How uncomfortable is it to feel that one has to do well in an area in which one has no competence whatsoever? My answer is very.

When I was 17 years old, my brother had a friend named Jon. Me and Jon also became friends for a couple of a couple of years. He belonged to a family that played tennis almost every day, all year round. I was invited to join their tennis club (Roomburg), got lessons and played a lot in the afternoons. The club was situated in a nice part of town and it was very close to the home of my friend.

I was not good at tennis at all. I certainly liked being in the open air and I liked sports. But even though I had been participating in swimming and waterpolo competitions, my arms were not strong enough for the game and I also had difficulty with all the running from left to right and from front to back while anticipating where the ball would come from.

The club held tennis competitions in summertime and it was decided that, despite the abyss between Jon’s level and mine, we would pair up in the mixed doubles.

I find it difficult to admit how utterly nervous I was before it started! I was almost shaking when I arrived at Jon’s house. Jon’s mother, who disliked me a lot, came outside and noticing my nerves, handed me a pill that would calm me down. It was Valerian. My mother used it: as a liquid in a little bottle. She would sometimes take some drops when my father made her nervous with his demands and restfullness.

What I remember from the game is how Jon and I were able to gather some odd points, because of his competence and my mad play. Now and then our opponents were thrown off by it. We didn’t win, of course. It was the first and the last tennis competition I ever participated in.

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