Let me start by apologizing to all my loyal readers. So far this year I have done a TERRIBLE job of updating my blog on a regular basis. I can make the usual excuses that I’m busy with life (my job, family commitments, training, etc), but in reality it’s because I’m going through a bit of an identity crisis right now and don’t know what to write. Have any of you ever felt this way?
A quick recap; most of my life I identified myself as a swimmer. Yes, I played other sports, participated in a host of school clubs including drama, was a top student and volunteered in my “free” time, but I was first and foremost a swimmer. This is where my passion lay, and it was the one place that I really felt like I belonged. I not only enjoyed swimming and competing myself, but I LOVED teaching swim lessons, coaching and watching others see what I saw in the sport.
For better or worse, I made the decision when I went to college to not swim competitively and instead focus on academics. I figured that my degree would stick with me for life, while competing in swimming would only be temporary, with most people done by their mid 20s. I had dreams of being a college (or even olympic coach) one day, but I never realized choosing not to swim in college would squash any hopes of that. While in college, I played on a club water-polo team (as the only girl), so while it was fun and gave me something to do, I always felt a bit of an outsider.
I then went off to grad school, where I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to coach both a summer Y team and a masters program. I suddenly regretted some of the choices I had made, as my old feelings of confidence and passion returned. However, I knew those part-time jobs wouldn’t pay the bills when I left grad school, so I felt like I had to get a “real” job so that’s what I did.
The past 5 years have consisted of trying different sports to fulfill my competitive nature. I’ve tried to challenge myself, but each time I feel like I didn’t really accomplish anything big. Take for example my first half marathon, I followed a training plan pretty religiously until a couple weeks prior, had a decent time for my first one, yet afterwards I thought to myself, realistically anyone willing to put in the time to train could finish one of these (maybe not fast, but they could finish). Also, I am in no way trying to belittle any one else’s accomplishments, just for me personally I didn’t feel rewarded. I signed up for more, thinking if I did a bunch (1 per month) that would be more challenging, but still nothing.
My husband and I took up biking, where we met a lot of great people in our local community. I liked road riding, but it was in the woods that I really enjoyed myself. The problem with this is, I had too many fears. I tried to conquer those fears by racing or picking on thing to work on, and while I could temporarily overcome some of my fears, I continue to struggle. This means I am limited in the places I can ride and who I can ride with, making mountain biking a lot less appealing than it first was. I then tried cyclocross, which just looked like a party on a bike. I had a good time, but ultimately you either race cyclocross or you don’t do it. There really is no way to just do it for fun, and the women’s competitions are setup in a way that is really not favorable for beginners (you can easily feel like you are in the way of the top riders).
I’ve looked to get back into swimming; both personally and as a coach, but that is where location comes into play. The closest pool is 30 minutes from my house but it is only about 15 yards long with 3 lanes. This obviously means there are no swim teams or even adequate lap swims. It’s basically just a community pool for families. There is a YMCA about 50 minutes from my house, but 1)that is a drive when you are working a full-time job already, 2)there already is a very established coach/swim instructor and 3)it is pretty expensive for an individual to join since they offer a lot more than just a pool.
So forgetting about work, where I don’t feel like I fit in, in my profession, I am at a point where I don’t know what to call myself. I do running races, but I’m not a runner, nor a biker or a swimmer or triathlete. I struggle with this, not because I think people need labels or to put themselves in specific boxes, but I want to feel like I am a part of something. In each of these “worlds” I view myself more as an outsider looking in, then an active participant, even if I am faster or more involved then others.
Enter Archery. As I’ve mentioned on my blog, my husband and I started shooting recurve bows this fall, but I quickly decided to move to shooting compound bow. We’ve slowly met more people, as we have taken part in an adult league and just through practicing at the range and going to local competitions. I can’t say, I felt like I fit in here either at first, but after this weekend (just got back from the 2013 Lancaster Archery tournament-more info to come)I have a whole new appreciation and love for the sport as a whole. I’ve realized that archery is THE only sport (correct me if you can think of another), where ALL people can compete (including at the top-level) and feel a part of the community.
The biggest thing I noticed at this large national level event was the fact that there were people from literally all walks of life. There were people who were young/old, skinny/overweight, short/tall, male/female, rich/poor, “prom queen”/”hick”, in a wheel chair, etc, etc, etc. And not only were people of all backgrounds and physical appearances in attendance, but they were all successful and competing at the highest level. If you watched any of the finals matches on Sunday, you would have noticed this too. Unlike other sports where the top, cream of the crop all seem to have more similarities than difference, archery truly is, in my opinion, the one sport that anyone can succeed at if they are willing to put in the time.
This makes me excited. I now WANT to be a part of this community, but I also feel like I already fit in. Traveling to my first big tournament was a little scary, but once I was there I felt right at home. I could be myself, without trying to fit into a specific mold. I can now say I have a true passion for archery (like I previously had for swimming). Does this mean that I won’t still enter running races or participate in mountain bike or cyclocross? Of course not, I still truly believe in being well-rounded and doing a variety of things, but I think I finally know who I am now.
I am Crystal, an archer.