It started in elementary school, back in the day when schools had active and rigorous PE (Physical Education) programs. It continued through Junior High (or middle school) and into Senior High (or high school). As a matter of fact, it still continues today in every group activity I participate in.
Getting picked last.
From playground dodge ball to varsity athletics. I think everyone in my generation, and likely anyone who is over age 3, has felt it. The knot in the stomach, the frustration and disappointment, the profound sadness of being overlooked until there is no choice but to be added to the team. Being picked last is not being picked at all. If you’re not naturally optimistic, you might think ‘they are stuck with me, they didn’t pick me, they probably don’t even want me.’
Event after event, year after year, for some people it drags on into, and some cases through adulthood. The stigma carries on. Adults might avoid working on projects that might set them up for being picked last. Teenagers may avoid college to avoid ending up last. Kids sometimes avoid sports teams to avoid the emotional pain that comes with being picked last. It makes me sad, especially since I know the truth. I just don’t know how to share it with those hurt and disappointed and feeling the impact of being last.
Being picked last is perfection. It’s the best! Please, pick ME last!!!
After decades of struggling with this challenge, I finally learned this lesson, in my 40’s, on Valentine’s Day.
In order to share, I have to bring you up to date with some recent events. Our beloved rat terrier, Maggie gave birth to a litter of rats… er, pups on 12/23/2011. We had homes for up to 7 babies and had planned to keep a boy for ourselves. We weren’t sure how many babies were coming, but we figured we were covered.
The selection of babies was in a set order, the baby-daddy momma (owner of the sire) got pick of the litter, and wanted a girl so it was no conflict with us keeping a boy. Next was a couple we knew, then a family that knew the baby-daddy, then a friend of mine and a friend of a friend and so on. When the babies came, three beautiful girls and one gorgeous boy arrived, all healthy and happy. Maggie, who was a little freaked out by the first pup, had settled into being the best mom ever by the time #2 was born. Things were easy and wonderful. Too easy.
Things continued to go well until about week 4, when the first ‘waiting list’ couple dropped out (got another puppy), now that they had decided to get a puppy, they just couldn’t wait.
By week 6 we had only one more home than puppies available – we had even boosted one person in line as we decided the boy was a perfect fit for their home.
Then it happened, the people we were waiting to make their selection so the last people could know what puppy they were getting, decided now was not the time for a puppy.
The next morning I contacted the next person in line to let them know they would get to pick, rather than be assigned a pup. They had grown tired of waiting and got a rescue dog 2 days earlier (yay for them and him!). I called the last back-up home… they had also quit waiting. They got a gorgeous puppy.
We now had 2 puppies and one potential home left to contact. I made the call, the answer was a resounding YES! Lovey joined Webster and Buttercup with wonderful, amazing adoptive homes waiting.
There was one pup left. The only one I had given a nickname. I called her Marshmallow Butt. Okay, quit laughing. It suited her. Marshmallow Butt’s body is all white with just one spot near her tail. She is not nearly as traditionally attractive as the two other girls with pretty spots like their daddy and not as drop dead gorgeous as little Webster. Adding onto her boring white and big round body, she doesn’t have the puppy face her three siblings have. From the moment she was born she has had a serious, old-soul look.
It’s fair to say I have fallen in love with this comforting, snuggly beast. Her mother has too. When her mom plays, she picks Marshmallow Butt to play with. But we had decided not to keep a puppy. We never counted on this little puppy, this little marshmallow butt that came into the world at a measly 8 ounces. We didn’t pick this puppy. She was last.
This morning, the little puppy woke me up, placed on my chest by my loving husband, with a beautiful handmade red bow around her neck (and three siblings and Maggie pulling at the red curls!). “Happy Valentine’s Day.” Yes. Indeed.
Was Marshmallow Butt (we need a new name!) picked last? Really? I think not. I wouldn’t trade her for any of the other 3. As it turns out they all have exactly the perfect dispositions for their new homes they are going to, with Marshmallow Butt having the perfect disposition for us.
We are not stuck with Marshmallow Butt, we could find a different home for her, but we can’t because this IS her home.
So please, if you find yourself ever standing there, alone, being picked last, please remember Marshmallow Butt. Remember you aren’t being picked last. No team is being stuck with you. You are ending up where you belong… and who knows, you just may be the perfect fit to complete the perfect team. And you may not… when life goes one, what team you were on for dodge ball as kid won’t matter. Trust me. The things that really matter come from love, sometimes on Valentine’s Day.