(written in 2009 for my year 12 English class)
Once every term our grade is subjected to the uncalled-for discomfiture of the questionably-named “Life Orientation” day. It might pass the minds of a few whether running up and down a set of steps to the piercing shrieks of an authoritative whistle really will serve to orient one with life and its conundrums.
Our school’s sports centre is packed with every variety of girl performing various physical activities with the aid of such props as balls and ropes. Each wears an earnest expression, performing her allocated activity with skills astonishing, summoned from that part of her person which is only ever called upon when she has been set a task by one of the whistle wielders. On being set such tasks, it is fascinating to notice how a group of seemingly ordinary and modestly endowed girls can transform into a seething pack of students executing prescribed movements faultlessly and with alarming alacrity. They of course achieve their common aims: to bounce that ball as many times as is humanly possible within a one minute time constraint, to jump as many jumps as is reasonable for our two-legged species before the whistle sounds or to catch a frantically thrown tennis ball, returned from an obliging wall, twenty times, against a clocking timer.
As I friend and I sit watching this collective bustle of urgent activity, we muse upon the regrettable thing that exercise seems to have become. Physical exertion, ideally the subconscious by-product of some sport, entertaining enough to distract one from any muscular fatigue one may be feeling, becomes for one day of each term almost communistic in its identity subsuming regimentation.
We cast our eyes over this sporting arena, with its jogging, jumping, doing girls and find it hard to reconcile their image of refined skilfulness with the moderate people they were five minutes previously. Only a brief while back, I was having a protracted conversation about the cheese and tomato sandwich I had eaten at first break with the girl who has now just skipped 128 skips in 60 seconds. On my way into the sport centre I had nearly tripped over an especially clumsy person who is currently performing an intricate routine of throw-the-tennis ball, spin-around, touch-the-ground, catch-the-tennis-ball, throw-the-tennis-ball… at an impressive rate of a new ball every 2 seconds. All around me are potential World Class Skippers or World Class Throw, Spin, Touch Catchers. The talent put on display in this most strange of spectacles is quite remarkable. From where did these hidden potentials come and all at once so as to be most disconcerting?
Before we have the time to consider the vastly untapped potential of this buzzing melange of energies and abilities, we are interrupted by an instruction to collect balls from old cardboard box in the corner of the room and begin bouncing.