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Brandeis University's Community Newspaper — Waltham, Mass.

Bullseye offers a whole new view

Published: October 2, 2009
Section: Arts, Etc.

Life lessons come in odd places. Sometimes you find them beneath the chuppah at your cousin’s wedding, as I did nearly a month ago, and sometimes you find them inside of an Irish pub on your friend’s 21st birthday.

Last Saturday evening, I boarded the 8 p.m. shuttle to Boston to celebrate the 21st year of my beloved friend’s life. Birthdays are always fun, but this birthday, the year when the world of over-priced alcohol becomes your oyster, is even better. All of a sudden, what was forbidden is now a possibility, and if you decide to stay out past 10 p.m. in Boston, there’s actually something to do.

Beyond the normal exhilaration one feels on such an epic day, I was particularly excited because this celebration marked my first 21st birthday party since I came of age in June. As the youngest of three sisters, I relish those few moments in life when I’m not the baby, when I am the older and the wiser. But while I am both old (seriously people, I am graduating in May) and wise (have you seen how graceful I am under pressure?), there was little need for my mature insights and words of wisdom that Saturday night.

In fact, instead of teaching my friend the ways of the legal drinking world, I was the one schooled in a very important art – the game of darts. Now, though I understand that darts are a competition where one scores points, I hesitate to call it a sport. A sport, figure skating for example, requires agility and athleticism. Darts, on the other hand, requires booze and an imagination that can envision the face of a sworn enemy on a bull’s eye. Had I a sense of these two fundamental dart-playing requirements prior to my initiation into the game, I would not have been so reluctant to play.

I have never been good at sports. I wasn’t good at kickball in middle school gym and I never scored a goal when I played in the American Youth Soccer Organization.

Junior high gym class was a nightmare. My badminton skills were decent but my basketball, baseball, and volleyball skills were non-existent. And in a seriously appalling moment of seventh grade horror, I was hit in the head with a hockey puck (don’t worry, it was hollow but no less embarrassing). For these reasons, and I’m sure many others, I have an aversion to sports and anything that approaches a sport.

And so, when my friend’s significant other roped me into a game of darts (“come on, it’s Sarah’s birthday, Alison”), I had no choice but to forget my dignity, and throw my hat in the ring. My first attempts at darts were atrocious to say the least.

And yes, I was vaguely mortified. But after a fellow birthday partier suggested I imagine a face on the bull’s eye, my game steadily improved. I grew more confident as my darts began to not only hit the board, but actually land in high scoring locations.

Maybe it’s silly, but my darts proficiency was an eye opener of sorts. Certainly, my whole outlook on life hasn’t changed and I most assuredly have not decided to take up tackle football, or any other athletic pursuit for that matter.

But I do see now that I have a tendency to shy away from trying things I don’t think I’ll be good at, simply because I don’t want to embarrass myself. And while I think the self-preservation instinct is a good one, it can sometimes act less to preserve and more to hinder personal development. So perhaps the final lesson I take from my foray into the world of darts is not one of risk-taking but one of openness; openness to new experiences and all the joy and humiliation they may bring.