I’ve never wanted to admit it before, but my strategy has always been: Don’t have a strategy. It’s always been like this. In high school I quit soccer because band was easier for me; I didn’t go for any AP credit; I didn’t join the school newspaper or debate. When it came time for applying to colleges, I sent in my one application and then, after getting in, decided instead to go to a city college in Santa Barbara. After college I started work as a receptionist while scheming up grand plans to go back to school, though for what was anyone’s guess. First it was a master’s in English, and then to law school. Then teaching credentials. And, for a very brief time (so brief and secret I never told anyone), to get an engineering degree so I could work with Wes’ company and forever bypass this job search that happens each time we move. I’ve signed up for races with every intention of training; for tests with every intention of studying, but in the end I slack off because I’m so completely afraid of failing. And I’d rather fail by having put no effort into it than fail after putting a lot of effort into it.
How awful is it that I think so little of myself that I don’t try for anything. It’s always been easier to be average without trying then to shoot for something more and possibly finish below where I wanted. In 2008 I signed up for a half marathon and my training consisted of sporadic 3-mile runs whenever I felt like it, which wasn’t very often. I finished in 2 hours 30(ish) minutes and was proud of that, but only because I hadn’t trained. I say I didn’t train very much because the temperature in Orange County was too hot for me, but what it really comes down to is that I just didn’t want to put in too much effort in case I did badly. Not training for 13.1 miles and finishing in 2:30 is great; training and finishing in 2:30 is not so great.
When I did the super sprint tri last month, I hadn’t trained at all, and though I’m not sure much would have changed had the wedding and honeymoon not taken up the three weeks prior to race, I like to blame the lack of training on those events. And, still, I finished first in my age group. Just another reason to continue with my strategy of just showing up and hoping for the best.
Or is it?
A couple of weeks ago we had a birthday party for our neighbor, complete with games and cheap prizes. At one point in the evening I said to the birthday girl, “I don’t really want to win the prize, but it’s not in my nature to give up.” And though that’s true for board or card games, it’s not so much true in every aspect. During the first triathlon, Wes ran beside me for a few feet, pushing me to go faster, to dig in a give a little more. And I refused. I told myself that I knew what my body was capable of and going faster, at that point, wasn’t on the list. Yes, I finished first in my age group, but I still got my ass kicked by four women; four women who are older than me. Four women who pushed their bodies past what I felt mine was capable of. Not to mention the group of women who finished double my distance nearly fifteen minutes faster than I did.
And, yes, I’m ashamed of that. Ashamed that, when you get right down to the heart of the matter, I don’t think I’m good enough to push through. I don’t think that I’m capable of being the best. I’m happy to live in the middle. I hate that feeling – that I’m okay being less than what I could be.
A couple of weeks ago I stumbled on this post, courtesy of Twitter. And I’ve been trying to remember it every day. Every time I don’t want to run faster or father or swim or bike or cook or read or write or take the dog to the park. Every time I think I can just squeak by, I remember this: “The ‘no’ we hear should never come from our own lips.” For most of my life I’ve been telling myself just that, “No, you can’t do that.” And I’m tired of believing that.
In the next two months I have three races: Sprint Triathlon, Half Marathon, Full Marathon, and I’ve been getting out and swimming and biking and running. Every time I want to stop or sleep in or skip a day, I have to remind myself that I’m capable of so much more. My body and my mind are capable of so much more.
And while I’m out there, doing whatever it is I know I could just finish poorly and still be fine, I remember something that I was written on the sidewalk near my aunt and uncle’s house in Santa Barbara: Don’t be a Didn’t. Whatever it is, from here on out, I’m going to do it to the best of my ability. I’m going to practice and study and carve out time to do something well. I can’t wait to see what I’m really capable of.