Let me tell you a story about a little history repeating itself.
I don’t really have any related pictures, so here’s a selfie of me as a unicorn.
I have been stuck in a specific game for two years now, and I’m kind of embarrassed to admit why. *I* made a mistake by trying to play the game what I thought would be the most efficient way and not paying attention to what I *should* do. After a while, I found myself in an area where I was outmatched and outclassed. Advice told me that I needed to go back and level up by playing some optional content in the game.
I got mad at that suggestion. “If it’s optional, why do I *have* to do it to not get beaten down?” I whined. “This is totally ‘fifteen pieces of flair‘ bullshit.” For two years, I complained instead of taking action and doing the thing they suggested. “The game shouldn’t let me progress like that,” I said. “I’m stuck and overwhelmed at the prospect of going further and I don’t’ know what to do.”
This year, I made it a goal to get through the whole game because I realized I was being an idiot. It sounds like a silly and empty resolution, but it’s actually teaching me a few life lessons that are not so trivial.
First of all, unblocking myself on a task (because, while we try to hide it well, games are a series of tasks) I’ve been putting off for two years is ROUGH. After a while, you turn a blind eye to it, whatever it is that you want to do but keep putting off, and you get comfortable with it not being done. There have been years where rooms of my house didn’t even exist to me because I wasn’t ready to deal with them. I’ve also gotten comfortable with a lot of things that I shouldn’t over the years – being overweight, not being a capable runner, being prone to injury because I let pre-hab slip, letting myself and my education stagnate, not jumping on opportunities… I could continue to sit here and air my sins, but you get the drift. I’ve passed by making progress and pursuing dreams because it “sounds hard”.
Here’s something hard – running a fucking marathon after a full workday swimming and biking. Probably harder – spending months training to do this, logging a ridiculous amount of time in the pool, on the bike, and on the roads. Getting to the point where a 20 mile run long day actually felt like a break because it only took three and three quarter hours instead of the entire day to complete. Hard is finding that last gear half a mile from the finish line and riding the line of maximum effort staving off the dry heaves and the urge to collapse. Hard is turning away from beer and bbq for one more lap after riding for more than five hours, even if it means nothing to anyone but you.
Level of Ironman difficulty – less than asking someone for help, apparently…
This is the stuff that looks nice and heroic on the Instagrams.
What sounds stupid, but was harder? Starting my book. Sitting at my desk writing words. Like I’m doing right now. Like I do all the time. Just in a different format about different things with different stakes on the result in my brain. That’s right, the idea of swimming, biking, and running 140.6 miles sounds wayyyy less intimidating to me than writing a lot of words and asking someone to deem it worthy of publishing and promoting and then asking people to pay monies for it. In fact, this, a million, trillion times over. The idea of doing TEN Ironman races is less scary than that.
What I’m coming to terms with this year is that I do an EXCELLENT job of hiding fear and insecurity and sheer terror from myself with a “fuck it” attitude. “I don’t know what to do” is my way of dismissing something that I’m intimidated by from the realm of possibility because no one has approached me and handed me the knowledge or solution on a silver platter. Entitled, who me? *sarcasm*
Did I know how to train for and complete and Ironman five years ago? Did I know much about fitness or nutrition ten years ago? Did I know how to run a successful online game fifteen years ago? Did I know psychology twenty years ago? The answer is NO, but I do now. “I don’t know what to do” is a stupid excuse in and of itself. What I really mean is one of two things:
I’m lazy. This is the valid excuse. I’m totally alright with being unwilling to dedicate the time and effort to making something a priority, as long as I’m honest about what it means to me and/or how I can get around without that in my life. I don’t know how to install a kitchen counter top, and that’s fine, because I paid someone to do it. I don’t know how to write code but right now my job nor my hobbies depend on this knowledge. And that’s fine. We all can’t be superstars at everything. I am not superwoman.
Most of my house projects fall into this category (I’m not scared of organizing the pantry I just haven’t prioritized it), but when the day came where my kitchen was set to be demolished, I realized I was actually scared. Honestly, I was so happy to see my empty kitchen that first evening because I knew from there, there was no going back and I had no choice but to see this through. That leads me to the second meaning…
I’m terrified. This is what I need to cut out. This is where I’m lying to myself and convincing myself that I don’t give a flying fig about something, when I actually do. I’m not willing to sit down to the table and face the fact that I’m going to do something challenging, I might fail, and that yes, that actually matters. If you look at my race reports, the bad ones have a different tone in the last few years. Early to mid-2010s, if I had a bad race, I might find myself sobbing in the shower after a little too much champagne or at least really bummed about it. Then, the breakthrough races happened where I’d be walking on air for a week.
Lately, all the highs and lows are gone. I had a disastrous 3M – which was supposed to be an A race – and I was over it by the time we walked out of the beer tent. I had a pretty great Kerrville Sprint last year and I was more excited about the camping trip than the race at the time. I did a freaking Ironman and I was over it pretty quickly, I didn’t see the big deal (though, as the months have passed, the BIG DEAL has come into focus). While you can chalk this up to being more seasoned, older, wiser… I’m not sure I’m ok with this prosac-like response to my life.
It’s ok to feel both comedy and tragedy.
I should be upset if my race falls apart. I should be elated if I accomplish a goal I’ve trained for. I’m totally allowed to be scared of doing something new. I should have butterflies when I toe the line of a race or take the first step towards learning or doing a new thing. I need to be HONEST with myself, and I’m allowed to feel the feelings. I actually NEED to feel the feelings to be the human I want to be. I like the idea of “feeling the fear and doing it anyway”. But, I have to FEEL it and know that I’m SCARED (because I can conquer that), not just convince myself that I don’t care enough.
Speaking of mildly scary things, the kitchen turned out amazing, which will help bolster my confidence in taking on something else similar in the future. However, just like the Ironman, it took months of effort to get it done and my
body house is STILL not 100% completely back to normal (soon). I have a healthy respect for the effort, though I know it’s in my capability. I just need to be properly prepared mentally for the process if I were to take it on again.
And, coming full circle, back to the game I want to finish, I think in this instance it was really more of the former (my own entitlement and laziness), but surely there were elements of the latter. What if the game was too hard and I’d fail? I tend to quit games that I lose at initially. Somewhere along the line in my life, getting smacked down does not inspire me to get back up again. It makes me take my ball and go home. That’s fine when it consists of pixels on a screen, but when it creeps into other areas like sports and other goals, I don’t like it. And since we are what we repeatedly do, it’s not good practice.
My eyes are opening to the fact that I’ve lived in this bubble for quite a while, where rejection and failure live outside. I live a fairly comfortable life where people are generally nice to me and I do just fine performing the daily tasks of being a moderately successful productive human. Unless I seek it out, I don’t really need to face the scary stuff. I could probably live the rest of my life here and no one would think less of me, except me.
This really hit me when I arrived at the six hour race. There was no ambiguity here. I was highly outclassed, and that’s not being dismissive of my capability in sports, it’s the honest truth. I was the little leaguer showing up to a varsity game. My BEST case scenario (minus a competitor’s mechanical or injury, which no one with any sense of dignity or karma wishes on anyone) was finishing last having ridden what I’m capable of even when I’m trained (which I was not). It was really weird to face being the worst at something, at best, and potentially completely failing at it because of my lack of preparation.
What a weird feeling… lining up to be the worst at something for six hours…
Processing my failure ahead of time really kind of helped me go into it with a different attitude. “I don’t know how to not lose this race but I’m going to do my best anyway.” This has helped me realize that I need to own my shit this year. I don’t know how to do a lot of things that I really want to do and I’m not going to let that be the sole reason I don’t do them.
- It is OK for me to write a book that no one wants to publish. There will be other books (I have at least three more swimming around in my head).
- It is OK for me to race my fucking guts out for a podium and come in fourth or tenth or last. There will always be other races.
- It is OK for me to start a business or offer a product that totally flops. Most entrepreneurs don’t hit it big on the first, second, or sometimes even twentieth idea. If it’s something I want, I’ll keep trying.
- It is OK for me to reach out to someone for mentorship who either rejects or ignores me.
- It is NOT OK for me to lie to myself about the importance of these things to me. They are important. It is OK to be disappointed, even temporarily crushed, about them going poorly. It’s called being a human, not a robot.
The mentor thing is the weirdest and seems like the easiest to conquer but if I could skip this step and never ask for help from anyone ever, I would HAPPILY do that. Forever and ever amen. But, that’s not how the world works. When the shoe is on the other foot – I don’t mind answering questions or helping people with things I’m good at doing. I actually love when I get those opportunities, it’s a lot of fun, but I always HATE ASKING FOR HELP myself. Because it makes me feel weak and annoying. Which is dumb. It’s scary to be vulnerable, but I’m learning it’s necessary to grow.
Going forward, my goal is to be honest with myself, and when I find something that’s keeping me from a goal, don’t let “I don’t know” or “I don’t care” be an excuse if it’s something that matters to me. I need to figure out what the road block is, and either work through it or be honest with myself that the price is too high at the moment. It’s not that I don’t know or don’t care. It’s that I’m overwhelmed and intimidated and I know how to fix that if my brain lets me process what I’m actually feeling.
Oh, and the game I’m playing? I’m over halfway through and I’ve found that it’s a HECK OF A LOT OF FUN. I’m finding myself playing it a lot and definitely not just because I’m forcing myself to achieve a goal. I feel stupid for spending the last two years stuck, but apparently, things happen when they happen for a reason.