It’s the last 800 meters of the cross country race. I’m running as hard as I can. My aching muscles scream with pain. My dry throat pleads for a break. My positive attitude wavers. I realize that I am so far off from a respectable time, there’s no hope of redeeming myself.
Frustration takes hold of me. It’s a feeling I’m familiar with. Often, I write myself off as worthless: If I get anything lower than an A in school, anything slower than my personal record in running, or anything less than perfect in general. My mental agony matches my physical agony as the bitter-cold wind chills the sweat that continues to leak out of every pore in my body.
All of a sudden, I see three of my teammates flailing their arms and yelling up ahead — three girls who, because of injuries, aren’t running in the race. I had heard that they were going cheer us on by painting their bodies. I’m expecting the typical, cutesy, teenage-girl maneuver: Painted letters on their stomachs.
But when I get closer, they do something unexpected, and potentially rude and obscene, except they have the courtesy to keep the audience limited to me and a few other runners: They turn around and drop their pants, revealing “GO State College Cross Country” painted across their hind-quarters. Despite the fact that I have a race to finish, I laugh ’til I can’t breathe. Partly it’s the sheer absurdity of exposing so much skin in such frigid weather; partly it’s the fact that they’ve sacrificed their dignity for a good laugh. Whether that’s admirable or disgusting, it definitely inspires me. Most of all, my friends have reminded me, it’s crucial to not take yourself too seriously — a message I both need and welcome.
I believe it’s crucial to have friends, or siblings ... or anyone with a good sense of humor, to reveal the irony in any situation, to use wit to gently knock you off your high horse, and to let their good attitude lighten your day.
I once saw a classroom poster that proclaimed, “Sometimes the only sense you can make out of life is a sense of humor.” For some reason, the quote stuck with me. Now, as a high-school student who spends her days with high strung individuals, I think back to this classroom poster philosophy as I watch all the stressed-out students and burning-out adults. I keep thinking, all they need is a lame pun or a whoopie-cushion joke — or a spontaneous teammate with a painted rear-end — to help them get a better perspective of life.
It’s difficult to take serious people seriously, which is why I am gravely sincere in my gratitude towards those missionaries who shed a fresh new light on the world, by providing comic relief to those individuals who need it the most. It’s almost ironic, isn’t it?
Sarah Small recently graduated from State College Area High School. She plans to attend Bucknell University in Lewisburg and is undecided about her major but is thinking of economics. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.