The Secret My Jock Friends Never Knew About Me in High School

Last night I watched a 60 minutes re-run where I watched in awe as Sheryl Sandberg discussed her new book “Lean In.” During the interview Sandberg describe a moment in time when she was voted as “Most likely to Succeed” She admitted that the moniker horrified her.  She also admitted that she was terrified enough about getting a date to the prom – she didn’t need additional pressure thrust upon her by being named “Most Likely to Succeed”…. how fascinating. 

She was embarrassed by her own success.

When I was in middle school I was in the cafeteria having a heated debate with my friend Steve Singlak about the merits of Don Mattingly over the skill set of the Mets starting first baseman Keith Hernandez.  In the midst of our discussion music teacher George Ploska approached me and asked me if I would be interested in playing bass – because as he explained it – I had big hands and he needed a middle school-er who could play in first position.  So from that day forward I joined Orchestra and learned how to play bass.

“Bass describes musical instruments that produce tones in the low-pitched range.” – wikipedia

I defined it as the nerdiest instrument on the planet.

But there was part of me that was thrilled.  I was excited to get my hands on an instrument, and even more excited with the prospect of being able to play electric bass in a band someday.  I was good, not great. But I could have been better.  I allowed my love of sport to overtake my practice time.  To be a middle schooler and actually play the bass is a feat in and of itself. It’s a big B-I-G instrument.  So the big hands helped, but I realized that this immediately catapulted me into nerdome as a middle schooler.

So I never told anyone.

I would scour the photos in the yearbook terrified to see if my face was included in the orchestra photos.   They never were – until my senior year of High School, a full seven years after I had begun playing, yet I was still horrified.   I’m sure the people I was concerned and wanted to hide this from could care less, but it still bothered me.

I was a jock, not an Orchestra nerd.

What was it that made me so scared, and allowed Sheryl Sandburg to feel ashamed, and how do we shed these in securities?  Really this nerdy instrument was the best thing for me. To this day I believe it helped me gain acceptance into college. It proved that I had interests outside of sports.  I found great enjoyment from playing as well. I loved wearing a tux and competing in Orchestra competitions. I loved learning how to read music. I loved the nuance of the music, crescendo &  allegro – I  loved it all.  The bass led to playing around to guitar, which led to providing me with a wonderful stress reliever on my junky acoustic guitar at home.  I work in co-working space called The Digital Arts Experience that has a recording studio and I get to pick up a guitar every now an then when I have some down time. Joy.

The older I get the more I’m comfortable in my own skin the more comfortable I am embracing my inner nerd.

Sheryl Sandberg inspires me. I hope I can communicate her message to my two young daughters.  To Lean In, and not be ashamed of their success.

So there you go – I’m a nerd and I’m proud. Ladies, lean in, and nerds, let your nerd flag fly.



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