Jason recently started attending pick-up games at a local indoor soccer place. It's been something he's been talking about doing for ages, but considering the last time he played any "serious" soccer was at least 20 years ago, he was understandably a little nervous about it. Finally he just accepted that he might very well be the worst player there, but dammit, he was going to show up and play.
His first time out, he scored three goals. He came home exhausted and sore and completely ecstatic. He missed playing even more than he realized, he said, and it was thrilling how the skills he assumed were completely dormant after all that time just...started coming back. He wasn't the worst player there, but that didn't even matter. Because dammit, that person still decided to show up and play, and had a great time doing it.
The next day we got to talking about it, about why he never did join a league or find a pick-up game -- our old place in Bethesda was literally a block away from a public field. Sure, some of it was the typical "what if I suck now/can't keep up" worries as middle age creeps up on you, but considering we've been together since we were 19 and 20 years old and I've never known him to play even once in that entire span of time, there must have been another reason.
Turns out, I was the reason.
I mean, not really. Obviously I never forbade him from playing soccer or anything like that. Whenever he toyed with the idea of joining a league I always encouraged him, told him that sounded like a great idea. You know, for him. Not me. I played soccer in elementary school, but only because they made us. I hated every minute of it, especially the minute when I got hit in the face really hard with the ball. Ugh, I hate playing soccer.
And so Jason wouldn't join the league or attend that pick-up game after all, because we'd opt to spend that time doing something we both enjoyed instead. And we had a lot of things to pick from! We still do! Cooking classes, wineries, restaurants, the theater, art shows, museums, movies, TV -- we had lots of similar tastes and interests in common. And then we had a kid, then two more, and so we did things together with them. When we had time away from the kids, well...naturally we were gonna spend that time doing something we both wanted to do, together.
And so Jason still wouldn't join the league, or attend that pick-up game after all.
Until now, when he finally did.
"Is there anything you don't do anymore because I don't?" he asked me, "Something you miss?"
I had to think about it. And then:
"I miss reading books."
This is a shameful admission, coming from a current professional writer-type, a former English major, and someone who used to be a pretty voracious reader and book nerd. I still read, of course, but in that moment I couldn't remember the last full book I read strictly for the sheer pleasure of it.
These days I'm sadistically drowning myself in political coverage, with maybe the occasional break for some stupid quiz or celebrity clickbait. Everyday I read the NYTimes in its entirety. I read just about everything at The Atlantic and Politico and NPR, I subscribe to Vanity Fair and am tempted to pony up for WashPo as well. I've refreshed Google News approximately 700 times today, in search of more words and opinions and well...anything to help make sense of the latest batshittery.
A far cry from the days when I would curl up on the couch and lose myself in a story that wasn't real life.
Jason reads all this crap as well (though is much better at keeping his media diet at a more reasonable "you do not need to read 25 different op-ed pieces about the same scrap of news" level), but our tastes in actual books never really overlapped. Even I read something I thought was amazing, there was a limit to how much I could talk to him about it before his eyes glazed over, like ours do now at the mention of Minecraft.
Back when I had my office job, a group of us regularly passed books around. It wasn't a proper book club, per se, just a random bunch of women with similar tastes who were happy to lend our latest recommendation out in exchange for something new. Most of the time, I did my reading over my lunch break or in the block of time when I got home from work but before Jason did. Once he walked in, I'd set the book aside so we could talk/cook/watch TV together. Once I had Noah and left that job, both my source of steady new reading material (and those nice blocks of alone-reading time) vanished.
I'd always buy books (or later, load up my Kindle) before traveling, foolishly hoping that I'd find time to read on the plane, the train, the beach. But instead of reading, I'd end up too focused on the kids, either to keep them from bothering other passengers or like, running into the ocean and drowning the second I took my eyes off them. Or I'd end up working the whole time, or just playing a game on my phone, or listening to a podcast, or just refreshing Google News 700 times because he rode down an escalator and said WHAT? Really? Lol.
"You should read more books then," Jason told me.
"I should," I replied. "I will."
(BABY STEPS, PEOPLE. IT'S TECHNICALLY NOT REAL LIFE YET, OKAY?)