’m sure Gary felt a lot less sheepish about his sunglasses then.
The people around us exert their influence.
Of keeping within social niceties and norms.
Sunglasses, really? That’s weird…
I don’t blame getting smacked in the eye on anyone but myself. I chose to play pickleball and chose not to wear any eye protection.
But cultural conditioning is a force to be reckoned with.
Where else does this happen?
When it comes to money, there’s the invisible force of keeping up with the Joneses.
When you’re on any type of alternative diet, people will be sus about it (Except maybe in LA.)
When you try a different lifestyle, there will be questions and resistance.
I remember telling an old colleague about FIRE. He wrinkled his face and said: “You mean those frugal people who just eat rice and beans?”
And… I’m just as guilty as anyone.
There was a moment traveling with family in Taiwan when I got impatient with my brother in law.
We had rented a van service and he was paranoid about the child seat belts not being up to his spec.
He spent 15 minutes (what felt like eternity at the time) adjusting the child seats and seat belt.
He felt our stares and sheepishly (that word again) explained that if the child seats were not secured enough, the children will fly out and hit their heads in the case of an accident.
Yeah, parenting is wild.
If you really want to do something different and believe in it, insist upon it.
Even if it’s embarrassing. Even if you may suffer temporary ridicule.
Because what’s worse than getting punched in the eye, is not wearing eye protection because you felt sheepish about it.
The sheepishness comes from a recognition that something that may “look bad,” either literally like sunglasses at night, or culturally, like “I know I’m standing out, and maybe not for a good reason.”
Once again, I’m learning the lesson that we may be more concerned about looking good than actually looking at what’s important.
As Mike Tyson is famous for saying, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face.”
You never think it happens to you, until it does.
Luckily, my eye lives to see another day.
P.S. Try safety glasses if you’re playing pickleball.