Growing up, I was always envious of people who played sports. They made it look so easy and straightforward, and had a great time doing it. Meanwhile, I played piano for fifteen years, did ballet for four, and generally stayed inside with a book whenever I could throughout my childhood and teenage years.
Part of this is because I've never been competitive or what you might call a "team player," which I've always thought of as a character flaw. I also never thought of myself as very physical or super active, until I took a chance on something I knew absolutely nothing about.
Before last year, I was utterly unaware of ultimate frisbee, until a friend encouraged me to come out for one, just-if-you're-interested, no-pressure practice.
From the beginning, I was overwhelmed and confused. I dropped pretty much every disc that was thrown to me. I ran in the wrong direction down the field, lagged behind everyone else, or blocked from the wrong side. I learned skills and techniques slowly over time but always thought of myself as the weakest link. Unlike the other players, I also had no prior experience whatsoever and relied on my teammates and their help to guide me through. Even after a few practices, I still wasn't sure. But I kept coming out, week after week because I was having fun, which I never connected with playing a sport before. Over time I became encouraged by an unfailingly patient coach and supportive teammates. Knowing they were watching out for me on the field was a comforting feeling and one that pushed me and made me want to learn and want to grow in the sport. Once I stopped comparing myself to others who might have had more knowledge or experience and focused on what I could do, I relaxed much more and was able to participate with less anxiety.
My close friends and family were surprised, to say the least. Most of them had a hard time believing I was playing an involved, intensely strategic, and fast-paced sport and still having a great time. As surprised as they were, though, I was even more so. I was shocked at what my body could do, how far I could push myself, and how comfortable it felt, especially after years of struggling with frustration and anger over my weight and my unwillingness to be physically active. Whereas before, I had always pushed myself to exercise due to necessity (having a hormone disorder means making fitness a priority because it's is extremely helpful in combatting its symptoms) I was now able to be active, get in shape, and enjoy doing it.
I've since wrapped up my last practice with my team. I'm nowhere near an advanced player, but I've also come so far from where I started and knowing I was able to do that gives me a feeling of intense pride. Even when it was difficult, I dedicated myself to something, made progress, and came out stronger physically and mentally because of it. This sport and my team have taught me so many things… but trusting yourself and your abilities, to do whatever you set your mind to, has been an invaluable lesson from this experience, and one that I still keep with me even off the field.