The day before the US Presidential election, my facebook and wechat was filled with stories and comics and memes about the election. My students were talking about it and so were my foreign friends. But at badminton? Nothing. Blissful silence on the topic.
In fact, I wasn’t even sure my coach knew about it.
“You know, tomorrow America elects a new president,” I said during a break in our class.
“Oh yeah? Who do you like.”
“Hillary,” I said in Chinese.
“Is that the guy or the girl?” he asked me nonchalantly.
“The girl! Don’t you know?” He shrugged.
“The guy is a bad guy, really, really bad guy.”
“Okay,” said my coach. “So anyway, how about…” and we went back to training. I couldn’t help but chuckle to myself how this election, with its sway all over the world, had no power or importance in my little badminton world.
It came back again the day of the election. I eagerly kept checking the results on my phone during my morning classes, but I wasn’t at all worried. “Trumps expected to win these states and get these votes,” I said. “It’s not a problem.”
Over lunch, the writing was on the wall, and I was pounding away on my phone with the rest of my friends shocked, enraged and furious.
Unfortunately I had agreed to play badminton that afternoon with a new friend in a new place. He picked me up and I huffed into the car.
“I’m not gonna be any good company at all!” I shouted. “Trump won the presidency!” I’m not one to hide my feelings or be quiet about them.
“I don’t know who I really liked better, but I would like a woman leader in America.” said my Chinese friend.
“I can’t believe it, people are so stupid and blah, blah, blah.” I went on bitching for a minute, my friend politely listening.
He tried to change the subject by asking me about badminton but I kept bringing up Trump, and how angry I was with America and how fucked the world was. I was really enraged. In fact, I felt like I wanted to punch someone.
“I’m really not gonna be good company today.” I apologized. My phone kept buzzing and I kept banging away at it with my friends across the world.
Then we got to the courts. I put down my phone and started stretching. For the next three hours I practiced defense, picked up birdies, watched how another girl who joined us moved her body and I tried to emulate her. Since there was three of us training, I had ample rest time. My phone sat just a few feet away on the side of the court. I resisted it.
As the minutes went by, then the hours, I began feeling better and better. The exercise was an outlet for my angry energy and as I got more into the rhythm and feeling of badminton the rest of the world, and all the scary things in it, seem further and further away. I knew bad things were happening but I didn’t want to see it. I left my phone untouched.
And by the end of practice? I felt a million times better. I purposefully ignored the dozens of messages in my chat groups and just talked to my friend on the ride home. We talked badminton, we talked life, but we didn’t talk politics.
And it was great.
Of course the anger came back, when I got home later and finally read more news. So did the sadness and disbelief. I had to talk about it in class and of course I can’t check my facebook or youtube without seeing the news.
But now I know I have a trick. Now I know no matter what is going on in my life, and no matter how sad or bad I feel, I have badminton to look forward to every night. Badminton demands attention, and you cannot worry about anything else when you are playing. You can’t let distractions interfere with your game.
Thanks for that badminton.