Given the tone of the last few posts I’ve written, this should be quite different.
I spent the weekend at a rowing regatta with my teammates. I was very nervous going in, I feared that my own issues would be transparent enough that I wouldn’t be able to interact on a basic socially acceptable level. These are all people who have only seen me on one level – my social, positive, extroverted facade. I worried about the reality of spending four days in the presence of people who don’t know any details of my life (seriously, most of them couldn’t tell you what I do for a living, what my husbands name is, or my last name), would be too stressful and my own issues would out, whether I wanted them to or not.
Don’t get me wrong – I had some bad moments. I definitely hid from them in the evenings when I was worn down and tired and unable to cope. I had the blessing of one person I do trust being there. She doesn’t know all the details (in part because I have avoided telling her) but she knows me well enough that she helped me make space when I needed it, which was… for me, given how fragile I was feeling, nothing short of amazing.
What I did not expect was the sense of belonging I found over the weekend. When I started rowing, I joked that I had finally found my people – type A, OCD, compulsive, driven, hardworking, intelligent people who are just crazy enough to wake up at 4 AM and go sit in little narrow boats, rain or shine, dark or light, year ’round. I missed, on my first assessment, the other side of these people. I missed the compassion, the kindness, the support, kinship that exists within the team. That’s what I found this weekend. I have never felt so accepted by any group of people before in my life.
Knowing that this was my first regatta, they checked in on my constantly, offered advice and suggestions, and stories of races past, where win or lose it was worth the process. As a novice rower, the realty is I am a bit of a liability in the boat – it takes a while to get the technique down to the point that you’re contributing at a level equal to the more experienced rowers. But I never felt like they saw me as dragging them down. Instead there were constant words of encouragement. When I rowed my own novice single, I could hear my whole team on the beach cheering me on. I didn’t place, I wasn’t especially happy with my row, but coming back into the beach was like getting back under a warm blanket on a cold winters day. The results didn’t matter, my time didn’t matter – all that mattered was that I’d done it, and they were proud of me.
I grew up in a small town, and I think I am inclined to take it for granted. I forget the value of having a group of people who will stand behind you and be available no matter what. I didn’t know last year, when I started rowing as a favour to a friend (they needed another female, I’m reasonably athletic and I had time) that I would find a whole new support system to be part of. The warmth and kindness that these people have shown me – regardless of if they know any additional details about me – has been one of the most wonderful experiences I can imagine. My off colour jokes, silly dances, propensity to terrible puns, and inclination to be a cheeky little shit as often as I can manage are all accepted. Welcomed, even. Despite my reluctance to share (I didn’t), and semi-antisocial tendencies over the weekend, by the time we were on the boat home, I felt safe with my teammates. Safe to be me, whatever that looks like, and that it will be ok.
I don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but I know I have a whole community of wonderful people who will help me if I need it.