Have you ever done something so out of your comfort zone, you almost thought you were crazy?
I have, and for some people this sounds ridiculous but I joined...a sports team
I know right? So terrifying.
Well, I gotta say, it was fun...until I began to realize I could no longer handle it. In college, you will be tested emotionally, academically, and physically. For me, my sports team challenged me in all of these aspects and while it was so much fun and such a thrill, I felt as if I began to be stretched too thin. So as midterms have creeped up, I've had to make a difficult choice.
Quitting something you enjoy is not easy, so I've decided to look back at the last couple of months as rewarding and a fun challange rather than blasting my favorite break up songs because at times, this feels like a break up. So for those who want to hear it I give you:
The story of How I Became a Coxswain Only to Quit 5 Months Later.
It all started when I came to school. I was alone in a single without any friends and was becoming depressed. I knew I had to make a change and fast. Then I saw it. Someone had posted on my class's Facebook page about the neighboring school's men's rowing club needing a coxswain. For those of you who don't know what a coxswain does, in short, they are the little person that sits at the front or back of the boat, steers the boat, and motivates the rowers. Not really thinking of what I was getting myself into, I emailed the head coach. I actually did not hear back from him until a week later where he messaged me and said "Yes we are! Can you come out today?"
In that moment, I decided to let go of all of that bottled up anxiety of interacting with athletes (what can I say I'm a theatre kid) and took a chance. And boy, was this a chance. For a solid month I lived in secrecy from my big, loud family as I biked three miles to the boat house, sat and watched, and eventually coxed. Keeping this a secret gave me a certain safety because I did not want to join a sport and all of a sudden decide it was too much a day after I excitedly told my siblings and parents.
I remember the first day in the boat was absolutely terrifying. I was not only coxing some novice teammates, but a couple of the varsity guys as well. As time went on, I began to learn what coxing would take and learned that I was most definitely up for the challenge. For some reason, through the many times I sat in those boats frigid and even sometimes crashing the boat, I somehow ended up falling head over heels for rowing.
I loved the sense of unity among the team, the competitive drive, and the feeling after a good practice as the sun went down. I even loved biking to practice every now and then, although sometimes it was just too cold or dark.
About two months in, I finally got to race and I survived. If I told myself a year ago that I would steer a boat all the way from one end of a lake to another, I think I would've laughed at the thought. If I told my past self that I even joined a team, this would be a shock. Well, I might make this sport look a lot easier than it is but rowing or coxing is anything but. While on the team I was tested emotionally as in some situations, I had to be in charge of eight guys and that was crazy because at times I don't even feel in charge of myself!
The thing about rowing and coxing is that it is so much more technical than you would think. You have so many steps to take to get the boat moving correctly and quickly let alone to win a race. On the team, I always struggled to steer properly. Maybe it was my mild cerebral palsy that I live with or just that some things are harder than others but this aspect of the sport always kept me behind. However, it would feel so great when I did it correctly or I actually spoke with the power needed. I have always been a quiet person and in this sport, I needed to be loud, so I gave it my best shot. While I wasn't always loud, I learned that if I wanted something, I had to use my voice and although scary at times, it was also very empowering. In life, you will not get what you want by not speaking up and out which is why when it came to the point where I needed a break, I learned that I needed to be assertive for myself.
For a solid 48 hours last week, I sat comparing the two options of whether to quit or to stay and "tough it out." Part of me thought that if I stayed, that would somehow make me braver and I would be seen to my peers, friends, family, and of course teammates as someone who never gives up and is not a quitter. But that is the thing, because quitting had nothing to do with wanting to give up on coxing, but everything to do with self-care.
If you have seen that new meme of the white guy blinking surprised, that is basically a college student when the idea of self-care is mentioned. For many people my age, the idea of college is to do everything and be on top things and balance everything, but since no one else gets sleep, it's okay not to get sleep as well, or to skip meals, or to eat pizza everyday.
For me, I want to move past the idea that I need perfection and look at my whole state with my social life, my academics, and how I am feeling. If I keep doing an activity that gives me a certain stress at times, I will never find this equallibrum that I search so endlessly for. And I may never find this equallibrum, but if I take care of myself, I might become close. Like athletes need to be honest with their bodies, I need to be honest with my mind. If my mind is all over the place causing me to not get enough sleep or to have the focus I need for my classes, then I really need to think about what might be best for me.
My steering was never great and neither was my coxing as I never became as assertive as I needed to be, but being a part of this team was so special. For those five months, I learned so much about rowing and was able to become a more independent person as I commuted every day to practice from my campus to their's or the boathouse.
Is this the end of my coxing career? I certainly hope not! Crew was and probably will always be one of the bravest, most fun, most challenging things I did my freshman year and quitting it was even braver. If there is anything readers should take from this article it is that if you want to try something, go for it and fully embrace the opportunities it gives you to learn and grow, but also remember to always stay true to yourself. You have the power to make your own decisions so don't let fear stop you from joining or quitting because in the end, whatever choice you make, the memories will always be with you.