You’re not good enough!

I hate these words.

I hate these words because my father says them to me all the time.  When I got cut from the high school varsity basketball team, my father looked at the floor and said, “Guess you’re just not good enough,” and walked away.  At six foot five inches tall, my father towers over me by six inches.  I knew every time he saw me, he was ashamed that I wasn’t at least his height.

Stand up straight, damnit!  Eat your vegetables!

Every single admonition related to the fact that I was a failure.  My friends came over after dinner one evening and I told them of my situation.  Like all good friends do, they picked me up, literally one by my hands and the other by my feet and started to pull.

We’re going to stretch you until you’re taller!  Don’t worry!

They spent 15 minutes contorting my body into a taught rope.  All I could feel were my shoulder sockets burn from the pull.  “Grab my head and pull instead!“, I told one friend who had my hands.  POP, POP, POP went the vertebrae in my neck like a chiropractic adjustment.

Afterward, my friends eagerly placed a book above my head and drew a line to see whether I had grown.  No such luck.  I’ll always just be five feet eleven inches tall.

Friendship Is Blind

My father wasn’t only disappointed with my height, he was also disappointed with my friends.  They were “low-lifes” from poor families who didn’t deserve to hang around with someone like me.  Every time they rang my doorbell, he’d scowl at them.

I never knew we were well off.  We lived in a 3,500 square foot, five bedroom, three and a half bathroom house.  All my neighbors had equally large houses. I thought having palm trees on each side of the front gate and a swimming pool in the backyard was normal.

It was only until I was invited to a friend’s house for dinner did I realize how good I had it.  Jeremy lived with his sister, mother, and father in a studio apartment no more than 500 square feet large.  The beds were curiously lifted around the room on platforms so that we could all squeeze in to eat dinner below.

Jeremy’s parents were wonderful.  They told me how much Jeremy enjoyed hanging around with me after school.  They thanked me for being a good friend and sent me home with left overs of the best spaghetti bolognese I had ever tasted.

From that day on, I grew a new admiration for Jeremy and a deeper understanding of my fortuity.

Living With Disappointment

When I got home my father didn’t ask me how dinner went.  Instead, he asked whether I was going to ace my SAT test the coming weekend.

I told my father, “I got it.  Not to worry,” and he responded with a terse, “Yeah right.”

Not wanting to start a fight, I offered my father some left over pasta.  He waved his hand at me, like a busy master would wave away a servant and responded, “I already ate.”

For the next week, I studied religiously for my SATs.  2,000+ or bust, I kept telling myself but I knew it was a long shot.  My reading and writing were good, but my mathematics was horrible.  There was no way I could average a 666 for each section.  I could not, especially if I didn’t want to go to hell.

When the SAT results came in the mail, I was too afraid to open the letter.  My father impatiently snatched the envelope from my hand and gutted the envelope with a knife.

He turned to me and made a sound.  “Hrmph.”  “Not good enough son,” as he laid the envelope on the kitchen table and walked out the door.

I expected to see something abysmal, like a 1,800 or less.  Instead, I scored a 2,050!  I was ecstatic, but couldn’t let out a sound because according to my father, I was once again a failure.  After all, he scored what was equivalent to a 2,300 and went to Princeton University.

Waking Up To My Own

I’m never going to be a varsity basketball player and I’ll probably never get into the likes of Princeton, Yale, or Harvard, but so what?  I’ll never stop trying my best.  If my best is “not good enough” then so be it.

You’re not good enough!

In whose eyes?  In my eyes, I’m just as good as anybody else Dear Father.  Congratulations for being 6’5″ tall and making lots of money distributing over-priced clothing to fickle consumers.  I’m not you.

I am good enough because I say so.  If you wanted someone better, then you should have produced someone better.  For now, all I ask is for you to accept me for who I am and believe in the man I may become.

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