Monday, August 20, 2012

Even More Embarassing Moments and Why Kayaks Are Evil

As I went through Olympics withdrawal last week, I tried to figure out exactly when I started to give up on being an athlete and slowly start to embrace my nerd-dom. Growing up, I was very much a tomboy. Family legend states that on the day my parents brought me home from the hospital, my dad sat with me in front of the TV to watch the Stanley Cup Playoffs while my mom took a shower and a nap. This was their explanation for why I was so interested in sports growing up.  I really think I was just a daddy's girl and since he liked sports, I wanted to be like him, so I liked sports too. As a got older, I played basketball and softball, then that evolved into horse-back riding and gymnastics when my mom put the kibosh on my desire to play hockey. But no matter how hard I tried or how much I wanted it (or thought I wanted it) I really wasn't an athlete. I liked to climb trees and ride bikes and run around doing "active kid" stuff, but when it came down to organized sports, I could never keep my head in the game. Sure, I tried hard and put effort into playing when it came down to crunch time, but during practice or especially when put in the outfield in softball, my mind would wander. Call it ADHD the way my mind would think about anything other than the task at hand, but whatever it was, I slowly began to realize that organized team sports were probably not for me.

Speaking of things not for me, remember running the mile in school?  Why did they put us through that? What sadistic asshole in the Collective-They-That-Plan-School-Curriculum decided that forcing children to run in front of their peers 4 times a year was healthy?   I hate running.  HATE. IT. Unless it's an emergency or I'm super excited to get to the destination ahead of me, I do not run. I always had long legs and a high metabolism as a kid, so everyone just assumed I was in shape and athletic.  But my wee body was built for sprints, not distance. Running the mile in elementary school gym class once every quarter was torture. It was my own personal hell. Eight laps around the fenced-in rarely-mowed field behind our school with our tall cranky gym teacher standing at the entrance with his stop watch, whistle, and clipboard. I was literally the last person to finish every time. Even the asthmatics and the "fat" kids ran faster than me. True story. 

This kids runs faster than I do.
He is also awesome.
The fastest girl in my class was also often the fastest person in the class as well.  Her name was Kim.  She was a bitch. She was very sporty and athletic.  She played soccer and was on the track teams.  The boys all liked to hang out with her and talk about sporty things.  Whenever I would try to join in their conversations, she would lead the charge in berating me about having "the slowest mile ever" and teasing me that I was out of shape. Whenever she wasn't around, or the boys started talking about video games, that's when I had the upper hand on her.  She would usually just roll her eyes and make fun of me even more, probably out of jealousy. Even during our yearly fitness evaluations when I would do the most pull-ups of anyone in the class, Kim would find a way to minimize my achievement by saying it was because I was so skinny that I weighed less than everyone else so I cheated. (This is of course, ridiculous logic in hindsight, even if I never weighed more than 90 pounds until high school.)

These are my kind of pull ups
The pinnacle of my realization of my nonathletic-tivity came in ninth grade. It had been about 3 years since my diagnosis with Scoliosis, and I'd been wearing a back brace for about 2 of those years. (Middle/high school + bad perm + braces + back brace = recipe for awesome years of therapy.) Doing any physical activity other than a steady walk while having to wear a back brace for 20+ hours a day was nigh impossible, so I was excited to sign up for swim class in high school as part of my gym credit, because it meant no running, and I got to be free from my back brace for an extra hour a day. But, swimming class was a double-edged sword. I loved swimming as a kid, and I had been told that I was a good swimmer and since I was so skinny, I was very aerodynamic in the water. But, swim class was less "fun swimming" time and more "the-crazy-bitter-swim-coach-preps-and-judges-your-fitness-levels-or-worthiness-for-her-swim-team" time. Freedom from my back brace also meant judgement and yelling from the swim coach and self-consciousness of being a scrawny 14-year-old girl in her bathing suit in front of 17 and 18 year-olds. Because of the limitations of my back brace, a lot of my core muscles had atrophied, so sit-ups, push-ups and the like were embarrassingly difficult for me.

This all the heavy lifting I currently do.
I managed to survive this daily beating to my self confidence until the final week of class before we left for winter break. The lifeguard and swim coach had a surprise for us, we were going to learn kayaking! It sounded cool, until I realized that our first lesson required us to flip ourselves over and release ourselves from the kayak while upside down under water. Blame my claustrophobia, blame watching Jaws too many times as a kid, but the idea of being strapped into a plastic shell while upside down under water and being expected to free myself sounded unnerving at the very least. The lifeguard gave us a demonstration, then he strapped us all into our respective kayaks and pushed us into the pool. I watched almost everyone else flip themselves upside down and swim to the surface after releasing the elastic bungee "skirt" that held them in.  It looked simple enough.  I took a deep breath and flipped upside down with ease. In fact, it was kind of fun at first. But, the fun ended sharply. I started to feel uncomfortable and disoriented.  I tugged on the bungee cover.  It didn't move.  I tugged again.  And again.  And again.  I was running out of air and I was stuck upside down inside a kayak in a god damned swimming pool. I was not going to die like this. I panicked. I thought I could flip myself over again so I tried to do so in vain. Water filled my nose feeling like a thousand burning stinging bees inside my respiratory system. The next thing I realized, our lifeguard was holding me above the water telling me to relax and breathe. With a flick of his wrist, he unsnapped me from my bungee prison and set me on my feet in the shallow end of the pool. As soon as I got my bearings, I was extremely aware that everyone in the class was staring at me with a mixture of concern, disbelief, and confusion. My body was hot with the panic and terror of being stuck underwater, then that was immediately replaced with the panic and terror from everyone looking at me. Class continued as though nothing happened.  One of the older guys in the class was decent enough to paddle up to me and ask if I was alright and ask me how I got "stuck" in my kayak.  I tried to sound cool by saying something to the effect of, "Yeah I got stuck, it was weird ..." The older guy pointed out that I was struggling for only about 10 seconds before the lifeguard jumped in the pool and fished me out. At that point I wanted the kayak to just swallow me up. To this day, kayaks still freak me out.
Thanks, high school for all the years of therapy!

This is why I stick to playing video games.

1 comment:

  1. That kayak story sounds horrifying. I have never liked the idea of kayaks anyway, but you pretty much just solidified the idea that I won't ever get into one.


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