• Julie Seal

Everything I know I learned on the Magic School Bus

This past weekend my club participated in a USA Fencing Regional Qualifier for National Championships. My club is new. Its been only 5 months since we got a business license and a location. Most of my students began fencing around that time. They are just baby-brand new to the sport of fencing. The Regional Qualifier brings kids from Idaho, Utah, Arizona, Colorado and California to Utah for competition. Most of the athletes that come are seasoned travelers and competitors. Most of them are from families with only one or two kids so they have relatively more financial resources than many of my students. When my students enter a competition like this one, for right now, it’s a David and Goliath sort of situation. But for me as a teacher, its an opportunity that can’t be passed up.

Out here in the middle of the Rocky Mountains, fencing is an underdog sport. We don’t see much high level fencing locally. In places like California and the North East of the US, Olympic caliber fencing is omnipresent. This provides such a vision of what is possible and excellent for developing fencers. So when a group of athletes that are on track for world competition pay to come to us, I don’t want a single one of my athletes to miss out. What an experience! I don’t care if they come in last, what a ride! But the funny thing is, only rarely do they come in last. Even when they do, they are three times the fencer, the very next day.

When I started competing nationally, I had never even seen high level fencing. I just knew I wanted to be a great fencer. So I jumped (blindly). My whole life has been amazing since that decision. It didn’t really matter that I hadn’t seen great fencing. Real blindness is not knowing what can come from opportunity to fail. Yes, I said fail. Of course I was going to fail for a while. I didn’t know what I was doing. But there’s nothing so great and terrible as a steep learning curve. We’ve all heard it before: Failure is the best teacher. But its so true. We all understand the value of preparation and accomplishment. We are often taught to work hard for success. But one of the biggest concepts that fencing has taught me is that there is no time like now to start failing. Get busy! What's the problem? Worried about looking stupid? Are you afraid that people will think you are ridiculous for trying and believing it's possible? Is embarrassment really stopping you from putting your hands up and riding the best roller coasters in life?

A couple of years ago, my daughter Gracie got a horse. The horse was a troubled creature, only a $1000 out of pocket and really difficult. Gracie loved her. The rodeo arena is about a quarter mile down the road from my house. When barrel racing came to town, Gracie decided she was going to do it. She practiced with barrels in a little area behind the house. She was determined. Never-mind that all the other girls had $50,000 ponies and had been all over the place.

Gracie rode her horse to the rodeo and entered.

Of course she lost – hard. But I have never forgotten the lesson she taught me that day:

Do Stuff. This is your life!

Like Mrs Frizzle from The Magic School Bus says: “Get messy! Make mistakes!”

Who cares who’s watching. They really are only worried about themselves anyway. Don’t miss out! Gracie has barrel raced in a rodeo! Its on her Life Accomplishments Card. She’s a freaking hero. Her grandchildren will talk about that legendary moment. Her mother thinks about it all the time.

I got a fortune cookie the other day that I liked so much, I kept it. (I’m pretty sure God talks to me through fortune cookies which is nice because sometimes I learn a little Chinese along the way.) It said,

“Winners learn from losing, but Losers don’t learn from Winning.”

To all those winners out there who are currently losing: You are doing it. Never doubt it. You are living the life. Believe it.

You are a Super Hero.

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