For those who don't know, I played a lot of soccer growing up. I didn't just play soccer but soccer was my life. From first to twelfth grade. When I got to college, I tried out for the club team at first but decided that I wanted to put my serious, committed soccer days behind me. I wanted to have the opportunity to do other things and not have it be my identity. I played intramural soccer for fun all four years and continue to brag about how my awesome team won four of seven championships. We were good and we definitely cared about winning but we always played for fun. And, it turned out, I looked forward to some of these games more and had more good fun playing in them than I did in some of the high-stress, high-stakes games in high school. Last fall and spring I played in some games with Ingrid's company soccer team. We were never outstanding but it was always fun to play. This spring we played on the mall so we would bike down there, play, and bike back and think we were so hardcore for doing it. The point of all this is that today, I played in my first full field, 11 v. 11, 80 minute soccer game since high school. It felt so much more real and committed. The experience of it taught me a lot about myself.
I have been talking to Ingrid about playing for this team, on which I know nobody but her, for a few weeks but have been on the fence throughout. For one thing, I was scared to play with so many new people. When I play with new people, I tend to be very nervous and un-confident and when I lack confidence I tend to play down. I was also scared of being out of shape. I was scared of the commitment, of paying the $70 then feeling obligated to play when there may be something else I'd rather do. I was worried about getting into a situation where soccer becomes more scary and stressful than fun. I was scared of saying no to Ingrid because I knew how badly she wanted me to play with her. I can be a pushover because I like to please people as much as possible and was using this as an excuse when I think I should have been taking more of the blame for my fear and lack of confidence and not accusing her of pressuring me to do this. This morning, I had my calendar down off the wall marking off how many games I could play in and reasoning whether or not my money would be well spent. It wasn't until an hour and a half before the game when Ingrid told me she was biking to it that I came down off the fence. It made me think about the spring games we would bike to that were always so much fun. These games may be 20 minutes longer but they are 7 miles closer and the bike ride is a third shorter than my ride to work. I realized I needed to get over myself and do this because I knew going into it that I would likely be glad I had done it once it was over. Of course, I was right. It felt so good to play real, full soccer again. I was challenged by these people, who weren't afraid to yell and coach. But I was also complimented by many of them after the game. And I really value these compliments from good players, male and female, that I knew were good critics who weren't just trying to be nice. It was a good feeling and Ingrid and I were both happy.
At the end of the day, I want to make people happy and I can't help that. I may feel like I'm being pushed around sometimes but I need to realize that when this pushing comes from the people that care about me most, like Ingrid, it is because she may know me better than I know myself and know that I need to get over myself and do something that will be good for me in the end, no matter how scared I am. However, I also need to grow the balls to stand up for myself and be honest when I am feeling pressured into something. I need to learn to make decisions better and earlier instead of waiting until the last minute and potentially letting people down. And now that I'm on this team, I need to just let it be fun and embrace this part of my past in a more scary, challenging way than I have the past four years. As I get more and more excited about Ragbrai, I am focusing so much of my energy on biking that I have barely run or played tennis in months, two things that I used to do often. I am realizing that, while I love biking and am beginning to actually see myself as a biker (yes, I now have actual clip in shoes!), I don't want to lose touch with all the other fun ways that I used to get exercise. So I am challenging myself to play soccer, run, bike, and play tennis at least once in the next week. I know this is supposed to be my blog about biking, but it is nice to write about life in general and I will certainly share my experiences in rekindling these activities.