Have you ever watched the movie “Signs” by M. Night Shamalan? I’m undoubtedly dating myself and simultaneously limiting my audience by posing this question, however, I’m choosing to forge forward and pull from a scene in this 2002 apocalyptic film. Side note, I think this movie is riddled with layers upon layers and analogy after analogy about life. In my opinion, “Signs” is the best movie he has written/ directed to date. Yup, even more so than the “I see dead people” movie.
In the spirit of forging forward, there is a seemingly benign back and forth (approximately 27 minutes in) between an Army recruiter and a character by the name of Merrill Hess. The recruiter suddenly recognizes Merrill as a former minor league baseball star and local legend. As the conversation between the two unfolds it’s revealed that Merrill still holds FIVE minor league records, one in which the recruiter was present for: a 570 foot home run. He is befuddled by Merrill’s presence/ interest in the Army; Merrill, in the recruiter’s opinion, should be enjoying the perks of being a Major League Baseball Star. Before Merrill has a chance to explain himself another nameless character chimes in from the shadows, smugly announcing that Merrill has another record that few know of: Merrill has the minor league strike out record.
“He would just swing that bat as hard as he could every time. It didn’t matter what the coaches said, it didn’t matter who was on base, he would just whip that bat as hard as he could. He looked like a lumberjack cutting down a tree…”
Now, let me emphasize that Merrill’s response to this flippant comment has been ingrained in my psyche since the first time I heard it.
Yes, you read that correctly. As a young Mama I actually heard it before I saw it. I remember the boys were babies, Bryce with a nuk in his mouth was on my hip and Tristan was eating buttered noodles and apple sauce in his high chair. I was caring for the boys and listening to the movie from the kitchen.
Merrill replied softly, “It felt wrong not to swing.”
Let that sink in…and ignore the fact that the sentence starts with ‘It’. Lol. I repeated Merrill’s response in my head over and over, not realizing the full impact those six little words would have on me over the course of my life. I was drawn to it. His words coursed through my veins.
Every time I have attempted to make a change in my life I would pull strength from that particular line. “It felt wrong not to swing.” Anytime I felt judged, or misunderstood, or defeated, I took comfort in knowing that I would swing anyway. Even when it didn’t make sense to anyone else because I had and still have enough self-awareness to know what makes me happy. & I know I would’ve regretted not swinging a heck of a lot more than swinging and striking out.
Addressing the spectators. Spectators on the sidelines at a “baseball game” aka the game of life are there to judge the players. So, they will always have an opinion. I’m simply stating a fact. Not only is that natural, it’s their right as a human being to have an opinion and, moreover, should not prevent you from swinging your metaphorical bat at your goals in life. That’s okay! They don’t or refuse to understand, and guess what, my friends, you are under no contractual obligation to explain why. That’s the beauty of it. ❤️
Through the years, I have kept this quote with me and I pull it out when I need to remind myself that people will always have an opinion about my life and that I will still swing my bat. & hell, ladies and gents, I’m the first to admit, I swing it often! Is that bad? Is that good? It’s neither- it just IS and it’s who I am to my core. But the opinion of others is irrelevant to my happiness. Does that mean you will leave people behind? Yes indeed but that isn’t a slight to them OR to you.
You don’t have to explain yourself. In fact, I refuse to explain my decisions to any one anymore. The only thing I HAVE to do is keep my eye on the ball and remember that for me, swinging my bat and following through, even when I’m striking out over and over, whiff after whiff, is exactly where I want to be- not sitting and watching from the stands. I don’t want to meander through life without challenging myself to grow every moment I have an opportunity to.
I am fully confident that “swinging away”, like the character Merrill, will lead me to my version of a 570 foot homer. I believe in goodness, I have no time for judgment or hate. I want and work very hard to have my definition of a full life. & my path is completely different than other “players” and or spectators in the stands. As their path is utterly different from mine. I will always give them a pat on the back and send them on their way smothered with good vibes. & if you ever need me? Well, you know where to find me: crowding home plate, bat in hand, eagerly ready to swing and follow through. Why? Because, “It felt wrong not to swing.”