"You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face."
~ Eleanor Roosevelt
But put her on an ice-covered slalom course where faster is better and there is a very good chance that she'll wipe out regardless of whether or not she 'goes for it', and she's not quite as squirrelly as usual. I didn't race when I was growing up. But, I've stood at the top of the start and looked down and I've watched her teammates fly through the course, batting gates as they go. It's really intense. And, to be honest, I'd probably be scared, too. So, in this case, I do have quite a bit of sympathy for her. Last Sunday, she had her first race of the season. As I tucked her in the night before, I tried to get a sense of how she was feeling. Here's how our conversation played out:
Me:You feeling ready for tomorrow?
Grace: Not really.
Grace: Well, I'm ready. I mean, I know what I'm doing. I'm just not "ready". I don't really feel like I'll ever be ready. Does that make sense?
Me: Yea, it does. I totally know how you feel.
Grace: You do?
Me: Sure. I've watched you ski. You're a great skier, Grace. You're confident when you're not under too much pressure. But, when it comes to having to step up and compete, it makes you nervous. And, to be honest, most people who compete at something they're good at feel the same way on game day. It happens to me all the time. Like you, I love to run with friends and to train for races. But, I'm always nervous and even scared on race day. Always.
Grace: You are?
Me: Yep. I've done all this work and I'm worried I won't achieve what I've set out to do. By the time it's race day I'm usually a wreck. Even when I get on the line I'm still scared. But you know what? As hard as it is, facing our fears makes us stronger. And each time we do it, whatever it is we're scared of gets a little bit easier.
Grace: No comment, just a blank stare and maybe a little nod of recognition, though it was hard to tell.
Me: A lot of things we do in life are scary. And we may not love them all. Fortunately, for me, I love to run so while I'm still scared on race day, I'm also really excited about it. But it has taken me a long time to get to this point. The thing that's most important is that you believe in yourself no matter what and that you have fun. Don't compare yourself to your teammates. Just get out there and do your thing.
Grace: Okay. I'll try.
When she woke up the next morning she was quiet as she got ready to go. She was still really nervous as far as I could tell. I had to work up at Cannon for the day, so my husband was taking her over to the race. As she was gathering her stuff and about to head out I gave her a hug and reminded her that, no matter what happened, I was proud of her. I also reminded her that this other mountain she was going to had a waffle hut at the bottom of the hill. Hot Belgium waffles with chocolate sauce?? It would have been enough incentive for me to get out there. Jeff sent me text updates throughout the day. He let me know that she'd looked good; not the swiftest, but she'd made it through both runs successfully. Later that afternoon, I met back up with her at home and found her tired but smiling. A good sign.
Me: Hey kiddo!! How'd did it go?
Grace: I don't know. I think I came in, like, 32nd place or something.
Me: I didn't ask what place you came in goof ball. I don't care about that. I just wanted to know how you felt?
Grace: Umm, pretty good, I guess.
Me: Did you have fun?
Grace: Yea, Mom. (small smile) It was a good day.
Clearly, I was not getting much from her here. Our condo complex has a pool and an arcade, so as far as she was concerned, the race was history. As far as I was concerned, though, she'd gotten out there, faced her fears and accomplished what she'd set out to do. She was not the fastest. She probably never will be. I don't even know if she'll ever be truly excited to race. But, I do know that she came home a stronger and more confident kid from this one experience and the same will happen each time she lines up. And for that alone, it was worth it. Well, that, and the waffles.
Listen to this:
Out of My Head - Loote