The Pull of Strikes While Bowling

My family and I went bowling a few weeks ago. We went to a nearby alley that gets filled up rather quickly. The manager warned us it was first-come, first-serve because there were several birthday parties and reservations, so we hustled. Fortunately we got the last open lane, ordered some fizzy and water drinks, and started to roll. My younger brother and I opted for bumpers since otherwise we enter the gutter quite easily. At least, I do; Arun can roll balls in straight lines.

My younger brother managed to get a strike. He won the round by a long-shot; my older sister had some bad luck, and I couldn’t get the ball to angle right no matter how I tossed it. Then a little kid walked into our bowling alley and tossed a ball a few times; my sister told him to go find his mother. We admitted that the toddler knew how to roll. We applauded Arun, my brother, and went home for lunch.

A while back, during a bowling game, I got my first strike. That was a good day with the bumpers; all my rolls went in a straight line. Seeing all the pins go down in a clatter increased my heart rate.  I couldn’t believe i had managed a strike, after days of single pins. That was also the only day I won a bowling round.

I’ve been trying to replicate what I did that day, but in all honesty I don’t remember what I did to get the ball rolling at the proper angle and force. There’s probably physics involved, and I nearly failed physics in middle school.  The eight-pound bowling ball refuses to roll in a straight line. It angles at the last minute, and knocks into a handful of pins.

Cressida Cowell writes that “Nothing is impossible, only improbable.” We know that people can’t do everything, because of real-life limitations and circumstances. We still try our best to rise above our station to achieve our goals.

We all like the taste of victory.  We know what is possible. And that is precisely what makes reaching for the improbable so difficult. When we know what we can accomplish, backing down and settling seems like admitting failure. Yet sometimes we need a break, to look back and figure out what we did wrong. Or we need to celebrate the little steps where we did succeed.

This year, I hope to enjoy the journey of reaching the goals I’ve set out, and aiming for the improbable. In addition, I hope to motivate others to do the same. And who knows? Maybe online I’ll look up the science of rolling a perfect strike. Or I’ll find the other little things to learn — juggling three tennis balls at once, mastering watercolor — that gives the same thrill of knocking down all the pins at once.

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