I am not normal. I am a massive anomaly. Why, you may wonder? Allow me to explain. I like school. I’ve always liked school. I like learning, I like classes, I like reading and writing and understanding new things.
I do not like sports. I have never liked sports. Not, at least, in the typical sense. I love riding horses and skiing, but I have no fondness for the sports that most classic Americans fawn over. Most of my friends are athletes: they are passionate about football, basketball is their life, they are school-record holders in track events. My parents were athletes in high school and college, as well. My dad ran track and played football and baseball in high school. He played football at Montana State. My mom was on the drill team in high school and ran marathons while she was in law school. My brother has played baseball and football and soccer for years. I have played soccer as well, but it was fairly widely acknowledged that I had no great knack for sports. Over the years, I have grown comfortable in my role as a diligent student, not a devoted athlete. So it came as a shock to everyone, myself included, when I decided to run track this year.
It was with some excitement and mounting trepidation that I showed up to the first track practice at 3:50 p.m. on March 9, 2015. By 5:30 p.m., I was puking in the locker room bathroom.
My dad told me before I started track that it was my choice whether to participate or not. “But,” he said, “if you do choose to run track, you can’t quit. You have to stick with it.”
I didn’t feel like quitting after I puked; in fact, I felt massively better after throwing up--I probably could have run another daisy chain!
I didn’t feel like quitting ever during track. Through the freezing cold and wind of our first Laurel meet to the blistering heat in Kalispell, there was never a day that I wanted to quit track. Practices were harder for me than most of my teammates, since I came into the season in far worse shape and with far less experience.
Track combined with the school play and other extracurricular activities reduced the amount of time I had to do homework, which should have stressed me out. Instead, I found that after track practice I was always in a better mood, my stress levels low. I was even on the 4x100 meter relay team that made it to State!
If you had told me in the beginning of March that I would end up loving track, I would have scoffed at the idea. So how was it that I came to enjoy the sport that once was utterly unknown and terrifying?
My first day of track, after I puked, I was incredibly embarrassed. I was sure that all of my teammates would make fun of me and smirk at how pathetic I was. I will admit that it was rather amusing that I, Erin, the nerd, was attempting to do a sport.
However, no one did make fun of me. No one did scoff. Instead, they supported. Maddie encouraged me, as we ran our daisy chain, to keep pushing. Tedi taught me how to use the machines as we went to lift weights, graciously ignoring my sweaty, red face and the fact that I smelled like vomit. Ashley patted me on the back and asked if I was okay. Kim made sure that I wasn’t too dizzy, and then she told me to go inside and lift. Paula checked how I was feeling after practice. Everyone was concerned about me in a way that made me feel comfortable. But no one was so loudly declaring their concerns that I became ashamed. It was the perfect environment of comfort and security, even amidst an entirely new experience that took me far beyond the parameters of my comfort zone.
People are often too scared to try new things. We get comfortable in our own little niche, absorbed in our little worlds. We may have unexplored curiosities, but if we’re comfortable, it’s better to hold onto that comfort than risk losing it. Right?Wrong. Some of my best experiences have come from stepping outside of my comfort zone.
As little kids, we are never afraid of what others think of us. We are eager and enthusiastic to do anything the world throws at us. We are excited about new opportunities. We aren’t afraid to try new things.
However, as we grow up, we become fearful of others’ opinions. We find places where we are comfortable, and safe. These places are important. Yet it is impossible to figure out who we are and what we are passionate about, if we are too afraid to leave our safe places.
Doing track was literally running out of my comfort zone, and it was one of the most fun and rewarding experiences of my life. Step out of your comfort zone.