Toby loves thinking – he’s a computer nerd and problem solving type of guy. As his parents, we’ve been trying to gently persuade him to try a variety of activities while he’s young, because you just never know what you might find interesting once you try it. But we also realize he needs to be the person to make the final choice in his activities, especially now that he’s a teenager.
During Toby’s sophomore year of high school, he stepped outside his comfort box and went out for the cross-country team. It was his first school-based extra curricular sport. Cross country is a no-cut sport at his high school, and several of the brainiac type kids were on the team, so Toby kind of slipped in to see what it was all about.
He started doing pre-training during the summer. After the first training, he collapsed sweaty and exhausted face down on the cool bathroom floor tiles. Slowly he got into shape by consistently going to practice runs with teammates. Toby learned he didn’t have to ‘push it’, but could pace himself. As the training progressed, he was running farther, as well as keeping up with some of the more experienced runners because he wanted to talk with them during the practices. He found that the cross-country team had a variety of people on it instead of just the stereotypical jock type. He found that many people – including himself – fit in. He realized after awhile that he could easily run downtown from our home. He realized that 5K isn’t too far or too hard to run if you’re in shape and put your mind to it.
The photo above is from his final district run. He’d cut several minutes off his time from when he first started at the beginning of the season. He was appreciated by his peers and his coach for his kind attitude. He never wanted to be a star – he just wanted to try it out. And he did. Toby says he may incorporate running into his life again, especially as a college student or an adult just for fun.
What I appreciate about this story is the simplicity of it. Toby didn’t become obsessed to ‘push until it hurts’, sacrificing his grades or other passions to be a ‘winner’. He went in with an open heart. He gave it a good pace. He learned new things. But he didn’t hurt himself or burn himself out in the process. He went into it with a beginners mind, didn’t beat himself up when he wasn’t the fastest, but just enjoyed the whole experience for what it was.
I want to follow Toby’s example to thoughtfully try out new things for the sheer enjoyment, instead of feeling that to try something I must become the best/compete/win the gold ring. Instead of worrying about how lame I look as a beginner, I want to admire and encourage those around me who are also learning.