Sometimes in life, it feels like you’re hiding behind a thin wall on the edge of a battlefield with no means of defense.
And then there are times you are literally doing this.
It had been a pretty long time since I had played paintball. I had previously only put on all of my camo gear for such an escapade once, and that was in high school—which was a very long time ago. I have to be honest with you about something: I wasn’t very good back then. I think I would fare better in physical altercations rather than combat involving weaponry. When I was growing up, we used to settle sibling disputes in the Merrill household with boxing matches that typically ended with me tossing my gloves and going at my brother with bare fists.
So, I’m not sure why I immediately jumped at the idea of playing this game (I’m not sure what to call it, really) when my friend Jackie and I were trying to find something to do and came upon a Groupon deal for some discounted paintball action. I mean, why not?
I possibly have some reasons now.
We started off with some adventure before we even stepped foot onto the battlegrounds in our matching hiking boots (totally unplanned). It was somewhat of a trip just to get the facility, and we encountered a muddy situation along the way. We were less than a mile from our destination when we started down a dirt road that led to the paintball place. However, because of the recent torrential Texas weather, it wasn’t a dirt road anymore—it was straight up mud only. We should have turned around when we saw the abandoned Mercedes stuck on the side of the road, a victim of mud too deep for the stylish ride to handle. But, no. I kept driving. We trudged into a section I wasn’t sure we’d make it through, but I knew it wouldn’t be wise to continue into what I saw ahead of us. So, we turned around and took a roundabout way (probably at least 13 or 27 more miles or so) that finally got us through the gates to what would be a rather interesting and memorable Saturday afternoon.
The first thing we did (well, besides take a pre-paintball selfie—I know, vanity is ruining our society) is make friends. This is key in life, so I decided it was key in paintball, too. I mean, you don’t want to feel isolated on that battlefield out there. The four gals behind us in line—Taylor, Britney, Kelsey and Bre—became those friends for us that day. And trust me, those homegirls had our backs.
After we got all of the instructions/rules from Gunner the ref, we made our way to the first playing field, which was a “capture the tower” game. The first team to make it to the other team’s tower wins. For some reason, no one wanted to be the person up top in the tower (you’re supposed to have two people up there), so I said I would do it. Some guy gave me an extra container of paintballs in case I ran out, and I made my way to the top as soon as Gunner said “Go!” That game wasn’t too eventful for me as I basically blindly fired from the top of the tower. The other team won that round, so I guess I didn’t hit too many of them. Then we switched sides, and I didn’t want the tower role anymore. I should have taken it again. I got nailed in the chest and the finger, and then I was shot three more times as I was walking off the field with my hands in surrender. Thanks, bros.
My finger started swelling and turning an interesting shade of purple/black, and I kept checking with Gunner to make sure I wasn’t going to have to get an amputation. (I’m not dramatic.) I agreed to play another game, but I was suffering some serious pain. Gunner started telling us about the scars he’d gotten playing paintball. He was not helping the situation.
The next game was simply called “woods,” and we made our way out to the trees. Right before we began, I noticed my gun wasn’t working. It had air. It had paintballs. The safety wasn’t on. But I pulled the trigger, and nothing happened. The game started. I yelled “Gun check!” like Gunner had told us to do if we had gun troubles, but no one came to help me. I hid. I stayed behind a thin wooded wall for the entire game because I didn’t know what else to do. I couldn’t shoot at anyone, and I was sure to get hit at this point if I tried to go anywhere. A 12-year-old boy who seemed to be very afraid joined me, but I think he might have been afraid of more than just paintballs. I tried talking to him, but it didn’t go so well. So, I spent the rest of the game thinking about how pathetic and helpless I felt. I couldn’t do anything for my team—I couldn’t cover anyone, I couldn’t get players on the other team out, and I couldn’t move because I would just help lose more for my team. I didn’t like that feeling. Finally, some guy from the other team came within inches of my face with his gun and said, “Surrender!”
It’s not fun to be so alone and defenseless. It makes a person feel really small and not that important. It’s scary. It’s nerve-racking. It’s frustrating. It makes you feel like you’re in a glass case of emotion.
But you know what I realized later? I was never actually alone. There was that 12-year-old boy who wouldn’t talk to me (but I’m not really counting him). There was Kelsey, who kept coming back to check on me and to make sure the young kid was alright. There was Jackie, who offered me her gun to play another game if I wanted. There was Bre, who did the same. There was Britney, who kept asking me how my finger was. There was Taylor, who offered to run with me and find the best hiding place possible. I had people. Sure, I had to surrender, but my people were there waiting for me in the field when I got out. We were a team, and we were in this thing together.
Life can be scary. Life can be nerve-racking. Life can be frustrating. Life can absolutely put you in a state of high emotions. It can leave you feeling alone, defenseless and very small.
But you’re not.
You’re probably going to get pelted with quite a few paintballs every day, but it’s important to remember that you’re not out on that battlefield alone. There are people who will cover you. I hope you have a Kelsey on your team to look out for you. I hope you have a Taylor to care about you. I hope you have a Jackie to go on adventures with you, get stuck in some muddy areas and help you along the way. I hope you have a Britney to check on you. I hope you have a Bre to make sure you have what you need. I hope you surround yourself with people who will always be there for you. We all need these people.
Because camo doesn’t actually hide us like we think it will.